…launches Nigeria’s first modular refinery in Bayelsa
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo on Saturday said he approved 18 licences for modular refineries but none took off till the expiration of his tenure.
Obasanjo said this during the the ground breaking ceremony of Azikel Refinery in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
The former Nigerian leader also commended the President of Azikel Group, Dr. Azibapu Eruani, for taking the bold step to investing in the first modular refinery in Nigeria.
Obasanjo said he was impressed that a serious investor like Eruani has begun work on the refinery out of the 22 licences issued in 2015 by the President Buhari administration.
He said he had earlier doubted the seriousness of the project taking off considering the fact that not one out of the 18 licences his administration issued to investors during his tenure moved to site.
Commending Buhari for granting the licence to Azikel Group and another licence for 500MW power station on the same site, Obasanjo said he was delighted that a modular refinery initiated by a Nigerian was coming into reality in his lifetime.
The event, which was attended by Bayelsa State Governor Seriake Dickson, traditional rulers and key stakeholders in the petroleum industry, was the first of its kind in the oil producing Niger Delta region.
His words: “I must confess that when Eruani brought the investors to me about a year or so, I had my doubts.
“This is because out of the 18 licences issued by my administration, not one was built with the beneficiaries blaming it on a number of excuses.
“So, I didn’t know that this would be possible. Now, I believe that it can be done and I must commend President Buhari and his government for this initiative.
He said Eruani has set the pace for both local and foreign investors to emulate, adding that he would gladly be available to commission the project next year.
Dickson said while it was commendable that the Buhari government deemed it fit to issue the licence to someone Obasanjo called ‘son of the soil’, it would be appreciated if such gestures could be extended to the issuance of oil blocks licences to people from the region who remain the real owners of the resources.
He said the machineries of the government would be made available to the firm to ensure realisation of the project which would be beneficial to the citizens of the state.
Dickson, who signed the certificate of occupancy and handed it over to Eruani, explained that he would continue to support viable economic ventures in the state because it was the least the government can do to encourage the private sector.
Eruani said the project, when completed, would contribute to finding a lasting solution to the perennial fuel scarcity in the country while over 1000 jobs would be provided.His words: “We are also grateful again to the Buhari/Osinbajo administration for granting Azikel Power, another of Azikel Group subsidiary the licence for 500MW ongrid power generation.
“Our success story is hinged on the commitment of the team with the clear vision of dispensing refined products from the first hydro-skimming private refinery in Bayelsa state, the Niger Delta and Nigeria by late 2018 and early 2019.
“This journey is indeed not without challenges. I will say the worst days have been overcome. The very first day we visited this site to commence works, my heart skipped for the fear that the thick forest swamp could be over flooded by the flowing river.
“There were doubts if this land could ever become useful for any form of development. However, here we are today on a 19.9hectares of land that has been fully reclaimed with over 2.7 million cubic meters of sand.”
He went on: “Azikel Refinery would be the first conversion green-field refinery built in Nigeria since the mid-70s, and it would enjoy operational advantages in the competitive oil sector.
“Azikel Refinery will refine Bonny Light Crude Oil and Condensate to produce Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), Kerosene, Jet A-I, Diesel, LPG and Heavy Fuel Oil, among other by products.
“We will reverse net importation of refined petroleum products, add value to Nigeria crude oil, and proffer solution to decades of problems limiting the nation’s capacity to improve fuel production, which has beome the nightmare of successive leaders.”
Eruani thanked the Governor for his support, stating he has “been a keen supporter of this project and has ensured all government machineries are working amicable with us for the development of the project.”