By Lawrence Olaoye Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the President of Niger Republic, Muhammadou Issoufou, for the importation of crude oil from Niger to be refined in Nigeria.
The agreement covered the construction of hydrocarbon pipeline from Niger Republic to link a privately owned refinery to be sited in Mashi, a border town in Katsina state.
In his remarks at the ceremony held at the Presidential Villa yesterday, Buhari said “Nigeria sees this cooperation on crude oil export from the Republic of Niger and construction of refinery facilities in Katsina State as a “win – win” for both nations.
“The initiative will not only provide a reliable market for the stranded crude from the Niger Republic but will also provide petroleum products for Nigeria, as it aggressively pursues its aspiration on petroleum product self-sufficiency.
“In addition, it is my hope that the current frontier exploration efforts in the Northern part of the country (Chad Basin, Gongola Basin, Sokoto Basin, Bida Basin and Benue trough) will also result in the provision of additional hydrocarbon inflow to the corridors of the proposed pipeline and a potential refinery around Kaduna axis.
“I am happy that several productive engagements held between the Nigerian and Nigerien authorities have resulted in the positive agreements to progress with activities on this important project.”
On the proposed refinery in Katsina state, Buhari said “This project will be private sector driven with the full support of the governments of both countries and I am happy to understand that several expressions of interest from prospective investors are already being received.”
He added that a Steering Committee, chaired by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, had been set up to provide strategic leadership, direction and governance oversight for the project.
Buhari said “Further to this, a Senior level Joint Technical Team is carefully selected based on competence to develop the implementation roadmap and strategy on both the refinery and pipeline projects. This team will be led by Nigeria’s Engineer Rabiu Suleiman supported by the DG Hydrocarbon of Niger Republic.”
Technical team was charged with the responsibility of providing bankable feasibility studies for both the Refinery and pipeline projects; Optimal project site, pipeline routes and details; Security plan; and Selected consortia of investors for both the refinery and pipeline projects.
The Nigerien President, in his remarks said the agreement was of mutual benefits to both countries noting that Nigeria and Niger Republic shared common problems and therefore should exploit common solutions.
He said he looked forward to a time when his country would be exporting refined petroleum products to Nigeria.
Kachikwu in his comments lauded Buhari for his initiative to create favorable investments in the nation’s downstream sector and encouraging cross-border investments in the sector.
According to him, the government had put in place a strategy of ‘Seven Big-Wins’ launched by the President in 2016.
He said the refinery project would allow the export of stranded Nigerien surplus crude to Nigeria for the sole purpose of processing the crude oil in a new refinery in Nigeria for improved economic activities and the benefit of the two neighbouring countries.
Ibrahim Zakari, founder of Blackoil Energy Refinery, the arrowhead of proposed refinery, said his organization was willing to invest $2 billion (about N720 billion) with funds expected to flow-in from United States of America (USA), Canada, India and the Middle-east.
The maximum refining capacity of proposed refinery, he said, would be 100,000 barrels per day.
On the time frame for the completion of the refinery, Zakari said “It will take 3-5 years to complete the refinery; its a modular refinery.
It will create 2,500 direct employment and over 10,000 indirect employment. It will cover not only Katsina and the North, but the whole of Nigeria.”