The founder of Stanbic IBTC Bank Plc, Atedo Peterside, has sustained opposition to the move by the Federal Government to renovate the Port Harcourt refinery with $1.5 billion, noting that the money could instead build 12 world class hospitals at $125 million dollars each.
Twitting on his official Twitter handle on Thursday, Peterside advised the Federal Government to instead sell the refinery to private sector investors that could rehabilitate it with their own funds, citing successful core investor sales like Eleme Petrochemicals sold to Indorama and NAFCON sold to Notore.
He tweeted, “The $1.5 billion earmarked for PH refinery rehabilitation by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, could build 12 world class hospitals, costing $125 million each – two in each geopolitical zone. We could then allow private sector core investors to purchase the refinery and rehabilitate it with their own funds.”
Criticizing the Federal Government for putting the refinery revamp project ahead of the country’s poor healthcare services, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the weakness in the sector, he called the government, in an interview with AIT on Monday, myopic for prioritising fossil fuels, which he said were going out of fashion, “rather than things like compressed natural gas for cars or the country’s health sector.”
He said, “At a time when people are moving to compressed natural gas or thinking about electric cars, that’s when Nigeria is going to make a massive investment with borrowed funds in fossil fuels in a country that has no healthcare.”
Peterside further noted that the country’s healthcare situation was an embarrassing one, as even the most senior officials in Abuja had to run to Lagos or go abroad to treat some healthcare challenges.
He said, “How can we be in a country where even our Federal Capital does not have quality healthcare. How do we put things like broken refinery ahead of healthcare that we don’t have. What lessons have we learnt from COVID-19?
“We are severely myopic in Nigeria, because we are rushing to make investments in a sector that is fading out. Fossil fuels are going out of fashion, so if Nigeria already had Dangote refinery, I thought its priority will be things like healthcare. I thought NNPC’s priority will be things like compressed natural gas for cars.”
Although he conceded that the country had done a fair job in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Peterside emphasised that it was no excuse to relax, because the second wave was threatening more damage and because there was a possibility of a third wave as well.