Nigeria’s Refineries Will Never Work – Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed skepticism about the revival of Nigeria’s four oil refineries, located in Warri, Port Harcourt, and Kaduna states. He argued that these refineries would never function effectively as long as the government maintains control over them.

In an interview with The Cable Online Newspaper, Obasanjo revealed that he had offered Shell Oil Development Company the opportunity to manage these refineries during his presidency, but the oil giant had declined. According to Obasanjo, Shell’s managing director at the time listed several reasons for their refusal, including concerns about excessive corruption within the refineries.

Obasanjo recounted the meeting, saying, “They will not work as long as the government is keeping hold of them. When I was president, I invited Shell to a meeting. I told them I wanted to hand over the refineries for them to help us run. They bluntly told me they would not. I was shocked.”

Shell’s reasons for refusing to take over the refineries included the fact that the company primarily profited from upstream activities, not downstream refining. They also believed that Nigeria’s refineries would not be economically viable and cited concerns about widespread corruption within the industry.

Obasanjo went on to reveal that during his tenure, he had received a lifeline from prominent businessmen Aliko Dangote and Femi Otedola, who expressed interest in purchasing a 51 percent stake in the Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries. They offered $761 million and paid in two installments. However, the sale was canceled by President Umaru Yar’Adua, who returned the refineries to the NNPC.

These revelations by Obasanjo cast doubt on recent assurances by President Bola Tinubu that the Port Harcourt refinery would resume production by December 2023. Obasanjo’s insight into the longstanding challenges facing Nigeria’s refineries underscores the complex and deeply rooted issues that have hindered their successful operation for years.