During the weekly ministerial briefing hosted by the Presidential Communication Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, last week, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari, said that Nigeria will stop importing petroleum products by 2023. In this interaction with State House correspondents, he explained how this will be achieved, among other issues. Excerpts:
You said the process of rehabilitation of the refineries is ongoing and that of Port Harcourt is about 90% completed. You also said you are borrowing to do this. How much are we looking at for the borrowing? Where are you borrowing from? And when will the repairs be completed so that Nigeria can stop oil importation?
First of all, let me correct something, I didn’t say Port Harcourt refinery is 90% completed, I said that we will restore them to 90% of installed capacity, that is minimum, we’ll deliver. And on borrowing for the refinery, we’re borrowing from the Afreximbank and we’re also borrowing a billion dollars for this purpose.
On when importation of fuel will stop, first, let me answer the issue around stoppage of importation of petroleum products. Even if all our four refineries in three locations, by the way, I’m sure you’re aware that in Port Harcourt there are two refineries, operating at 90% of installed capacity, they will only be able to raise 18 million litres of petroleum Motor Spirit. That means even if all of them are working today, you will still have a net deficit of PMS imported to this country. This is what it means because our population has grown, demand has grown, the middle class has grown. I’m sure everybody here owns one or two cars and so on and so forth, such that the volume of petroleum motor spirit required in this country has grown almost exponentially because there is clearly an exponential growth to our needs for petroleum motors spirit. So even if they all come back, we will not stop importation of petroleum products, but happily also NNPC owns 20% equity in the Dangote refinery. And not only that and we’re very proud of this. We’re not only owning 20% equity, we have the first right of refusal to supply crude oil to that plant. But we saw this energy transition challenge coming. We knew that time will come when you will look for people who will buy your crude and you will not find and that means that we have locked down the ability to sell crude oil for 330,000 barrels minimum by rights for the next 20 years. By right also we have access to 20% of the production from that plant. That means that whatever it does, you know we have a right to take 20% of that production as part of our equity. And this refinery, if it does come up and it will come up because we are on the board of that company and we know what is happening now, that it will come on stream latest by the mid of next year. Projection is the first quarter but we think that it can come up latest by the mid of next year.
If it does, this refinery alone, because it has a 650,000 per barrel capacity and a different technology which means that it can crack the crude in a manner that you can have more gasoline than a typical refinery. That means the refinery has the ability to produce up to 50 million liters of PMS. So the combination of that and our own ability to bring back our refineries will completely eliminate any importation of petroleum products into this country next year.
You will not see any importation into this country next year. This is very practical. This is possible. As a matter of fact, when we’re done with our refineries and the Dangote refinery, then the small initiatives that we are doing, small modular condenser refineries that we’re building, if that happens, and we’re very optimistic it will happen, you will see that this country will now be a net exporter. As a matter of fact, it will be a hub of export of petroleum products, not just the West African sub region, but to the rest of the world. This will happen. The flow of supply by the middle of next year will change. So, you will have no need for importation of petroleum products into this country by the middle of next year.
The efforts you are making to construct the Saharan pipeline is impressive. But why are you able to do that yet you are unable to reconstruct the vandalized pipelines that transport products to all parts of the country?
I said that we are building every one of them concurrently. We’re not leaving any one of them. And as you’re aware, gas is the next transition fuel globally, it is where your money will come from, you will be stranded with your oil in another 30 years but you won’t be stranded with gas even in 50 years to come. That’s why we’re building those infrastructures to make sure that Nigerians of tomorrow will be able to benefit from these resources today. While we’re also constructing our pipeline, as I mentioned, we’re doing a build, operate and transfer programme for the pipeline networks and we’re replacing them. So, I’ve not abandoned them.
Is the NNPCL worried that delays to asset sales such as ExxonMobil-Seplat will one way or the other hinder investments in the oil and gas sector?
By the way, divestment is the right of any partner as a matter of fact, the petroleum industry Act, allows the government even to divest its interest in the joint ventures today.
So anyone can divest interest in any business, but divestment always has rules and processes. We’re now NNPC limited, we are a commercial company, we will do everything possible to protect our commercial interests. And that will have nothing to do with stifling investment in the industry because we already have structure and processes that are in place to ensure that these assets continue to produce. So, nothing has stopped, change of ownership doesn’t stop business.
