Workers in the Port Harcourt refineries (1 2) have insisted that the refineries were working and fully functional. Taking newsmen round the plants on Sallah day, the union leaders asked; if a refinery was functional, why attempt to sell it?
The 60,000 barrels per day capacity old refinery was built in 1965, while the new one built in 1989, has 150,000 capacity. The refineries have faced privatisation many times, but workers had always resisted it. Last month, news escaped that the place was sold. Workers have kicked against it on grounds of lack of due process.
Journalists heard the steaming sound of all plants in the two refineries including the product separation plant, water treatment plant, fire fighting section, gas section, quality control unit and aviation fuel section, with the gas flare steadily waving the Eleme skyline with both flame and smoke. Sources said the refineries were busily producing motor spirit, gas, gasoline, kerosene and aviation fuel.
The branch chairman of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Mike Agbana, said the refineries now operated at 60 percent capacity.
Agbana debunked claims that the refineries were not working, saying it was excuse to sell the assets to cronies of the government without considering jobs and welfare of the people. He threw aspersions at other oil assets sold in recent times, saying they were sold to cronies of the then government and that today, huge iron barricades had been built to stop natives from access to it.
He argued that Nigerians were capable of managing any refinery, saying it was Nigerian workers that were making the assets sold by the Federal Government to churn out products and profit.
He accused the government of eyeing the large depots in the Port Harcourt Refineries so they would acquire them and use them to store imported products, saying, “They are not planning to do refining here. They want to acquire this huge asset and use it to do other things. Watch and see.”
He appealed to the national group chairman of PENGASSAN, Sale Abdullahi, who is a top presiding contender at the June 29, 2017 national elections, to take a look at the Port Harcourt Refineries and take a firm position against its sale
Answering questions, Abdullahi said what the refineries needed was funds and steady crude supply to operate at full capacity. On that score, he agreed that partial privatisation or partnership to secure needed funds would be good, at least from 20 percent sale of equity.
He said he saw a functional refinery despite what he called media reports saying it was not. He said: “Nigerians want steady product supply. The Refinery is our farm as workers, so we have interest in its survival. We don’t want 100 per cent handover to anybody but we welcome those with funds to partner with us to keep the plant running.”
He admitted that apart from crude oil supply difficulties; there were issues of evacuation, machine failure, and damages. There is provision for 20 per cent privatisation of the place, lets go gradually”.
On his policy should he emerge as the next PENGASSAN boss, he said he would not only pursue welfare of members but ensure business progress of oil facilities because without business success, members salaries would not come.
Assessing the performance of the oil industry in the past two years, the upcoming PENGASSAN president said as far as it concerned the workers, that there was no achievement because the Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) of the Ph Refineries was not executed and that the all-important Refinery Road was not rebuilt.