The first private refinery in Nigeria, the Dangote Refineries, built at the cost of $19 billion and with refining capacity of 650,000 barrels per day has just been commissioned by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. President Muhammadu Buhari has also been doubling as Nigeria’s minister of petroleum resources for eight years. Dangote Refinery is owned by Aliko Dangote who is touted as being the richest man in Africa. Beyond the razzmatazz of the inauguration of the giant refinery, there is little cause for cheers and more cause for concern and alarm.
Even though the capacity of the Dangote refinery is more than the cumulative capacity of the four existing Federal Government refineries, holds promises to ease the perennial fuel scarcity in Nigeria and create jobs, it stands out and will continue to stand out as a giant monument of corruption in Nigeria and an irrevocable effigy of the triumph of corruption in Nigeria under President Buhari’s administration. The above submission does not detract from the fact that Mr. Aliko Dangote deserves congratulations for filling the gap of need in the petroleum sector which drivers of successive administrations in Nigeria, especially the Buhari administration, seem to have been corruptly exploiting to enrich their private pockets. Buhari is one man who seems to have no value for his words.
His promises did not matter to him and one takes them seriously at one’s peril. The same thing goes for the lieutenants he recruited in the petroleum sector. For instance, in 2017, the immediate past minister of state for petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, promised to revive the four refineries to installed capacity. He sealed the promise with a vow to resign upon failure to deliver on the promise. After failing to deliver, Kachikwu hanged on in office till he was dropped by the President and Minister of Petroleum for some other reasons and not for nonperformance. In the same vein, while taking over from Maikanti Barau as the Group General Manager of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited on 8th July 2019, the current helms- man of the corporation, Mele Kyari, promised to fix all the government refineries by May, 2023. By May, 2023, no refinery had been fixed.
Nigeria is still relying on foreign countries for refined products while the petroleum subsidy bills keep increasing in geometric proportions. In the place of functional government refineries, Nigerians are having a first-of-its-kind private refinery and Buhari, Kyari and ilk want the citizenry to clap even when no explanation has been made about the huge financial investments into the repairs of the non-finctional refineries. This is scandalous. As at 2021, the Federal Government was said to have spent a whopping $26.5 billion on the turn around maintenance of the four public refineries which have a cumulative refining capacity of 445,000 barrels per day.
The fact that $19 billion could build a modern re- finery like Dangote’s calls to question the managerial acumen and integrity of President Buhari who allegedly squandered a mindblowing sum of $26.5 billion on the maintenance of low capacity refineries that never worked. This painful scenario has equally betrayed Buhari’s ineptitude in handling the Nigerian oil sector and, especially, the four government owned refineries all these years he appropriated the oil sector to himself. It is disheartening to note that none of the refineries ever worked close to half of there installed capacities. One therefore wonders who the contractors that the Minister of Petroleum, Muhammadu Buhari, engaged were? What was in their respective profiles that compelled Buhari to continue to patronize them to the tune of $26.5 million without tangible results?
Where did Buhari place the collective interest of ordinary Nigerian masses while making those weird approvals? What could make an acclaimed leader like Buhari to continue to approve such cost intensive contracts without exploring the option of cost effective alternatives like building new refineries? What informed Buhari’s continued investments in the maintenance of refineries even when such investments were not yielding results? Why were those involved in these obviously failed refineries maintenance deals not prosecuted? If one is to guage the anti-corruption mantra of President Muhammadu Buhari using the petroleum sector which he presides over as a reference point, the hypocrisy of the anti-corruption mantra will easily manifest.
Corruption is not just about stealing funds. Wasting public resources or encouraging others to steal through ir- rational approvals is also corruption. This is enough to say in the words of Ghanaian literary icon, Ayi Kwei Armah, that even with Muhammadu Buhari: “The beautyful ones are not yet born!” Buhari and his APC administration which rode to power on the mantra of zero tolerance for corruption and promises of rehabilitation of Nigeria’s refineries to installed capacities should be probed for mismanaging Nigeria’s funds under the guise of maintenance of refineries. The long arms of the law should be stretched to reach his pro- posed hiding place in his beloved Niger Republic. Congratulations, Aliko Dangote, for doing what corruption could not let PMB, Kachikwu, Barau and Kyari do for Nigerians! The dismantling of the subsidy corruption enclave is certainly at sight.