On energy security, you drew a quick comparison of the major security agent arrest, who was involved in drug business by the NDLEA. It’s hard to imagine that for a country that has suffered this level of setback in the oil and gas industry, you have not put out names of people or made significant arrests of persons who are involved. To restore public confidence, don’t you think, NNPCL should quickly reveal the identities of these people?
I told you about 122 arrests. I’m sure you’re also aware that it is very obvious that it is not NNPC that will relate the announcement of criminals and culprits. But I know that names exist. They will be named but definitely the most important thing to do is to prosecute them and show to the world that it is wrong to do this. And if you do, the law will catch up with them. I think the most important thing for us to follow up on is to make sure that there is prosecution and while they are prosecuted they will be liable and everyone will see them no matter who they are.
Some people have said that commercializing the NNPC is a step in the right direction but it is only half baked until the shares of the NNPC are listed on the Nigerian Stock Market. How soon will that happen?
For you to list shares, you must be IPO ready. It means that you must have systems and processes, you must have governance, you must have assets. You must have the correct and indisputable valuation that you are the potential buyers we will see, the stock exchange will demand for all these. And ultimately you can now list your shares. And that is why I said earlier that we will be IPO ready by the middle of next year. It means that we’ll have systems, processes, policies, governance, assets that we can show valuations that are reliable that people can test as you already have today, and also have the right kind of governance structure and also risk management systems. These are basic requirements of IPOs and all these will be ready by the middle of next year. And at the choice of its shareholders that it can be listed at any time because the law, Section 54 of the PIB, clearly said that you can dilute the interest of this company by shareholders. The shareholders are the 200 million Nigerians represented in today’s context by the Ministry of Petroleum, incorporated by the Ministry of Finance, very understandable.
Many Nigerians are unable to reconcile the fact that NNPCL is now an independent company, but with its board appointed by the government, can we have clarity on that. Also, NNPC says it would now make remittances to FAAC through royalties and dividends. But the defunct NNPC owes several billions in remittances to FAAC. Will these outstanding remittances be accommodated in the new arrangements in the form of your planned remittances and royalties and dividends?
Why would the board be appointed by the government? Board of companies are always appointed by shareholders. Shareholders are always represented. This is typical. If anyone here owns a company just go and try to incorporate your company. They will tell you that you will have some shareholders. Those shareholders will appoint the board of those companies.
In today’s context, Ministry of Petroleum incorporated by the Ministry of Finance, is holding in trust for the Federation, but they cannot do anything except the shareholders of record as we put it, the 200 million Nigerians say so, and that is why the PIA, provided the leverage of the National Economic Council to have a say in this process. And therefore, by law it is required that Mr. President appoints the board of these companies, on behalf of all of us. So that whenever you dilute interest, even if it is 10% interest in these companies, that right for government appointments vanishes automatically. So, it now becomes a matter for the shareholders, which includes the private owners of this company. So, this will come but not today, we are transmitting. But as soon as you hear we’re ready for the IPO is all over, the board will be appointed by shareholders, which will include private equity holders.
On remittances to FAAC in the historical NNPC, to the best of our knowledge, we have reconciled our position with FAAC. We have no liabilities that we’re carrying forward to this new company and as a matter of fact, NNPC is not remitting any money to the Federation account that is very correct. But what is also never mentioned is that we are providing petroleum motor spirit to this country, as a matter of a commercial relationship between us and this federation. That we are paying market price for petroleum motor spirit as we all know. We all know that AGO price is not always far from PMS price and you know what the price of PMS is. So, whenever you do this, and you sell at some market price and once there’s no direct payments to any company, then the only way we can recover that cost is for us to hold back our fiscal obligations, which is taxes and royalties so that we can use it to bridge that payment that we’re doing on behalf of all of us as a matter of our responsibility and as a matter of law if you must know.
The appropriation Act clearly provided for subsidy on PMS. The appropriation Act is the Act of the National Assembly. That means it represents all of us and we’re merely executing the provisions of the law. And there’s no way you can do both of them. You cannot pay your fiscal responsibilities and also find money and pay for the PMS subsidies that we are all carrying on behalf of all of us. As a matter of fact, the level of subsidy that we’re seeing because of the price differential versus the revenue that we’re able to generate, which is associated with some of the crude oil theft that I have mentioned to you, is no longer practical for our fiscal responsibility to even cover those costs, but we are managing it. We’re here also by law, we are required to ensure energy security for our country. And we will do everything possible, and we have no fears around this and will continue to serve this country as a company.
