He explained that the fuel queues were not caused by shortages in supply of fuel but the reluctance of petroleum marketers to sell at the recommended retail price.
According to him, there were queues in Abuja because selling at the recommended N165/litre of fuel was unprofitable to the marketers who resolved to take the advantage by diverting products from the city centre to where they could sell above the recommended retail price.
He said: “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 said the Port Harcourt refinery would soon become operational, adding that the Dangote Refinery would commence operation by January 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 stated.
On why Kaduna and Warri Refineries’ workers were still drawing salaries even when they were not producing anything, the minister of state explained that most of the workers have been redeployed to other units of the Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC) with a few others doing 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.
Commenting on the high cost of gas (diesel), the minister said it was so because the product had been deregulated.
He added that: “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.”