Good News From The Port Harcourt Refinery


Muhammad Al-Ghazali


To millions of Nigerians who have had to endure the excruciating pains brought about by the scarcity of petroleum products across the country in the past two weeks, the news, the report carried by this newspaper yesterday to the effect that the Port Harcourt refineries twin facilities was set to resume full production today, after undergoing intensive repairs and rehabilitation must have caused many to embark on exuberant celebrations. But to me, the greater cause for celebration, was not so much in the knowledge that the facilities will resume production at all.


In my opinion, the greater cause for intense elation was in the manner of the successful turn-around of the refineries at a time others located in Warri and Kaduna appeared to have defied all efforts to make them productive once again. Regular readers of this column would recall the last piece I wrote on the same subject matter, which resulted from a chance meeting I had with the Managing Director of the Port Harcourt refinery Dr. Bafred Enjugu – who hails from Nassarawa state –and before the turn of the year, was actually the MD of the Kaduna refinery.


Today, with the rapid turnaround in the fortunes of the Port Harcourt refinery, few can deny that Kaduna’s loss has become Port Harcourt’s massive gain. That Dr. Enjugu made a massive impression on me will surely be an understatement. In the first instance, unless he introduces himself, you are most likely to breeze by him without noticing him. He is a man of such deep humility and hardly displays the same arrogant airs that has become typical of most of our urbane chief executives. That does not stop him from breezing action and enthusiasm however.


Second, as someone who revels in the study and discussion of strategy, I couldn’t help but marvel at the numerous inspiring initiatives he introduced to ensure that the Port Harcourt facilities resumed partial production several months ago at a time the other refineries appeared to have defied all efforts to revive them.


I was impressed that much of what was achieved was done using local content and contractor in a manner that saved the nation hundreds of millions of dollars. But of greater curiosity for me was the manner he obtained the critical buy-in of his management and other members of staff whom he infused with confidence and self-belief!


It did not come to me as a surprise that the same Daily Trust report indicated that faced with the paucity of funds brought about by difficulties experienced in the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) as it affected the release of funds for the procurement of critical resources required for the completion of repair work at the refinery’s crude distillation unit.


One of the columns had collapsed and compelled a shutdown of the 210, 000 barrels per day refinery. The situation had worsened scarcity in a market that was suffering supply gaps following the withdrawal of private marketers from importation. The problem experienced with the crude distillation unit was particularly devastating to Dr. Enjungu because it occurred soon after the facility had resumed production in October.


In the immidite past, the restoration of the plant would normally have required urgent intervention from foreign experts and huge replacement costs. And; as this newspaper reported yesterday, “Parts that would have been imported are estimated at N640 million while delivery and mobilization of contractors to site would have taken several months, a source pointed out.”


It is a measure of Dr. Enjogu’s remarkable leadership and enterprise that not only was that not the case this time, the entire management and staff of the refinery pooled financial resources from their pockets to ensure that success was achieved! That has to be a first for Nigeria.


According to the same report in the Daily Trust; “PHRC management took the challenge directly by repairing defective parts in-country while utilizing over 150 host community youths in the process that conforms with existing community empowerment commitments. During the period, the entire workforce was mobilized and involved in the process while inspectors from sister Warri Refinery and Petrochemical Company (WRPC) and Kaduna Refinery and Petrochemical Company (KRPC) respectively were invited for support.” 


Key personnel were relocated to the company’s proximate Lifecamp while all vacations were called off to bring all hands on deck as work progressed day and night all week. And; like I wrote earlier, “When hit with cash flow constraints, workers of the refinery, including security guards, drivers, contract and support staff, responded to call for personal contributions to avert an impending downtime, and N5.5 million was raised to procure critical materials without waiting for fund release from government.”


The cumulative sacrifice and enthusiasm of the Management and staff of the Port Harcourt refinery has now ensured that substantive supply of the highly demanded premium motor spirit popularly called petrol will now be produced locally to lessen the demand on imported products which cannot be avoided for now for obvious reasons.


In the meantime though, the entire management staff and workers at the refinery are worthy of effusive celebration for their uncommon patriotism and hard work. It did not surprise me that the Minister of State for Petroleum has already hailed the achievements at Port Harcourt with enthusiasm. It now remains for the Minister to ensure that the same template for success is applied for the other refineries as well.