“On remittances to FAAC in the historical NNPC, to the best of our knowledge, we have reconciled our position with FAAC. We have no liabilities that we’re carrying forward to this new company and as a matter of fact, NNPC is not remitting any money to the Federation account that is very correct”
In the National Reserve Company that you mentioned, is there a timeline for the creation of the company and how much are you looking at it for the contract that is going to be implemented on that?
On the National Reserve Company, every country in the world has a National Reserve Company but in a different manner. And there are very many ways of doing this. One is to require petroleum product marketing companies to maintain minimum reserves in their depots on behalf of the state. Of course, that means there’s a holding cost and the government will be ready to pay for that. The second way is for the government to directly procure those products and keep them somewhere and that is why you have the network of the pipeline that we have and the depots that we have. The main intention is first to bring a product close to its consumers, and secondly to maintain them at national reserve locations. So we’ll bring back the pipeline so that these depots will serve that purpose. We have built another reserve facility in Atlas Cove and it is due for commissioning, we have completed it. And the end result is that you will now have a network of pipelines and depots that will now manage the National Reserves on behalf of all of us. It is typically a government responsibility. It can be outsourced to private companies and it can also be done by an agency of government. In some countries, the military maintains the national strategic reserve of petroleum products. This is not the situation we are dealing with currently. We’ve established the National Reserve Company which will manage on behalf of the state and we’ll defer to any decision the state will not make in the interim, there is no contrary view around how else we can do it.
You made mention that the refineries are now being rehabilitated. But recently there was a report that the staff of those refineries were paid N136 billion in salaries and allowances. What is the wisdom behind it if there is any justification for that when there is no production taking place?
This question has been raised severally in many fora and in the National Assembly. There are two options. When you have a refinery that is not working, typically what you do is that you prone them down, break that into crates and then ask everybody to go and they have security men to watch it. Otherwise, the second option you have is to keep them as we’re doing. You continue to rubricate the parts that you must rubricate, test run some of the parts that you have to test run, otherwise the day you want it, it won’t work.
So, it is the second option we are doing. We have to keep it, we’re not ready to bring them down into pieces. Typically when you bring them down into crates, you will never want to bring them back. But we know that we will bring them back, we know that we’re working on them. And that means that you are keeping personnel to continue to do those activities.
And more than anything, the other implication is that, in fact, everybody has to be sincere so that you can stop the salaries. And this also is a matter that has gone to the National Assembly and the informed position that we have, even by the clear wisdom of the National Assembly, is that we can’t do this at this point in time. And that’s why we’re paying the salaries. But what we have also done to minimise that, we have moved around many of the staff to locations where they will be put to work. And we’ll continue to do this as we know that ultimately, the refineries will now be run on an O and M basis, so we’ll have no need for this cost as we go forward. It will continue to diminish. There are retirements that are happening as a result of age and very many other considerations and the numbers are coming down by virtue of statutory requirements.
This question is related to the environment. First of all during your presentation, there was the burning of ships. So it’s more of a concern now. What policies and regulations have this new NNPC put in place to protect the environment and are there no alternatives to this burning because obviously this is also harmful to the environment?
If we have to put up any policies to protect the environment, there is no shortage of policies. First of all, we are a business that is also regulated, several institutions of government like NOSDRA, Ministry of Environment and so many other interventions, the authority which is responsible for the downstream and also the commission which is responsible for the upstream operations. There are several policies and regulations around protection of the environment. We comply with all of them. But why we can’t manage it is because that is no longer an issue of operations, it is an act of vandals. So you react to what they do. That means the containment and handling of what others have done, which is why there are several steps or companies including our company to make sure that whenever a certain limitation takes place, we stop the leakage. We recovered all the crude that is possible to recover. And we will continue to work to make sure that we restore the refineries. As I’ve said earlier, no matter what you do the reaction time for the scale of what we’re seeing is the capacity that is the key issue and we’ll continue to work on it. Yes, there are policies to do this.
On alternatives to burning this crude oil, we can collect them in a location and then take them to a refinery or take them to another vessel. It is very, very complicated. If you see the statistics I gave you, you have 450 boats, all those canoes and vessels. Just imagine how you can manage these. Are there alternatives? The solution is to stop the leakage. Stop the theft and then they will vanish. So you don’t have to do anything. So, it’s really the reality that we’re dealing with.
