The announcement was met with widespread condemnation, with many beating the government over its failure to keep the country’s refineries going.
But speaking on Channels Television’s Politics Today, Timipre Sylva said Nigerians should be proud that the Federal Government is set to resume the importation of petroleum products from its neighbour.
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 they 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.”