FORMER military head of state General Yakubu Gowon has revealed that he planned to build five more refineries across the country to enable Nigeria export processed petroleum products before he was overthrown in 1975.
General Gowon, 84, guided Nigeria through the civil war and his nine year stay in office between 1966 and 1975 saw the building of widespread infrastructure. It was under his watch that Nigerian built the National Stadium, National Theatre, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Lagos-Badagry Expressway, Ajaokuta Steel Mill, the 10-lane Ikorodu Road and the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos.
Assisted by a National Economic Council made up of some of Nigeria’s best brains including Obafemi Awolowo, Aminu Kano, Joseph Tarka, Abubakar Waziri and Anthony Enahoro, general Gowon also attracted Volkswagen and Peugeot to open car assembly plants in Lagos and Kaduna respectively. Speaking at the International Conference and Exhibition of the Oil and Gas Trainers Association of Nigeria in Lagos yesterday, General Gowon said his administration should get a lot of credit for building three oil refineries in the country.
It was General Gowon’s government that built the refineries at Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna, which were put in place to deal with domestic consumption. Yesterday, General Gowon said there were plans to build five more for export but his regime was overthrown in a military coup before the programme could be actualised.
General Gowon said: “I will like you to know that during our time, our plan was to build five export-oriented refineries to export instead of giving crude to various countries. The three refineries in Port Harcourt, Warri, Kaduna, we built were designed for domestic consumption and we had planned that if our consumption grows more than the three can do, we will transfer one of the export-oriented refineries for home consumption.”
At the moment, Nigeria’s government is more of less wholly dependent on the sale of crude oil as it accounts for over 90% of its revenue. Also, the three refineries constantly break down, causing fuel shortages and forcing the government to import refined petrol.
Nigeria does not add any value to its crude oil and despite plans for a petrochemical programme to take off, it has failed to get going. To make matters worse for the government, it pays out huge subsidies to petrol marketers under a convoluted market structure, which has served as a drain on public finances.
Commenting on the matter yesterday, minister of state for petroleum resources Dr Ibe Kachikwu, said it will be impossible for the federal government to remove fuel subsidies for now. He added that the government was mindful of the possible impact of subsidy removal on the people.