Every year when the budget is being prepared, you have what they call the excess crude based on the fact that the National Assembly will have their own benchmark, the Federal Government will also have their own benchmark. How will this arrangement affect the new NNPC? Still on excess crude, other countries have sovereign wealth funds and are saving for the rainy day and we know that, we are going to exhaust this product one day. How will this affect the sovereign wealth fund account?
The excess crude account, as you may be aware, is the difference between the budgeted sum and then the available resources, which sometimes because of price changes, is the Federal Ministry of Finance activity and not the NNPC activity, our obligation is to deliver those resources to the Federation account and they will do this.
What is also different by law now, which connects to the question asked around PIA, is that the law provides that whenever there is a royalty on price which means that that excess value that is delivered, it goes into the sovereign wealth fund. And also the sovereign wealth fund by law also can be funded either by the excess crude account or by any means that the National Economic Council decides to fund. So, there is no limitation as to how the sovereign wealth fund can be funded. But there’s a clear provision in the PIA that says that a certain amount of money must go directly to the sovereign wealth fund that was not there before.
The PIA is a law and one of the things it says is that we cannot be paying subsidies on petroleum products. But we are still doing it, does it mean the PIA is in suspension or can we be executing the law piecemeal?
Yes, PIA is very clear; the petroleum products will be priced at the market. But the PIA did not exclude any intervention from the government. Government can decide to give any form of relief to its citizens. And that is why the appropriation Act of 2022 clearly provided for this and we’re simply implementing this. So it’s not in conflict with the PIA.
The Chief of Naval Staff recently said the NNPC is conniving with vessels and he was referring to the recent controversy about the heroic Edo vessel that went to lift crude from Apo oil field terminal. He said suddenly you find their names on the list that wasn’t there previously. Give clarity on the question of oil theft because he also said that between 20 and 200,000 being bandied out, is impracticable. So really, how much crude oil theft have we recorded?
I am very convinced that the Chief of Naval Staff is misquoted. He could not have said that NNPC is conniving to steal from the terminal. I am very doubtful because I have very fruitful and constant engagement with the Chief of Naval Staff. The vessel in question was the vessel that was arrested at Equatorial Guinea. If you recall the vessel came too early, it should not have been here outside its schedule. Vessels can come and stay in international waters until you call them to come in. This is typical practice, it is not only this vessel that does this, it is a typical process. But once vessels move into your territorial waters, then they become suspect. Because at that point in time, we have said clearly that that vessel did not have clearance. I wrote to the Chief of Naval Staff that this vessel did not have clearance even though we knew that it was coming. And it is also confirmed that this vessel did not load crude oil from Apo terminal. This is very correct.
I’m not defending the vessel. Let me tell you about the vessel movement. I think it’s important for us to also learn how vessel nominations take place. Two weeks before your loading, you are supposed to tell your seller in this case NNPC or any of our partners but in this case this vessel was actually not coming to load NNPC’s oil, it was coming to load our partner’s oil. So you are supposed to declare that your vessel has been nominated. And once you nominate that vessel, NNPC will send that vessel to the terminal operator because not every vessel can go to every terminal, because of safety issues. So the terminal operator must confirm to you that this vessel can come to the terminal before it can come. So typically companies nominate two to three vessels for each operation. Sometimes only one because some places have history. So companies must nominate vessels ahead of their coming. And then the process happens. We write to the terminal operator, when the terminal operator says it’s okay. They will inform us then we will inform the regulatory authorities. In this case the commission which is the regulatory authority and the Nigerian Navy, that this vessel is known to us. It is commencing a legitimate business offer; it has clearance to berth at any terminal. The vessel in question had not passed through this process before it came into our territorial waters. The claim they made which was debunked by the Navy which we agree is that they are afraid of pirate attack. And we are also aware that the pirate attacks have been minimized in our country. I am not sure that NNPC has ever or will ever facilitate stealing of crude oil. And I have said it over and over again that the process of streaking crude oil is beyond anyone’s individual today.
It is called end-to-end, from the producing companies, NNPC personnel, members of the community, every cadre of people you can think of, from the elites in the community, everybody has some involvement. Are they doing it on behalf of the institutions, absolutely not? There are criminals everywhere and there are also good people everywhere. Majority of my workers are good people but I’m not saying there are no bad people in NNPC and there are some of the people that I told you will be part of the people that we will deal with and we will take them out.
