It distressing to note that a country where crude oil has remained the major revenue source still suffers from fuel scarcity.
Naturally, petroleum products should not be a problem for Nigeria but the nation has had a long unsettled journey with its oil industry.
Recently, the country was plunged into another episode of fuel scarcity – for about two weeks, there was shortage of petrol and long queues appeared at fuel stations across major cities especially Lagos and the Federal Capital, Abuja.
The Federal Government’s explanation that the scarcity was a result of chemical additives found in the imported fuel, was a big blow from Africa’s largest producer of crude oil. Yet, one wonders why the nation still depend on the importation of refined crude oil when there are large deposits of unrefined crude in the country.
For years, experts laid emphasis on the improvement of local refining capacity. This is indeed a long term solution to the recurring petroleum products unavailability and price challenges faced by Nigerians.
The nation’s refineries located in Warri, Port Harcourt, and Kaduna combined operated at low levels due to many years of underinvestment and poor maintenance. Despite continuous talks of revamping Nigerian refineries, they still record a low annual activity.
From finance, to lack of infrastructure and adequate maintenance that cuts across all sectors of the country, administrative mismanagement and corruption, crime and violence, these are problems that rock the oil sector particularly the transformation of the local refineries.
In a bid to eliminate the importation of petroleum products, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on February 13, 2017 as Acting President announced that the government would use modular refineries to increase the development of petroleum products in the country. The development was highly welcomed and was seen as way to stop illegal refinery of crude across the region.
But years after this policy was announced, the modular refineries have not gone into production. The expectation that illegal refineries would be upgraded to modular refineries has not been achieved as operators are unwillingly to be under the supervision of the government.
With commitment and hard work, modular refineries could save the country from the recurring fuel scarcity but unfortunately this dream may end up not been actualized. The construction of these refineries has run into a hitch due to a number of factors including funding, sabotage; pipelines and oil thefts.
Aside the wait for modular refineries to come into fruition, the country also wonders if local refining would impact the pump price of petrol.
Nigeria has a lot to gain from being a net exporter of refined petroleum products. As the second largest producer of oil in Africa with the appropriate management, the challenges of fuel scarcity will be curbed.