The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva says the COVID-19 pandemic that rocked the global community has some positive impact on the Nigerian Oil and Gas Sector. Also he said that oil-bearing communities are being carried along in the rehabilitation of Port Harcourt Refineries by contractors, Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC). Sylva was reacting to allegation by oil-bearing communities that they are not part of the ongoing rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refineries. The minister, who made this known at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) forum in Abuja said COVID-19 made Nigerians to take over the running of the oil and gas industry. “As a country, the problem during the lockdown was that most of our workers in the oil and gas sector are expatriates; most of them went back to their countries because of the COVID-19 lockdown.
They have to rush out so that they will lockdown in their countries and when that happened, it means that we lost a lot of expatriate personnel. “But the good side of COVID-19 for us is that our Nigerians were able to step in to their shoes. And now, we have discovered in the oil industry that Nigerians can run our industry and we have also realised that it is better to encourage Nigerians’ participation because we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow. If another COVID-19 strikes again, how are we going to survive? So we deliberately encouraged Nigerians’ participation in the industry, in case any other disaster, we know that Nigerians will be there to run our industry,’’ he said. The minister noted that though COVID-19 hit other sectors of the economy, the oil and gas sector was the worst hit as the global price of oil crashed drastically.
“You know that one of the first things that happened with COVID-19 was the lockdowns and during the lockdowns, most people were not going out, planes were not flying, cars not running and you know that that is where our own business gets our market. If airplanes are not flying, if cars are not running, the demand for crude oil collapsed. So you can imagine that we really suffered. That is why the crude oil prices crashed. The refineries were not even evacuating their refined product because nobody was buying and driving their cars. So, the refineries shut down and nobody was buying crude oil; that was the effect COVID-19 had on our sector,’’ he said. The minister however assured that the sector would continue to promote ideas that would boost local content to enable Nigerians to effectively participate in the growth and development of the sector. (NAN)
Chief Timipre Sylva, said oil-bearing communities are being carried along in the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refineries by a company, called Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC). He said that government on its part had ensured that communities would always participate in activities happening within their vicinities. “It is not the government that will engage directly with the communities, we are government and we have been able to give the contract to EPC Contractors, part of the EPC Contractors’ role is engagement with communities. How they are going to do the work on ground, sub-contract it is up to them. I cannot play the role of going to talk to the community. It is the EPC Contractors that will talk to the communities. It is part of its package because it made provision for employment, community engagement. All that is part of the money for the contract. It is not for government to be going to the communities to discuss with them. We have done what we need to do and the contractor is going to site. When he gets to site, the community, will of necessity be involved,’’ he said. The minister said that the rehabilitation of the refineries was done through international tenders and that international companies responded to and that the process involved consultants.