The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, has revealed that the Federal Government is preserving the workforce at the nation’s four refineries for use when the refineries are finally fixed.

He said though the refineries are not working at the moment, the option is not to sack the workers because it is no fault of theirs that the refineries run by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation have been shut down.

Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, has for several years been importing the bulk of its refined petroleum products as a result of the inability of its refineries to refine crude oil produced within the country.

Yet, a total of N81.41bn was expended on Nigeria’s refineries between January and August this year even though the facilities refined no drop of crude oil all through this period, according to NNPC data.

With the Nigerian economy hit by its worst recession in over 30 years, according to the World Bank, financial experts and economists expect the Federal Government to be frugal with resources which it claimed shrank by over 40 per cent due to economic shocks occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.

This is as the country plans to resume the importation of petroleum products from a neighbouring country, Niger Republic.

But speaking on Monday night while featuring on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme, the minister said laying off workers at the non-performing refineries is ‘a knotty issue’ as there are many labour issues to contend with should the government decide to take any action in that line.

Sylva maintained, “If we continue to preserve the workforce, then it means that we are serious of getting to use this workforce in the future. If you lay them off and fix the refineries, you will have to go looking for them to employ again. It is because we want to fix those refineries that we have kept them.

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“The refineries are down but it doesn’t mean we are not going to fix those refineries again and we will require these experts.

“If Nigerians are saying the refineries should be fixed, then they should know that at the end of the day, we will still need the workforce, these experienced people to man these refineries when they are fixed.

“This is in addition to the fact that there are kinds of labour issues you will have to deal with if you have to sack all those refinery workers.”

The minister, who expressed optimism that with the deregulation of the sector, the refineries will function optimally, noted that the Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery will be signed next month.

He stated, “In December, we are going to sign the EPC for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt Refinery and the rest other two will follow.

“Five modular refineries are on stream; one is going to be commissioned tomorrow (Tuesday) and together, they will produce about 50,000 barrels per day.”

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