By Kabir Adejumo
In May 2017, former Minister of Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, said Nigeria would stop importing petrol by 2019, vowing to resign if it does not happen under his watch.
In an interview on HardTalk, a BBC World Service talk show hosted by Stephen Sackur, Kachikwu said: “2019 is the target time… I target 2019 . If I don’ t achieve it, I will walk…I put the date and I will achieve it.”
Kachikiwu’s promise was made in the midst of controversies over Nigeria’s continued payment of subsidy and hazy claims that the N145 per litre pump price was an indication of an end to subsidy and the beginning of a competitive market that would drive prices back down. Non of that has happened.
While it is unclear if Kachikwu’s non-reappointment by President Muhammadu Buhari into his second term cabinet was to save him the trouble of writing a resignation letter, it is very clear that the promise has failed since the Federal Government has declared that it will spend N450 billion on petrol subsidy in 2020. Although it prefers the term, “under-recovery”.
The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, made the announcement recently in Abuja at the public presentation of the 2020 budget details. She said a provision of N450 billion has been made for ‘under-recovery’ of cost in respect of the importation of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol.
“A provision has been made in the budget for under-recovery for PMS (premium motor spirit) in the sum of N450 billion provided in the fiscal framework. It is under-recovery because it is a cost operation for the NNPC,” Mrs Ahmed said.
The reality on ground now is that contrary to Kachikwu’s promise, Nigeria will keep importing petrol, obviously beyond 2019 and at least through out 2020.
Newspeak still recalls that two years ago, while speaking at a public hearing on the review of petroleum pricing template for Premium Motor Spirit organised by the House of Representatives, Kachikwu said that by 2019, the country’s non-functional refineries would have been rehabilitated to, alongside Dangote Refinery, meet Nigeria’s petrol demands without need for imported fuel. But this is 2019 when it is clear that Dangote Refinery may not start full operation earlier than January 2021 and the country’s refineries are still not working.
So, there is a new target and new promise coming from the Group Managing Director of the Nigeria National Petroleum Commission (NNPC), Mele Kyari.
Last month he spoke on the full rehabilitation of the country’s four refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna. While unfolding the schedule for the refineries’ repairs during a tour of the Port-Harcourt Refining and Petrochemical Company (PHRC), the oil boss said the exercise is scheduled to commence in January 2021 and be delivered by 2022.
His words: “We will stick to the schedule. We will deliver this project by 2022. We will commence actual rehabilitation work in January next year.
“We will do everything possible between October and December this year to close out all necessary conditions for us to deliver on the project.”
2022 is more than two years away but it would come. Would it be another failed promise or a promise kept?