No bi Warri Refainari bi dis?
Edwin Eriata Oribhabor
At a time in Nigeria, “privatisation and commercialisation” was a sing song of the Federal Government determined to convince Nigerians of its
intention to privatise or sell off such public enterprises like NITEL, the
Refining Companies of the NNPC, NEPA (PHCN) etc considered as non-performing.
Government’s “noble intention” was to make these companies functional, self
sustaining and self-financing. Consequent upon this, huge amount of the resources
of government were expended on enlightening Nigerians on “this way forward”. As
a proof of government’s seriousness, the former President Chief Olusegun
Obasanjo, personally embarked on several trips overseas marketing or “begging”
prospective investors to come and take advantage of the friendly investment
opportunities the country has to offer. The Nigeria Investment Promotion
Council (NIPC) and Bureau for Public Enterprises (BPE) were the talk of the
town. Influential individuals otherwise called big big men as
well as corporate bodies queued up awaiting the gong of the auctioneer; “Going!
Going!! Going!!!” so as to acquire any of these companies (especially the oil
refining companies). There was confusion everywhere; worsened by the fuel
crises usually accompanied by long queues of vehicles at fuel filing stations
across the country. It was hell on earth as people slept in their cars to
enable them catch up early with the next day’s wahala of
getting di olmaiti petrol for their vehicles. No bi
smol tin; it was a very serious matter.
While the government was busy reeling out the advantages of privatisation and commercialisation, the unions in the Oil & Gas Sector
(PENGASSAN and NUPENG) in conjunction with organised labour sang a different
tune. They wanted to know why those interested in buying off the refining
companies wouldn’t build theirs. At this time, the refining companies in both
Warri and Kaduna were diagnosed as “dead” or mere scraps. The two words;
“installed capacity” were commonly used in explaining the level of performance
of the refineries. But like the usual statistics of the United Nations
concerning all manner of issues, “installed capacity” was more or less
politicised and to a large extent bastardised.
However, if cognisance is taken of the huge sums of money the government had spent on Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) for the refining
companies in the past, it would seem as if government was justified. But as we
used to say, di mo yu luk di les yu si. Thus, sabotage became the
most dreaded word within the NNPC family. Some staffs that were accused of
sabotage lost their jobs.
Nigerians are currently enjoying peace and stability in the Downstream Sector. In the recent past, reports in some major newspapers stated
that fuel was everywhere and sold at prices below the official pump price
N65.00/ltr by some fuel filling stations making many to
ask wetin de hapun?
During my annual vacation mid-2010, I was as usual in Warri to join my siblings and friends for a feel of kpangolo Wafi and
ol di yans we a don mis. I paid a visit to Saipem Camp where I
expected to meet my former colleagues. Oppposite the PPMC, the camp is a
shouting distance from the NNPC’s Warri Refining and Petrochemicals Company. I
saw Petroleum Tankers everywhere waiting to load petroleum products as it used
to be many years back. The Warri Refining Company was functioning and all the
giant tanks were said to be filled with refined products. I couldn’t believe my
eyes. I also reliably gathered that some staffs that were either retired or
disengaged for one reason or the other were later re-engaged on specia
arenjment to help support NNPC’s management’s determination to bring
the refining company back on stream. Dem se wit specia
arenjment devul fit si God. Until the recent report of the
activities of vandals, the Warri Refining Company was
functioning. Whether it was functioning at its installed capacity or
not was not my concern bikos dat na grama. What is important
is that the company has been brought back to life. Those behind this
success story genuinely deserve national honours award for turning around what
was diagnosed as dead. I could hear someone sounding out aloud; no
bi Warri rifinari bi dis? (Is this not the
Refining Company that was to be privatised/commercialised/sold off?)
Government should act more and talk less because action they say, speaks louder than words. Vandalism by the same people who are supposed to
protect "their own" would be a thing of the past. Governments
of the Niger Delta States should be made to come out of their slumber and
du wetin pipul go de si bikos no bi tode ai don opun. Finally, stability
in the power sector in 2011 is a must. Wi don taya fo tu mosh
grama. When these occur, you will begin to hear people say with some
sense of fulfilment; “,no bi NEPA we dem se i no go wok bi dis?”.
Happy New Year to all.
Mr Oribhabor is a promoter of Naija (Nigerian Pidgin) and resides in Abuja-Nigeria.