On the volume of crude oil comment by the Chief of Staff where he made statements around the volume of crude oil, let us distinguish issues. When we said we are losing several 700,000 barrels per day of crude oil, we meant it. It is an opportunity loss. There is no company that will produce oil and then you lose 80% of that and continue to produce the oil. So we deliberately shut down the pipeline whenever we see these infractions getting to a limit that we cannot control that are not possible to be managed. So as we speak today, we know for sure there are at least 700,000 barrels per day locked-in that we could have produced that we can’t do because we cannot guarantee the safety of the pipeline.
It is needless to say that not 100% of that is due to theft. There are technical issues that we are responding to but the majority of this is associated with reasons around crude oil theft. Now when you say how much of it is stolen, and I’ve seen the statistics, it is impossible to have batches stealing 200,000 barrels per day. I agree with the Chief of Naval Staff, you need thousands of batches to do this.
But don’t forget also that we have seen lines connected and I’ve shown you during my presentation, the site of the pipeline itself running for three to four kilometres. So when this happens, which I have also accepted, that enormous work has been done by the Navy and they have contained the marine activity but this is the reality, this vessel was arrested by the Navy carrying crude oil. So if you can do this, we believe very strongly that up to 200,000 barrels of oil is stolen but not in batches. And of course this has been contained. I think this is the point I am trying to make. But there’s no distinction between what the Chief of Naval Staff has said and what I’m saying now because it is true that you cannot do it with a batch. But when you see a vessel of this nature, which was arrested by the Navy, and also when you have 295 or so cooking pots even if they are taking 500 barrels per day, in each of these locations, you can see the scale of losses. So whether they are able to process and put into the market it’s a different matter but it is stolen.
On remittances to FAAC in the historical NNPC, to the best of our knowledge, we have reconciled our position with FAAC. We have no liabilities that we’re carrying forward to this new company and as a matter of fact, NNPC is not remitting any money to the Federation account that is very correct
Is there hope really that Nigeria will win this war against crude oil theft? Because there are reports that people behind these are people who are highly influential in society and one wonders if you’re putting up these kinds of efforts to address this and these people are fighting back. What would be the repercussions?
Please if you know them let us know. I can tell you they will not sleep in their houses today. I can tell you that no one is exempted. If it is me, I will not sleep in my house today. So no one is exempted. Everyone will be followed. That is why I said that the EFCC is now following the cash. People who go and build houses without income, people who build skyscrapers without any legitimate business, people who buy cars that they know that everybody knows that they can’t afford, lifestyle changes that you can’t explain. All these things are being followed and we know that the law will catch up with all these people and they will be disclosed and prosecuted.
Recently, there have been concerns about NNPC’s alleged contract with Tompolo, can you give an insight into the situation?
Part of the security intervention that we’re doing is end-to-end. We must involve community members. We must involve government security agencies, we must deploy technology and also we must employ other soft means of ensuring that you’re able to contain end-to-end including the engagement of community members. What we did is to do three things. First, to ensure the government security agencies play their parts. We have our Navy, the Army, the Department of Security Service and they are doing an excellent job of containing this.
But as you know, sustenance is everything. And therefore we also decided that we need private contractors to man the right of way and also operate outside the right of way, so that they can also join us to manage members of the community. And we don’t have access to that and therefore we put up a framework where contractors are selected through a tender process of people who can do it, not everyone can do it. And Tompolo is just mentioned, we are dealing with a corporate entity, he may have interest in the company but we are not dealing with Tompolo. But we know that he has interest in that company. We know that we are engaging all other individuals who will be of help to us in this situation. This has happened several years over time and the end result was that it was contained under a process like this. And we believe that we made the right decision.
What are you doing to address the issue of Jet A1 shortage since it is affecting us and the diesel challenge? How is it being addressed?
Okay, I’m sure you’re aware JET A1 and diesel are all deregulated products, it is delivered into the market at the market costs. The only way you can have a cheaper JET A1 is to put subsidies on it or diesel. And there’s no framework for subsidy on JET A1 and diesel. All NNPC is doing is to balance the market. We intervene by bringing in products because we have access to cheaper products in the market. And we’ve dampened the pricing so that consumers are not exploited by marketers unnecessarily or unduly. So this is what we’re doing and clearly is just a reflection of the market.