The Port Harcourt, Nigerian refinery which was planned to restart operations by December faces severe setbacks due to unresolved community disputes and technical issues, according to recent investigations by Daily Sun.
The refinery has been under rehabilitation since 2019, with a $50 million contract awarded to Tecnimont SPA and Tecnimont Nigeria Ltd (TNL) by NNPCL. The Federal Government further endorsed the initiative in 2021, granting a $1.5 billion contract. However, recent revelations indicate a series of challenges jeopardizing the project’s completion.
Community leaders, including Johnson Emere Mba-Ngie, head of the Concerned Youth of Eleme, have raised concerns about the violation of the Local Content Act. Mba-Ngie stated that numerous petitions sent to relevant authorities regarding these violations have gone unanswered. Allegations include the absence of a community liaison office, despite the engagement of over 3,000 workers, with fewer than 100 from the community involved.
Community representatives have reported that less than 0.01% of Eleme youths were considered for jobs in the refinery, marking a significant breach of the Local Content Act. Protests have ensued, reflecting community discontent and further disrupting the project.
Technical issues have also emerged, including the mismatching of spare parts. Sub-contractors faced challenges when connecting pipes, discovering that the available components did not match specifications. Engr Babajide Soyode, a former refinery manager, criticized the rehabilitation efforts, calling it a “waste of money” and warning of potential substandard petroleum production due to high sulfur content.
These revelations cast a shadow over the ambitious December restart goal, highlighting the urgent need for resolution of community disputes and technical challenges to salvage the project. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and contractors, particularly Tecnimont SPA, face mounting pressure to address these issues promptly.