By Christiana Ekpa
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, yesterday stressed that the federal government will not pay the $9.6billion judgment fine to Process and Industrial Developments Limited (P&ID) which he described as “fraudulent”.
It would be recalled that, a British Court judgment had slammed the fine on the Federal government in favour of the Virgin Islands-registered company, earlier this year.
The contract required the Nigerian government to pay $300 million for P&ID to set up a way to turn a dirty form of natural gas burned off during oil production into electricity for use by local governments.
The deal was said to have been sealed in 2012 amid mutual recriminations and claims of fraud, while the $9.6 billion was built up through accrued interest payments.
Defending the Ministry’s 2020 budget before a joint-committee of the National Assembly on Petroleum Resources that sat at the House of Representatives wing yesterday, Sylva said in response to a question on the case, that “The P& ID is fraudulent and Nigeria will not pay” the fine.
He told the Joint Committee headed by Sen. Bassey Akpan (Akwa Ibom-PDP), that the Ministry was determined to fix all the refineries in the country, before 2023.
“All Refineries will be functional by the end of this dispensation”, he assured.
The Minister also disclosed that Bauchi State “will definitely be an oil producing state in a few years, because the reserves there, are in commercial quantities”, but said, “I don’t know yet, if Anambra is a prospective oil or gas basin, but I will find out”.
The Ministry had a few days ago, announced a discovery of oil in the Northeast.
The Minister also assured that “more jobs will come on stream, during this dispensation. I can assure you that a lot will begin to happen, during this dispensation”.
He pleaded with the National Assembly, to provide adequate funding for the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) to enable the downstream-policing agency, to check sharp practices in the industry.
He said for the DPR to be everywhere, its operations, must be well funded in the 2020 budget, which is expected to be approved and passed for President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent in December.
“For DPR to be everywhere, they must be well funded. They police the downstream sector, including the ports, so I will plead for adequate funding for them”, he said.
He also assured that the ministry, will work with security agencies to make sure pipeline vandalism is curtailed.
Though details of the Budget proposal for the Ministry are yet to be made available, about N450billion has been earmarked for subsidy payment in 2020.
Chairman of the joint-committee on Petroleum Resources, Sen. Bassey Akpan on his part, also assured the Ministry, that the Senate and the House of Representatives, are committed to supporting the president in his efforts in the oil and gas sector.
The senators however, expressed worries that DPR is “grossly understaffed”.
The Committee also frowned at the failure of DPR, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and other agencies in the Ministry to appear before the committee
The Minister also yesterday assured Nigerians that the Federal Government has no immediate plans to remove fuel subsidy.
“This government is not about to remove subsidy because it is difficult. We believe as a government that our people are going through a lot.
“We cannot as a responsible government heap another issue of petroleum price hike or removal of subsidy on Nigerians
“It is not on the cards at all, we are just looking at how we can manage it,” he said.
The minister added that the official daily consumption rate of petrol in Nigeria does not reflect the actual consumption rate.
Silva said that government does not believe that Nigerians consume over 60 million litres of fuel daily.
He said there is a lot of smuggling and lots of our neighbours are taking advantage of the cheaper price in Nigeria.
According to him, Nigeria is subsidizing for almost half of Africa which was very difficult to manage.
He said that government was working to close up such leakages and when achieved, the cost of subsidy would be bearable.