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Engr. Dikko’s commitment to Port Harcourt refinery rehabilitation justified, By Adewole Kehinde

“Things never happen by accident. They happen because you have a vision, you have a commitment, you have a dream”. – Oscar de la Renta

Due to the failure of successive administrations to do the needful, the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC has failed to serve the purpose for which it was built.

Port Harcourt Refining Company was made up of two refineries: the old refinery, commissioned in 1965 with an initial installed capacity of 35,000 bpd and later “debottlenecked” to 60,000 bpd in 1972, and the new refinery, commissioned in 1989 with an installed capacity of 150,000 bpd. It has a combined installed capacity of 210,000 bpd with five process areas.

The refinery’s effective capacity utilization was reduced due to mechanical integrity failure of the capacity assets as a result of delayed turn-around maintenance (TAM. Statutorily, TAM is to be carried out every other 24 or 26 months. Unfortunately, the PHRC has undergone TAM only three times: in 1992, 1994, and 2000, and a major maintenance intervention in 2015.

Efforts to carry out successive TAMs failed and were not successful due to several challenges. This long delay in conducting TAM has created a negative impact on the nation’s local refining capacity, which includes a loss of revenue, a decrease in foreign exchange, an increase in the importation of refined petroleum products to meet domestic demand, and a decrease in Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

To arrest this worrisome trend and reposition the company for greater productivity, a new Managing Director, Ahmed Dikko, was appointed in March 2020, alongside a new Executive Director of Operations, Muazu Awaisu, and an Executive Director of Finance and Accounts, Reginald Udeh.

Considering the level of decay at the refining company, many doubted Dikko’s capability and political will to turn things around for the better.

Tecnimont, a subsidiary of Italy’s Maire Tecnimont, was awarded an engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract worth £1.08 billion ($1.5 billion) for the full rehabilitation of the refinery complex in April 2021.

Those who were not happy about the rehabilitation went on a campaign of calumny to smear the character and personality of Engr. Ahmed Dikko.

But why would a man like Dikko, who has an express presidential mandate to provide hands-on supervision and coordination of the ongoing comprehensive rehabilitation of Nigeria’s largest crude oil refining facility, Port Harcourt Refinery, be the subject of intense media-driven umbrage?

The rest is now history, as on August 2, 2023, President Bola Tinubu told Nigerians that the Port Harcourt refinery would commence operations by December 2023.

The president disclosed this at a meeting with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), led by Joe Ajaero, its president, and that of the Trade Union Congress, Festus Usifo.

To consolidate the President’s assurance, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources (Oil), Senator Heineken Lokpobiri, restated that the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) Ltd. would be back on stream by December.

He gave the assurance during an inspection tour of the rehabilitation work progress at the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) Ltd. plant in Port Harcourt on Friday.

If not for the commitment and passion for the rehabilitation shown by Engr. Ahmed Dikko, the December commencement date would have been a mirage.

Who is Engr. Ahmed Dikko?

Engr. Ahmed Dikko was born in Zaria, Kaduna State, on May 22, 1964, and he holds a Master of Business Administration (MBA) as well as a Post Graduate Diploma in Management, a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Administration, and a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Chemical Engineering.

He is a Fellow of the Nigerian Society of Chemical Engineers (NSCh.E) and was appointed as the MD of Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited (PHRC) in March 2020, with the principal task of delivering the rehabilitation project of the refinery.

The objective of the project is to bring the facilities to optimal production capacity and sustainable operations. Phase 1 of the rehabilitation project, which is the integrity study and inspection, has been completed, and the project is in the second phase with the signing of the EPC contract for the rehabilitation with Maire Tecnimont SpA.

While working as MD of PHRC, Engr. Dikko acted as the Group Executive Director (GED), Refineries and Petrochemicals, from August to November 2022.

Engr. Ahmed Dikko has extensive knowledge in project management, process engineering, and plant operations. He joined NNPC in 1986 and began his career at the Kaduna Refining and Petrochemicals Company Limited, where he worked in the Operations Engineering and Technical Services Departments.

He rose to the position of superintendent process engineer and participated in many process improvements in the refinery. Engr. Dikko was transferred to the then-newly formed Nigerian Content Division in the Corporate Headquarters of NNPC in Abuja as one of the pioneer engineers in 2005.

He was then seconded to NLNG in 2006 for the commissioning of the Train 6 Project, and this signified the beginning of a successful career within the LNG business that spanned over 14 years. In 2010, he returned to the LNG Division at the corporate headquarters in Abuja, where he worked on the Brass LNG Project and rose to the position of manager.

Engr. Dikko was appointed General Manager, of New LNG Projects, in 2016, with the task of developing other LNG opportunities, such as floating LNG, small-scale LNG, and the utilisation of domestic LNG in Nigeria. In 2018, he was redeployed to the office of General Manager, NLNG, in the LNG Division. While manning that position, Dikko worked closely with other shareholders of NLNG and the company to achieve the Final Investment Decision (FID) for the Train 7 Expansion Project, which has been on the drawing board for over 13 years.

He had pushed the rehabilitation to over 70% completion before he was further given the responsibility to advise the Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO) of NNPC Limited on refinery rehabilitation.

In this role, he advised the GCEO on the rehabilitation of all the refineries owned by NNPC Limited. The good news now is that the Port Harcourt refinery he supervised will, by December 2023, be ready to work optimally.

The rehabilitation would ensure increased revenue and energy sufficiency for the nation, prevent unplanned shutdowns and increase GDP.

Other benefits will include local production of aviation turbine kero, a reduction in foreign exchange demand through reduced importation of petroleum products, satisfying local energy demand, strengthening the naira by reducing the demand for forex, and the creation of thousands of jobs across the value chain (crude supply, operating and maintaining the refinery, product supply, etc.), including several third-party contractors that will supply outsourced services or goods.

● Adewole Kehinde is the publisher of Swift Reporters and can be reached via 08166240846, [email protected]

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