President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday said that Nigeria had learnt invaluable lessons from the global COVID-19 pandemic and some oil-rich countries that have used their crude as a pathway to economic and industrial diversification.
The president spoke in Abuja during the virtual and simultaneous flag-off ceremony of the project Ajakuota-Kaduna-Kano Gas (AKK) gas pipeline project at the Ajaokuta, Kogi and Rigachikun, Kaduna campsites.
‘‘Gulf countries that have similar levels of gas reserves as Nigeria, have a strategy centred around gas-industrialization as their foundation towards export diversification.
“This has to be our guiding principle as we seek to attract investment and create opportunities for our people.’’
Mr Buhari affirmed the Nigerian government’s commitment to ensure timely delivery of the landmark gas pipeline project within budgetary allocation and specifications, adding that the project is dear to the people and must succeed.
He directed the NNPC and partners to remain focused, noting that the AKK project was part of the delivery of the present administration’s Next Level Agenda for sustainable development, enhancement of economic prosperity and increase of the country’s infrastructure assets.
Governors Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna physically flagged off the commencement of works at Ajaokuta and Rigachikun sites respectively, while the president watched remotely via video-conference from the Council Chamber in Abuja.
“We promised the Nation that we will expand the critical gas infrastructure in the country to promote the use of gas in the domestic market,” Mr Buhari said.
‘‘These include the Escravos to Lagos Pipeline System – 2 (ELPS-2), Obiafu to Obrikom (OB3) pipeline and AKK.
‘‘These projects are fundamental to our desire to industrialize and energize the entrepreneurial spirit that is ever-present in our population.’’
While enumerating the benefits of the project, billed to be completed in two years, the president said it would provide gas for generation of power and for gas-based industries which would facilitate the development of new industries.
He also expressed optimism that the project, when completed, would ensure the revival of moribund industries along the transit towns in Kogi, Abuja (FCT), Niger, Kaduna and Kano States.
According to him, the cascading effect and impact of the AKK, when operational, will be immeasurable.
‘‘It has significant job creation potential both direct and indirect, while fostering the development and utilization of local skills and manpower, technology transfer and promotion of local manufacturing,’’ he said.
On COVID-19, the president said the pandemic had further underscored the drive of his administration for export substitution initiatives and projects that promote local manufacturing.
The president also used the occasion to challenge the private sector to lead the charge in maximising the nation’s gas resources.
According to him, the private sector can create a petrochemical hub that will resurrect the manufacturing industry and put the nation on the path to increased self-sufficiency.
‘‘As the world evolves, we owe our people the responsibility to prepare them for what the future holds. We, therefore, must be bold and fearless and can no longer be incremental in our approach,” he said.
‘‘Time is short, and our people’s zeal is strong and palpable. Infrastructure development although long, tedious and complex remains a cardinal objective of our administration’s drive towards ensuring a stable, sustainable and more prosperous future for our citizenry.
‘‘Today marks an important chapter in the history of our great nation.
“It marks the day when our domestic natural gas pipeline networks; from Obiafu in Rivers State, Escravos in Delta State and Lekki in Lagos State, are being connected through Kaduna to Kano States thereby enhancing national energy security, creating balanced development, and further integrating our nation.”
The president commended the financiers, the Bank of China and SINOSURE, and the two EPC Contractors (Brentex/China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau-CPP Consortia and Oilserve/China First Highway Engineering Company-CFHEC Consortia) for their support to deliver the important project.
He appealed to the governors of Kogi, Niger, Kaduna and Kano States as well as the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory to provide the enabling environment and support for the project.
In his remarks, Group Managing Director, NNPC, Mele Kyari, explained that the AKK gas pipeline project is part of the Trans-Nigeria gas pipeline project.
According to him, the project involves the establishment of a connecting gas pipeline network that will integrate the Northern region of the country with the Niger Delta, Eastern and Western regions of the country.
He said the EPC contract for the 614km AKK gas pipeline project was awarded at a contract sum of $2.592 billion to Messrs. Oilserv Plc/China First Highway Engineering Company (Oilserv/CFHEC Consortium) for the first segment covering 303km.
According to the GMD NNPC, Messrs Brentex Petroleum Services/China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau (Brentex/CPP Consortium) got the contract for the second segment covering 311km under a debt-equity financing model with loan from Bank of China and SINOSURE.
He said the loan would be repaid through the pipeline transmission tariff and supported by a sovereign guarantee.
‘‘We are confident that the EPC contractors will deliver the project on time, within budget and to quality/specifications,’’ he said.
Mr Kyari added that upon completion, the project would enable the injection of 2.2bscf/d of gas into the domestic market and facilitate additional power generation capacity of 3,600MW.