Job creation, economic diversification and the maximisation of natural resources have been listed as some of the reasons the Godwin Obaseki administration is opening the Edo economy to foreign investors.
Obaseki had promised the electorate 200,000 jobs during his electioneering campaign. In the last one year, he commenced the construction of the Benin City Industrial Park, signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) with Chinese companies for the development of Gelegele Seaport and other infrastructure as well as a 5,500-barrel per day modular refinery in the state which puts the 200,000 jobs in sight.
According to the Special Adviser, Media to the Governor, Mr. Crusoe Osagie, while the Gelegele Seaport would open up the State to the international market, the modular refinery would boost the local refining capacity and address fuel supply crisis resulting from inadequate local refining capacity.
The MoU signing ceremony in China on Monday, he continued, would see China Harbour Engineering Company, the biggest infrastructure company in China, lead the development of the Gelegele seaport that would serve as the gateway for exporting manufactured goods from the Benin Industrial Park under construction and other manufacturing companies in the region.
The MoU signing is the result of series of engagements between Governor Obaseki and the Chairman of China Harbor Engineering Company (CHEC), Mr. Lin Yichong, which started last year.
China Harbour Engineering Company Limited is a global player in infrastructure development handling the construction-dredging/ excavation for waterfront development in Yanbu, southwest Saudi Arabia and on the northern shore of the Red Sea as well as the Lagos moles repair project, being executed by the Nigeria Port Authority.
Others are the Offshore Approach Light Structure in New Doha International Airport, which includes three terminal bridges and three temporary steel bridges and the Ma’aden Infrastructure Project Port Design and Construction, owned by the Saudi Arabian Mining Company, amongst others.
The MoU for the Gelegele Seaport project was followed on Wednesday by the sealing of a deal with another Chinese Consortium for a 5,500 barrel per day modular refinery in Edo State.
The Chinese consortium is made up of Peiyang Chemical Equipment Company of China (PCC), a world-leading modular refinery company; Sinopec International Petroleum Service Corporation (SIPS) which is a subsidiary of Sinopec, the top Chemical giant in the world and African Infrastructure Partners (AIP), a Nigerian Infrastructural company.
The first phase of the project will be ready within 12 months after all the necessary approvals are granted by the regulatory authorities.
The MoU signing ceremony for the refinery took place at SINOPEC headquarters in Beijing, China, and was witnessed by officials of the Nigerian Embassy as well as staff of SIPS Nigeria, a major local fabrication company, with a branch in Benin City, Edo State.
Speaking at the event, Governor Obaseki, expressed delight at the local content component of the deal, which would ensure that Edo citizens were trained in welding, refinery operation and fabrication works to enable them participate in the construction of the refinery as well as its operation, post-commissioning.
The Governor assured that the refinery construction would provide jobs for several unemployed Edo youths including the Libya returnees who were being evacuated from the crisis-ridden North African country.
Obaseki added that the modular refinery would solve the problem of inadequate petroleum products in the country and would turn Edo State to the preferred source of petroleum products considering the gateway status of Edo State to other parts of the country.
He expressed appreciation to the management of PCC and SIPS, reiterating that with their support, Edo State was well on its way to becoming a hub of skilled manpower for the oil and gas industry and give boost to Nigeria’s local content policy.
“With the federal government of Nigeria’s commitment to support communities in the Niger Delta states to set up modular refineries, the SIPS fabrication yard in Benin City is expected to be very busy handling the fabrication jobs of modular refineries in the Niger Delta Region”, Obaseki said.
He pledged that his administration would provide community support to the project, assist in securing all regulatory approvals from the appropriate regulatory authorities such as the federal ministry of petroleum resources.
The Consortium committed to delivering phase 1 of the project within 12 months of receiving the required regulatory approvals.
In addition, PCC also agreed to finance the Demonstration modular refinery up to 70 per cent, thereby assisting in scaling the financing hurdle that has militated against the development of modular refineries in Nigeria.
The project will be executed in two phases; phase one consisting of 500bpd demonstration refinery and phase two consisting of a 5,000bpd capacity refinery. The PCC will also serve as the Operations and Management company that will manage the refinery before transferring it to the local investors.
The demonstration refinery will serve as proof of concept and train the indigenes in the management of the refinery.