Nigerian rights group calls for inquiry into refinery spending amid soaring oil prices
A Nigerian rights group said this week it would take legal action against the government for failing to fix the country’s broken oil refineries. Following the avoidance of Russian oil due to Russian military action in Ukraine, pressure has mounted on Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, to increase production and exports.
The Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project, or SERAP, said its advice to authorities to investigate allegations of mismanagement of funds approved for refinery rehabilitation, operation and maintenance is in the public interest, and that the authorities must prosecute anyone responsible.
The group said in a statement that Nigeria had spent nearly $400 million on refinery maintenance between 2015 and 2020, with little impact. Nigerian refineries have been closed for more than a year, forcing the country to rely heavily on imports for its energy needs.
SERAP also threatened to sue the authorities if they did not respond to its advice by March 14.
SERAP officials were not immediately available for further comment on the lawsuit, but heavy sanctions on Russia’s energy sector this month are shifting the focus to other crude oil producers and exporters.
Nigeria is Africa’s biggest oil producer, but experts say it may be too early to celebrate soaring oil prices.
“If we are still dependent on importing fuel into Nigeria, that means there will be a significant problem in terms of the cost of getting the products to Nigeria, given the level of inflation at which the sanctions imposed on Russia cause globally the level of economic shock,” said Isaac Botti, a public finance expert.
This week, oil prices hit $130 a barrel, the highest level since 2008, after the United States and its European allies stepped up their ban on Russian oil imports following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
But prices fell more than 13% on Wednesday following a promise by the United Arab Emirates to increase production to fill the gap created by sanctions against Russia.
Botti said Nigeria had struggled to stay afloat even before prices spiked.
“Even before the crisis in Russia and Ukraine, Nigeria was grappling with an internal crisis, especially with regard to the issue of fuel supply for local consumption. Nigeria does not have a functioning refinery,” did he declare.
SERAP also wants authorities to investigate the import in January of more than 170 million liters of refined fuel from Europe by four oil operators.
However, the head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission, Mele Kyari, told an international energy summit in Abuja last week that authorities were working to fix refineries to make the most of opportunities. current market.
“A minor supply disruption can cause the chaos that you see in our state. And that means these layoffs need to be addressed,” Kyari said. “As a country, we need to address the issue of local production of finished petroleum products even in the short term, and that’s what we are doing; we haven’t been able to do that, but you see the engine challenge internal combustion is a major social issue.”
Russia exports about 7 million barrels of oil and gas per day, which represents about 10% of global supplies.
Experts say the global increase in oil prices should boost oil revenues and increase foreign exchange reserves for exporting countries, but they also say Nigeria needs to address local consumption issues first.