The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, on Monday said Nigerians should rather be proud that the Federal Government was set to resume the importation of petroleum products from neighbouring Niger Republic, instead of criticising it.
Sylva further contended that the planned resumption of importation of the products from Niger Republic should be seen as a means of encouraging intra-regional trade instead of embarrassment.
It would be recalled that the Ministry of Petroleum Resources had announced last Thursday in a statement that the two countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding for petroleum products transportation and storage.
The statement further disclosed that Niger Republic’s Soraz Refinery in Zinder, some 260km from the Nigerian border, has an installed refining capacity of 20,000 barrels per day.
The announcement drew the ire of several Nigerians, who condemned the inability of the Nigerian government to keep the country’s refineries running.
However, Sylva, while speaking on Monday evening while featuring on Channels Television’s Politics Today programme, said Nigeria is a big market that needs excess fuel products processed in other countries.
He said: “I don’t see that as an embarrassment at all. As a country, Nigeria is a big market, we need products, even if all our refineries were functioning, we will still need extra products.
“Niger Republic produces oil and they are landlocked as a country. They have a refinery that produces in excess of what they require as a country and they offered to sell to us in Nigeria because this is a bigger market.
“In the spirit of regional cooperation, regional trade development, we decided to buy from them. I don’t see anything wrong with that. If your neighbour is producing something that is required in your country and you buy from him, why is that a big problem?
“So, we agreed with Niger to buy the excess of what they don’t require in Niger because this is a big market.
“Nigerians should be proud that we are doing that to encourage sub-regional trade because we have been talking about sub-regional trade for a long time and this is how it should be between neighbouring countries. Niger should import from us what we have and we should be able to import from Niger what they have. Let us encourage intra-regional trade and this is one good example of trading within West Africa.”
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