By: Leon Usigbe – Abuja
The federal government on Wednesday blamed the current high cost of petroleum products in parts of the country on marketers engaging in profiteering.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, stated this while briefing correspondents on the outcome of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He said the ministry had given necessary directives to end the unwholesome act which had caused huge hikes in product price throughout the country.
Sylva added that it appeared that the directives had not been complied with, promising to find out why things have not improved.
Asked about the measures in place to alleviate the hardship caused by fuel scarcity, he said: “We have reports of profiteering by marketers, and I’ve directed (Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agencies) NMDPRA to sanction anybody who profiteers on this kind of situation.
“I mean, we cannot stand by and watch our citizens being exploited by marketers. But of course, I have given that directive and I don’t know if it has not taken effect. I don’t know the details of how far that directive has been carried out. But I’m going to still further give that directive, if that is still the situation, but definitely we are not turning a blind eye at all.”
On how effective the monitoring agencies are, Sylva stated: “There are laws. You know how these things happen. There are definitely laws and this is a democratic system. Of course, they can’t go against the law themselves, the regulators can’t also go against the law.
“So, it is only through the processes provided for by law that this regulations can be carried out. So, I will direct an NMDPRA further to ensure that nobody profiteers on the citizens of Nigeria.”
The Minister, who observed that petroleum products are now available in more quantity in the country, also blamed its scarcity on factors that he said are not under the control of the Ministry.
He pointed out that there are bottlenecks in supply issues, which the government is currently working to resolve.
On how the petrol scarcity can be prevented from impacting the coming elections in a negative way, the Minister of State regretted: “This is quite unfortunate, we are not happy at all about what is going on. Every hand is on the deck.
“As I said earlier, the Ministry of Petroleum is not in control of all the factors that lead to scarcity in the sense that there are Forex issues as well and other issues. But at the moment today, there is supply, but unfortunately, we are experiencing some bottlenecks with the distribution and movement of the product to various destinations for now.
“I want to assure you that everything is being done; the NNPC Limited, NMDPRA, the marketers, everybody’s hands is on deck to ensure that this problem is resolved and to also inform you today we had a briefing from INEC and INEC has also engaged NNPC and NNPC has assured INEC that petroleum products supply to INEC will not be a problem and so that will not likely affect the election at all.”
He announced that FEC approved the award of contract for the construction of the Oloibiri Oil Museum and Research Centre to Messrs Julius Berger Plc, at the sum of N117 billion with a completing period of 30 months.
Briefing on the contract, he said: “Council has approved a contract for the construction of the Oloibiri Oil Museum and Research Center to Messrs Julius Berger PLC, at the sum of N117 billion, with a completion timeframe of 30 months. This project has been on the drawing board for so long. The first time foundation stone was laid for this project was in the early 80s by President Shehu Shagari.
“So, this actually is a major milestone and it is expect to be a major legacy of Mr. President in the Niger Delta.”
Also speaking, the Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, insisted that the new national carrier, Nigeria Air will take off soon.
“Nigeria Air will soon start flying. We’ve got the aircrafts ready, they’re painted in the colors. We’ve crossed all the Ts and dotted the i s. We’re at stage five of the AOC issuance by NCAA. Once that is done, the airline will begin to fly.
“So, there are five stages, we’ve done stages 1,2,3,4 and we are now at stage five, once the AOC is given, the aircraft is ready to start to fly,” he said.
Sirika announced that FEC approved a contract for the airport maintenance and technical support at Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano in favour of CCECC at the cost of N721,266,733.64, with a completion period of 12 months.