oil_refinery_570xvarThere are fears in the Nigerian oil industry that the planned sale of the four government refineries, with a combined capacity of 445,000 barrels per day, may not be transparent.

Sources in the industry, who spoke with our correspondent in confidence on Sunday, said the three-month window within which the assets were expected to be sold was too short to allow for global best practices and transparency.

There are, therefore, strong indications that the assets might be sold in a hurry to friends of the government.

Some of the intended beneficiaries, it was learnt, might be some indicted persons in the fuel subsidy scam, who had yet to be cleared.

The Federal Government had set the first quarter of 2014 as the deadline for the sale of the four refineries.

The Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, last week confirmed in London that the refineries would be handed to the private sector.

She stated, “Government does not want to be in the business of running major infrastructure entities and we haven’t done a very good job at it over all these years.”

By the timetable of the Federal Government, it is expected that within the set period, the evaluation of the assets, expression of interests of would-be investors, the technical and commercial bidding processes, as well the short-listing of successful bidders and final handover of the assets, will be concluded.

Alison-Madueke said a Presidential audit of the facilities had last year recommended the sale of the refineries due to inadequate government funding and their unimpressive performance.

Although Nigeria is one of Africa’s top crude exporters, it still imports fuel to meet more than 70 per cent of its local needs.

The refineries operate at a fraction of their capacity because of poor maintenance and aging equipment.