Telegraph’s Dan Nnodim last week cornered the Rivers State Commissioner for Energy and Natural Resources, Sir Medee. The interview covered a wide range of issues ranging from what is seen globally as the oil curse to the activities of his ministry.
Here are excerpts of some of the issues the Telegraph took up with the Commissioner:
Telegraph: your Ministry was set up to police the energy resources of the State. What would you consider the achievements of your Ministry since its inception?
Medee: The Ministry has achieved a lot since its inception. I came and I have inherited staff of the Ministry, inherited some key investments that the Ministry has had, and inherited a set up of the Ministry of Natural Resources that is ready to deliver value to Rivers State.
Telegraph: In what ways is your Ministry collaborating in efforts to ensure that the State does not suffer from what is generally regarded across the world as the oil curse?
Medee: My Ministry is purely dealing with issues on the exclusive list of government. Because we dealing with issues on the exclusive list of government, we have little to do in terms of driving the sector. What we only do is purely advisory and less of regulatory and supervisory roles. So, in that case, what we try to do is to see how we can advice and provide support and create the enabling environment for operators in the industry, especially the oil and gas industry operating in Rivers State, to thrive.
That’s what I think is key for us to do. His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Rivers State has given us a marching order to ensure, not just for my ministry alone, but for most operations of other ministries, that things are done in such a way that we provide that enabling environment for business to strive.
Telegraph: Do you think that the recent reduction in pump price will not affect the national economy and state allocation?
Medee: In most of the states that have excessive dependence on oil, especially the Nigerian economy where oil seems to be in the driver’s seat, it would definitely affect. That’s why it has been our programme to see what we can do to diversify the productive base of, not just of the Rivers State, but the Nigerian economy.
Telegraph: What are you doing to reduce or wipe away the challenges of oil bunkering in the State and its effect on the people of the State too?
Medee: When it comes to oil bunkering, it is like an epidemic because the impact and effect of this on the economy, the people, the environment of Rivers State is huge. So, when we came in, we thought what we can do is to contribute our serious measure, not just to reducing it, but to the extent where we can stop it.
You know oil theft and oil bunkering have provided very serious devastation to the environment in Rivers State. We have reviewed the effort so far, where government has taken confrontation as the main thing to do to stop it. But the more confrontation is being done in terms of task force and other security efforts to stop it, the more we see collaborations to sustain it. What we have decided and we are planning to do is to take the market away from them. If we take the market away from them, when they make the effort to steal the crude, take the effort to go and cook and they do not see people who are patronizing them in terms of buying it, then they would no longer go back to the business. So, we are determined to get into taking the market away from their operation and what we are trying to do is that we are considering both the upstream sector and the downstream sector.
In the upstream sector, we have our interest in looking at some of the efforts of our predecessors, where they have been able to get license to build refineries. You know that the modular refineries is a serious option now. So that option is another option that is open to us in the upstream sector.
Now, in the downstream sector, we are look at a situation where the state would be able to compete in that sector. Competing in that sector means going down into downstream sector to see if we can look at some mega filling stations to, to look at mega tank farms, and see what we can do to be able to compete.
We are competing with private collaboration. By the time we get the private sector to buy in, we would be able to see what we can do. But I can assure you that we are determined to fight the illegal bunkering scourge to a logical conclusion.
Telegraph: That reminds me. Under the Odili administration, there were plans to build state refineries. There were equally talks at that time, that the State was allocated an oil bloc. What has happened to the idea of the refinery? What has happened to the oil bloc?
Medee: You know that one of the challenges we have in government is continuity. By the time a government has a vision and the next government comes that does not share in the vision, then you see there is going to be a break.
Yes I agree, I have seen from the records that we had a license to build a refinery. But as we speak, the license that was given to us has expired and we know that His Excellency is interested in real investments in order to see how he can open up the economy of Rivers State.
Now, we are looking at the possibility of getting the license renewed. Once we are able to get the license renewed, we would be able to get private sector players that would be able to step in to see what we can do to drive the economic pact.
You know the problem people have with government in business is that people are not satisfied because any time there is government in business, there is more of corruption; there is more of weak supervision and there is poor management, all that and all that. If you have a weak management, if you have poor supervision, and you have corrupt practices, then it hinders government interest of doing business. In that case, it would affect whatever you are doing.
What has happened before now is that this license has expired. So, we have come back now to do some review. By the time we finish the review that we are looking at and with the approval of His Excellency, definitely we are going to see what we can do to put back the sector into the driving seat of the economy of Rivers State.
This is because His Excellency is very, very committed to the opening up of the Rivers economy. You can see that other states have been doing their very best to see how they take the business away from us. What we are doing now is take the business back to Rivers State. Until we take the business back to Rivers State, we will not be able to open up the State in terms of employment generation and in terms of internally generated revenue. All that and all that are what we are trying to do. I can assure that by the time we get going with all these, the Rivers people will know there is a governor that loves the State.
As we speak today, beyond the building of the flyovers, the building of the roads, beyond the infrastructures that His Excellency has provided in the Rivers State, I can tell you His Excellency is also determined to provide a gas masterplan. The gas masterplan as we speak, there are some investments in that area where gas is being delivered to a number of companies in Rivers State.That singular effort of Government and the present government is to open up the State to industrialization.
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