From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Federal Executive Council (FEC), presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Wednesday approved a total sum of N2.449 billion for projects in the Ministries of Petroleum Resources and Environment.
The Minister of Environment, Muhammed Abdullahi, and the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Tmipreye Silva made the disclosure while briefing State House Correspondents about the outcomes of the Council meeting.
According to Abdullahi, the Council awarded the contract for consultancy services and design of Centre of Excellence for Environmental Restoration with an Integrated Contaminated Soil Management Centre at the sum of N449,250,040.50 (VAT inclusive).
He said establishment of the Centre was in fulfilment of the President’s promise to the Ogoni people and was meant to impact on them in terms of employment generation and laboratory tests for land remediation efforts on the site contaminated so that it could be made easily cultivatable by the people for their fisheries, farming activities and access to water.
Sylva on his part said, the Council approved the award and procurement for the provision of a Conference Hostel Facility in Yenagoa, adjacent to the Nigerian Content Towers at the sum of N22 billion to Megastar Technical Construction Company with completion period of 24 months.
Meanwhile, Sylva has said that the current irregular fuel supply and scarcity situation, which is mostly felt in the Abuja city center, may last until the sector is fully deregulated.
He blamed the persistent fuel scarcity in Abuja and some parts of Lagos on Petroleum marketers.
In response to a question about the persistent fuel queues in Abuja and other parts of the country, the Minister stated that the situation, he explained that the fuel queues were not caused by a lack of fuel supply, but rather by petroleum marketers’ unwillingness to sell at the recommended retail price.
According to the minister, there were queues in Abuja and some parts of Lagos because selling at the recommended retail price of N165/litre of fuel was unprofitable for marketers, who decided to capitalize by diverting products from the city center to where they could sell above the recommended retail price.
“On the question on fuel scarcity. Frankly, it is not a supply issue, as you can also confirm. So it’s not from us. But you know When you have an arbitrage opportunity, people will tend to take advantage of it. These are some of the fallouts of subsidy regime.
“If you look at it, there are no queues when you leave Abuja. In most places, only in the Abuja metropolis you continue to have these queues. So, is it that there is less supply to Abuja than to the rest of the country? It is not so.
“It is because if you go out of Abuja, they can afford to probably sell at higher prices. And I’m sure a lot of you must be buying at higher prices. But within Abuja, because of the watchful eye of the federal government, they cannot sell at those prices. So it’s not a very attractive market for them. I think these are all things that we might have to be dealing with for a while until we’re able to fully deregulate.”
Giving an update on the rehabilitation of the nation’s refineries, Sylva stated that the Port Harcourt refinery would be operational soon, and that the Dangote Refinery would begin operations in January of next year.
“So, these issues will gradually be resolved and we will get to the point where Nigeria will be fully supplied from in-country refined products,” he assured.
The minister explained that most of the workers at the Kaduna and Warri Redineries had been redeployed, with a few others performing skeletal services to prevent pilfering at the facilities.
“But I can assure you that most of the workers in the refineries have been redeployed to other parts of NNPC,” he said.
When asked about the high cost of gas, the minister stated that it was due to the product being deregulated.
Sylva said: “But of course, you know, the geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and Russia is still on and it’s really affecting the global prices of this commodity.
“So, it is not really something from Nigeria. It is something that is affecting the global community; everywhere in the world is having the same problem. If you go to the UK, they are still talking about inflation; if you go to America, they’re talking about inflation, because there are issues and it’s all coming from the geopolitical tensions in Ukraine and Russia.
“So, I believe that we will also have our fair share of some of these problems. While we try to see how we can ease the problem here, we’re also looking at how we can bring in additional supply from some stranded volumes that we have. So we probably might be able to do something about the gas prices, maybe in the short term, but it is not a subsidized commodity. And that’s why government cannot really do too much about the price of gas,” he explained.