Ahmed Dikko: Driving PHRC to Progress through Rehabilitation

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Rebecca Ejifoma

The Managing Director, Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC), Engr. Ahmed Dikko, has rolled up his sleeves to drive the company to yield the right result with the ongoing extensive rehabilitation of the plant, which got off the ground following the approval of $1.5bn by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).

The Port Harcourt Refining Company Limited, a subsidiary of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is in business to optimally process hydrocarbon into petroleum products for the benefit of all stakeholders. With a vision to be an innovative international hydrocarbon processing company of choice, PHRC proudly boasts of two refineries – the old refinery commissioned in 1965 and the new refinery commissioned in 1989 with an installed capacity of 150,000 bpsd.

Since he took over the helms of affairs last year as the Managing Director of PHCR, Ahmed Dikko has been putting his best foot forward to making PHRC proud again. With the signing of an agreement with EPC Contractors, Maire Tecnimont SpA on April 6 and followed that up with the technical kick-off of this project on May 6, the project activities have swung into action after the contractor shared the detailed project execution plan, the PHRC broke up into discipline sessions with various groups for engineering, quality control, and construction among others.

Sharing his thoughts on the journey so far on the plant rehabilitation, Dikko noted passionately, “We started working, extending documentation, and plans of how to progress with this project. It took quite some time to establish, based on what is in the contract and based on what the contractor has submitted as his own project execution plan. This is the way projects are developed at this time. So a lot of documentation has been going on; a lot of reviews of plans submitted by the contractor have been going on.”

Contractually, Dikko stated that as owners in PHRC, they have been very engaged making sure that all the plants are hydrocarbon-free so that eventually, the contractor can be handed over these facilities to begin some inspection and some work physically.

“We have been busy as owners, providing tons of Rely-upon information which is required by the contractor to base their own activities on those. It is not a small thing knowing full well that all specs of all equipment and everything therein that will make the contractor succeed has to be given; all the documentation that we have. So we have done that, we’ve given thousands of documents to the contractor”, he explained.

According to the PHRC boss, the contractors came down to site with some of their subcontractors on inspection “around our tankages and some off-site facilities”. He emphasised on the importance for them so that all forms of preparation to physically begin the work.

“The contractor again is proposing to begin what we call ‘early works’, which requires them now to set up their operational office in PHRC and then other little activities and how they hope to manage this project. This is where we are today, and it is important because this is how in any project of this nature, the development of the activities take place. So we are very happy with that; we have been getting great support from our own project management consultants and owner engineers on this. We have been working closely with the other RPC support to achieve all these. So this is where we are and we are upbeat and we are sure we are very much on schedule and we will reach there.”

Although the approval of the $1.5 billion may seem gleeful for PHRC and indeed the public, it was greeted with mixed feelings. However, Dikko’s reaction remains optimistic. This is as he says they are putting in the energies required nonetheless to ensure they cover all angles.

He expressed, “This way, they can deliver a refinery that can run sustainably and profitably over a long period of time. A lot of people were making all sorts of comments, probably, out of not having the correct information but this is the first time in NNPC that this kind of approach has been taken. So much consultation and transparency went into this process. Right from the bidding process, to the selection of the contractor, and the eventual award of this project.”

In the process of selecting the contractor, he revealed that PHRC had to use reputable international EPC companies to bid for this exercise. In the words of the MD, “this is a very big plus, and the bidding process was quite open and transparent. We utilised other external stakeholders in all these processes that we are doing so that they can contribute and see the openness in it. Clearly, the Bureau of Public Procurement, NEITI, ICRC, and Federal Ministry of Finance among others were there with us. This is unprecedented in the history of project development in NNPC and we are very sure it will yield the right result.”

Notwithstanding, Dikko acknowledged that they got approvals from NNPC management for a robust project management consultant and owner engineer, who would support them as owners in this process to make sure that they truly deliver the project based on what has been scoped earlier in phase one of the project.

“Part of what is in our contract is to make sure, as much as possible, that we use the original manufacturers of these equipment and things that we need to change during this project. Then there is the presence of a lot of the licensors of these process plants here with us like UOP who are licensors to the FCC unit and Axxeis to the KHU are also part of these.

“So you can see it is a robust combination of experience and international bodies that are part of this project. And then to crown it up, we that are here locally as owners in Port Harcourt have a dedicated team that has shown resilience, professionalism, and commitment to ensure that exactly what is captured in our scope of work is what is going to be delivered,” while crossing his heart, “I will like to assure Nigerians and other stakeholders that we would surely get this right; we would put in the energies that is required, and we would make sure that we cover all angles so that together we can deliver a refinery that can run sustainably and profitably over a long period of time.”

Indeed, Dikko, a veteran engineer, declares that the rehabilitation activity is very dear to the staff and management of the company. This is as he shows concern on the safety around the pipelines particularly from the main plants to the jetty. According to the PHCR chief, “We know very well that we truly need to put these barriers together so that we can protect our right of way, our pipelines and also the people who are around these facilities.

He, however, chipped in that in the first phase of the project, they needed to have a robust engagement with the communities so that they can relocate those who are encroaching on the right of ways properly. This, he added would enable them to have sincere discussions with the communities so they can understand that the benefit of staying away from the right of way of the pipelines is for their safety first.

Dikko acknowledged that host communities engagement is one of the key priorities for the success of this project and PHRC management recognised this right from the earlier days of the award of this contract, hence, the company, through Public Affairs, has been doing a lot of engagement with these communities.

Interestingly, PHCR plans to put out the information correctly about this project as well as manage the expectations of these communities. While their approach is to get the communities to buy into this project and be part of it, the contractors have nominated a community rep that is working closely with the PHCR Public Affairs team in the manner to ensure that the right information is given to the communities. “The expectations are managed and together we can work as partners to deliver this project without any hindrance,” expressing that everything is good, thus, he is very delighted with the efforts so far.

For Dikko, he is neither resting on his oars nor allowing the challenges to slam their efforts. While he describes the ride so far as very good, he’s pleased with the cooperation of all staff members of PHRC and the commitment. “So this is what I would like to appeal to everybody around PHRC and indeed NNPC to contribute and dedicate anything possible to make sure that this project succeeds because the whole Nigeria; 200 million Nigerians are waiting for this and we cannot afford to fail.”