Some groups in the Oil-rich Niger Delta region of the country, as well as pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, have described the decision of the President Muhammadu Buhari Federal Government to start importing petroleum products from Niger Republic, as embarrassing and ridiculous, given the preeminence of Nigeria in the sub-region, Page 36 learnt.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, had through his Media Aide, Garba Deen Muhammad, disclosed that the Federal Government has formalised a Trade agreement with Niger Republic, as Nigeria would soon begin to import Niger’s excess petrol of 15,000bpd.
Reacting however, the Spokesman for Afenifere, Yinka Odumakin, in a statement, condemned the policy, querying the ownership of the Niger-based refinery, from where Nigeria plans to start buying the products.
His words: “It is absolutely ridiculous that Nigeria has reached that level of total debasement, that it has to be importing petrol from Niger Republic. The President was campaigning round the country in 2014/15, that he would make all our refineries work under his government. After almost six years in office, Nigeria has not refined a litre of fuel under him. Instead, we are now importing petrol from arid Niger Republic.
“Only God knows those who own that refinery, if they are not even Nigerians. We are building a railway into Niger Republic the same time. We have closed Benin border, but the border with Niger is open, and it is alleged that weapons come into Nigeria like loaves of bread.
“There is no doubt that the cultural kinship between some Nigerians with Niger, is taking the better part of them.”
From the Niger Delta, the National Coordinator of the Centre for Peace and Environmental Justice, CEPEJ, Comrade Sheriff Mulade, and Executive Director of the Centre for the Vulnerable and the Underprivileged, CENTREP, Oghenejabor Ikimi, in separate interviews with Saturday Tribune, in Warri, Delta State, described the decision as a mockery of Nigeria’s acclaimed largeness in Africa.
Mulade, who decried the move, given Nigeria’s dying refineries, said that it is one insult too many for an acclaimed giant of Africa, which other African nations look up to, to be importing fuel from an arid nation.
“It is an insult to the Nigerian nation. We are the giant of African, we are expected to be exporting products to other African countries, as the largest Oil-producing country in Africa.
“It is appalling that at this critical time, we are the one importing fuel from Niger”, Mulade lamented.
Ikimi, on his part, condemned the decision to import PMS from Niger, saying that: “It is an insult. I condemn it in totality. We used to be one of the largest exporters of petrol. But it is surprising that over the years, the government has neglected our refineries, and rendered them useless. We cannot even do turnaround maintenance again”, he stated.
Ikimi and Mulade identified bad governance and lethargy on the part of Nigerian Leaders, as responsible for the “show of shame”.
He added: “It is shocking that we are going to be importing petrol from Niger. It is terrible. I thought the story was fake. We have retrogressed to this extent. It is sad.
“The cause is bad governance. Our Leaders have a relaxed attitude of doing the right thing and telling the truth. We must end bad governance. We must salvage the country now.”
Mulade called on President Muhammadu Buhari “to do more, and be proactive to retain our integrity as a nation, as we are the hope of Africa.”
“Buhari should revive our refineries. We are too big to be importing fuel from Niger Republic.”
The Federal Government had signed a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, with Niger Republic, on the importation of petroleum products, following what it called a bilateral agreement between President Buhari and President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic.
According to Sylva’s statement, both countries had been in talks for over four months, through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and Niger Republic’s national oil company, Societe Nigerienne De Petrole, NONIDEP, on petroleum products transportation and storage. It explained that Niger Republic’s Soraz Refinery, in Zinder, which is 260km from the Nigerian border, has an installed refining capacity of 20,000 barrels per day.
“Niger’s total domestic requirement is about 5,000bpd, thus leaving a huge surplus of about 15,000 bpd, mostly for export.”
The statement quoted the Minister as describing the development as another huge step in developing trade relations between both countries.