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Juba — South Sudan President Salva Kiir has directed oil minister Dak Duop Bichiok to speed up work on oil refineries that were damaged or faced completion delays due to violence in the country over December 2013-August 2015.

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"I am instructing companies involved in the projects to start work on the facilities immediately," Bichiok told journalists after a meeting with Kiir in the national capital of Juba late Thursday.

Bichiok said work on the facilities would take five months to complete.

Last week, Bichiok and Vice President James Wani Igga discussed plans to resume work on the refineries.

Article Continues below...

Safinat, a Russian company, is constructing one of the refineries. It won a contract to build the $1.8 billion refinery at Akon in the Gogrial area in a joint venture exercise with state-owned Nile Petroleum Corporation, or Nilepet. Kiir laid the foundation stone of the facility, designed to produce 50,000 b/d of diesel, in 2010.

Safinat also constructed a $100 million refinery in Bentiu in Unity state, on the border with Sudan, to produce 3,000 b/d of diesel and gasoline for local consumption. But the 2013-2015 conflict caused damage and prevented the refinery from starting operations as scheduled.

Bichiok said 87 South Sudanese oil technicians have graduated from Malaysia, and they would be deployed as soon as possible to carry out work at the oil facility in Bentiu.

Last week, Bichiok also called on the oil companies operating in the country to resume production immediately.

Pressure is mounting on Bichiok to deliver as economic hardship hits the country. South Sudan depends on oil for nearly 97% of the country's budget. The drop in global oil prices has further complicated South Sudan's economic situation.

--Moyiga Nduru,
--Edited by Geetha Narayanasamy,