By Ade Adesomoju, Abuja
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, on Thursday said the country would end fuel importation by 2019.
He said there was an ongoing investment drive towards meeting the infrastructure requirements for local refining of crude oil and that by 2019, Nigeria was expected to become a net exporter of refined products.
Kachikwu spoke in Abuja as the guest speaker at the 10th Annual Business Law Conference of the Nigerian Bar Association’s Section on Business Law.
The event had as its theme: ‘Law reform and economic development’, but the minister spoke on the sub-theme, ‘Future prospects for the oil and gas industry’.
He said for the refineries to function optimally, about $50bn was required to fill the infrastructural gap, adding that the existing refineries were currently working at about 40-50 per cent of their combined installed capacity.
Kachikwu added that the ongoing investments effort were aimed at raising the output of the plants to 90 per cent capacity or more, and build the needed infrastructure.
He said Nigeria was expected to reduce fuel importation by 2018 and stop it completely the following year.
Kachikwu said, “I have faith that if we put the money where we should and quickly, my eyes are set on 2018 or 2019, and even if I’m not here, somebody’s eyes will have to be set on that. The whole idea is that from 2018, we must have achieved a 60 per cent reduction in importation of petroleum products; and in 2019, we must be able to exit importation completely.
“To do that, we have a lot of work to do and a lot of funding to put in place, and we’re working hard to achieve this. I have hope. I’m a very strong optimist.”
He also gave a clue on why the refineries were still working at low capacities, saying, “How do the refineries work if the pipelines supplying them are out most of the year and so they can’t supply crude? You can’t refine an empty space.”