AS Consumers groan under the yoke ofÂ scarcity of DPK (Dual Purpose Kerosine), indications have emerged that conmen and fraudsters have taken over the kerosine supply network in Nigeria and are feeding fat on dealersâ€™ funds.
Investigation by Sweet Crude revealed that the deregulation of Kerosine market by government has not only created un-ending scarcity of theÂ product which now goes for not less than N85 per litre in the few filling stations thatÂ have product to dispense to the consumers, but also many dealers have fallen victims to con-men and fraudsters who formed the habit of collecting money from dealers for months without supplying them product.
At the time of this report, not less than 20 kerosine dealers who have paid millions of Naira to some of these con-men and fraudsters operating in Ibru jetty, CoconutÂ land area of Lagos where most of the Kerosine tank farms are located, are now languishing in pains and frustrations as their money have been trapped for over six months without product.
According to investigation, these con-men and fraudsters disguising as kerosine marketers or importers, employ the services of scouts or better still , touts who go about wooing unsuspecting dealers to bring in money to buy product even though the scouts and touts know that there is no product.
The con-men modu operandi varies, but the commonest ones is perpetrated by asking the dealers to open accounts with them (Fraudsters) and pay in millions of money into the accounts for the dealers to be supplied kerosine and the moment money is paid into these conmenâ€™s accounts, the waiting game and deceits begin.
Sweet Crude finding discovered that these fraudsters (names withheld), who in the first place, have no kerosine to sell, instead of using the money to at least bring in Kerosine and supply to those whose money they have collected, would divert the money into personal use and other businesses.
This fraudulent practices,Â investigation revealed, has become the source of easy money for these conmen to finance their diesel and petrol trade businesses which appear to be of higher demand by the high and middle classes,Â urban dealers and theÂ manufacturing sector than kerosine which is mostly used by the common people and rural dwellers.
A lot of the victims of the fraudsters who spoke to Sweet Crude on condition of anonymity, called on government and the anti-graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and Related Offences Commission (ICPC) to step in and prevail on these dubious businessmen and kerosine markers to recover their money that have been trapped for over six months.
According to the dealers, most of them borrowed money from the banks with collaterals hoping that they would sell the product and return the borrowed money to the banks.
They lamented that the time to pay back the borrowed money would soon be due without neither the product nor their money and wondered where they would get money to pay back.
PROBLEM WITH KEROSINE SUPPLY
Confirming the fraudulent activities of these so-called kerosine marketers and importers as well as the plight of dealers, President of the umbrella body for kerosine dealers in the country, under the aegis of Surface Tank and Kerosine Dealers (SUTAKED) brach of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Comrade Benjamin Rotimi, lamented that many members have fallen victims to these con-men posing as importers and marketers of Kerosine.
He blamed their activities to government deregulation of the kerosine supply network in the country and uncoordinated and un-organised issuance of licences to people who have no facilities to import kerosine.
According to him:
â€œ One of the major causes of the problems associated with kerosine supply system in the country is that we are not producing the product in Nigeria because the refineries are not working. Even if the refineries are working, what they produce cannot serve and satisfy the local demands.
As we talk, the attention of everybody, government and marketers is focused on PMS (Premium Motor Spirit) otherwise known as Petrol, especially after the last scarcity that shook the whole nation for months because of disagreement between government and marketers as well the industrial action by members of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD) branch of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG). They have abandoned kerosine. In other words, marketers are not importing. If you go round the whole depots now as we talk, you can only find Kerosine in just two depots.
That is A-Z and NIPCO. The operational strategies of some of the marketers/importers is another problem. In fact, the problems associated with the distribution of kerosine in the country is multi-dimensional. We have a situation where some companies collect money from the distributors or sellers, retailers when they obviously know they do not have product. These monies paid to them are tied down in the system of these marketers.Â We have been raising alarm over this ugly trend for some times now and we expect the government to come to our aid.
This practice is criminal, illegal and dubious. They scoop in peopleâ€™s money without making the product available for months. We have some cases that are pending since January and February where people have paid millions of Naira into the marketers systems, up till now, the product has not been made available by these so-called depot owners or marketers. Like I told you some times ago, we have some people who do not have depots, but have licences to import kerosine and those who have depots but do not have licences to import. What you see is that those who have the licences could import and sell to those who have depots, or rent depots to store the product while looking for buyers.