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FG Blames Profiteers for Hike in Fuel Price
•Directs NMDPRA to sanction erring filling stations
•Approves N117.721bn for Oloibiri Oil Museum, maintenance of Kano airport
•Upbeat Nigeria Air will commence operation soon
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
The federal government yesterday formally reacted to the increase in the price of petroleum products across the country and heaped the blame on the rush by petroleum marketers to make illicit profits from the hardship of Nigerians.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, who disclosed this to newsmen after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari, at the State House, Abuja, also lamented the hardship the situation had forced on the populace.
There had been reports from different parts of the country indicating that most fuel stations now sell above the approved pump price of N195, but rather selling at prices ranging between N200 and N450, while many other stations are reportedly hoarding the product.
Reacting to the issue, the Minister directed the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) to go after marketers profiteering with the current situation and sanction them.
According to him, the government was not just folding its arms while Nigerians suffer, assuring that all stakeholders in the downstream sector were working to ensure the current crisis is brought under control.
He said: “We have reports of profiteering by marketers, and I’ve directed 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’ve 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 paying a blind eye at all.”
Sylva, while explaining that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources was not in control of all the factors that had contributed to the fuel scarcity crisis assured Nigerians that all steps were being taken to end the hardship.
“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 hand 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.”
Yesterday’s FEC meeting also approved the sum of N117,721,266,733 for contracts in the Petroleum Resources and Aviation ministries.
Sylva said Council approved the sum of N117 billion for the construction of the Oloibiri Oil Museum and Research Centre in Bayelsa State.
According to him, the project, which has been on the drawing board since the early 1980s, from the era of President Shehu Shagari, would be one of the Muhammadu Buhari administration’s legacies.
“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 expected to be a major legacy of Mr. President in the Niger Delta,” he said.
On his part, Minister of Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika, disclosed that Council approved the sum of N721,266,733.64 for the maintenance and technical support at Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano.
According to him: “Today in Council, Aviation had one memo and this memorandum is a contract that was awarded to CCECC and it is for the airport maintenance and technical support at Malam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano and… for a period of 12 months and the sum of the contract is N721,266,733.64 and the memorandum was approved”.
When asked when the national carrier, Nigeria Air, will commence flight operations, the Minister explained that the federal government was already done with the initial processes and that it is just a matter of sealing the last move in obtaining the Air Operator Certificates (AOC) and the carrier will start flying.
“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 dot the Is. 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. Well, because the issuance of the AOC is in the hands of NCAA, but I know it will be very soon, with an emphasis on soon. So as soon as we get the AOC, then we fly.”
Asked if the kick off of flight operations had been as a result of the litigation by some Nigerian airliners, Sirika said “there’s no injunction against Nigeria Air’s operation, to my knowledge.
“The grievances by some airlines, for example United, Azman, Max Air, Air Peace, if you are referring to that case that they instituted. Okay if you are referring to that case, I have no comment about it.
“I thought you were talking about something different, but if it’s that case, you have asked me before on this platform and I told you that it’s subjudice, it’s in court, so I can’t talk about it”, he further said.