The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Allison-Madueke has insisted that the Federal Government was still going on with the privatisation of refineries.
Allison-Madueke who spoke at the 2014 budget defence of the ministry before the joint Senate committee on Petroleum Resources (Upstream) and Senate Committee on Gas, said that the exercise had only been put on hold for now since the unions had seriously fought against it in 2013.
“We did vote for privatisation to have started early this year and as you probably know, the unions fought us on that quite strongly so we stepped back for some time to look at it again at a later point,”she said.
“We met with the unions who stated at that time that they were not comfortable with privatisation and as a result of our negotiation we agreed to stand it down. We said we would stand it down for that period but we will still keep the discussion on the table with them.
“They themselves want us to continue discussing it to see if we can come to a point where they are comfortable with it so we are still in ongoing discussions on that,” the minister said.
She said that government had no business running any major infrastructure, adding that the only way the refineries could perform optimally was if they were privatised.
“I have always said that the government should not be in the business of running refineries. I don’t think it (government) should be running any major infrastructure. I think that the best way forward is for the Privatisation of our refineries.”
She, however, said that the government was continuing with the rehabilitation of the refineries pending such a time when the unions would have been convinced that privatisation was the best option.
“The Federal Government is continuing with its rehabilitation programmes, which it would have continued with anyway, up to the time of the privatisation or sale at least to some extent. “
Chairman, Senate Committee on Oil and Gas, Sen. Nkechi Nwaogu said that the government must continue to dialogue with the unions because they needed to know the exact benefits of the privatisation.
“There is no point allowing government to be managers of refineries since they are known not to be very efficient with all the bureaucracy involved in public service.”
The committee directed the ministry to submit to it a detailed memorandum explaining how it spent the N521 million Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) enlightenment campaign fund.
The Petroleum Ministry has an estimated budget proposal of N61.9 billion for both recurrent and capital expenditure for 2014.