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‘Major marketers behind artificial fuel scarcity’

DPR threatens to shut stations

By Hector Igbikiowubo,  Olasunkanmi Akoni & Monsur Olowopejo
LAGOS — THE Management of Capital Oil, an operator in the downstream oil and gas sub-sector has accused major marketers of petroleum products of masterminding the artificial fuel scarcity currently experienced across the country.

In a related development, the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, says it will seal petrol stations hoarding fuel in anticipation of the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry.

However, normalcy returned to Lagos State yesterday following two days of fuel scarcity that pervaded the metropolis as oil marketers resume distribution of petroleum products.

Mr. Ifeanyi Patrick Ubah, Managing Director of Capital Oil accused the major marketers of being behind the recent fuel scarcity while speaking in Lagos yesterday. He added that the scheme was devised by the major marketers to blackmail the NNPC and its subsidiary, the PPMC, to discredit independent marketers and increase patronage to them.

Stranded commuters as a result of artificial fuel scarcity in Lagos.
Stranded commuters as a result of artificial fuel scarcity in Lagos.

“There is fuel in my depot but because of the negative publicity orchestrated by major marketers of petroleum products, people have engaged in panic buying and the filling stations belonging to these majors are hoarding fuel. Go to all their stations and you will find that they are dispensing with only one or two pumps, creating long queues and the impression is that there is scarcity,” he said.

Ubah said the major marketers are a cartel that have fed fat on the largesse and patronage of the NNPC in the last 20 years — “benefiting from 30 days credit facility granted by the corporation and easy access to bank loans”.

Ubah decried major marketers’ failure to invest in development of downstream infrastructure in the last 20 years despite the patronage they have enjoyed from the NNPC

“Why haven’t they invested as much as we have in the last 20 years? They claim they own filling stations, but if you do an audit today, you will discover that they don’t own up to 20 per cent of these stations. In the last 20 years, why haven’t they jointly invested in the construction of a jetty, why haven’t they jointly put up a refinery,” he queried.

He said even though it was not his brief to speak on behalf of the NNPC, the corporation had carried out a due diligence of petroleum products facilities in the country and decided to engage those they could for the purposes of facilitating uninterrupted supply and distribution.

“NNPC has not paid us a kobo since we started this relationship with them. Ours is a business where you pay before we render services but because we understand the implications of having a hiccup in the supply chain, we accepted to partner the NNPC and they owe us money.

Even the major marketers pay to use our jetty to berth their ships. It is not true that we have sublet our facility to the NNPC; rather, we charge them for through-put of the product they dispense through our depot.”

Car owners waiting to buy petrol at the Conoil and Total Filling Stations opposite the NNPC Towers as the acute fuel shortages continue to bite residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi
Car owners waiting to buy petrol at the Conoil and Total Filling Stations opposite the NNPC Towers as the acute fuel shortages continue to bite residents of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Photo by Abayomi

He said in the last two and half years, Capital Oil has constructed the largest private jetty capable of berthing 4 mother vessels of 20,000 metric tons each and depot facility with capacity to hold 174.5 metric tons or 190 million litres of petroleum products, adding that this is second only to facilities of the NNPC.

Normalcy returns in Lagos

Vanguard’s reporters who went round to monitor the situation observed that long queues have disappeared at the filling stations.

At Ikeja, Akowonjo, Oworosonki, Egbeda, Iyana-Ipaja, Ikorodu Road , Surulere, Oshodi, Agege among other areas, all the filling stations were seen dispensing fuel to members of the public.

DPR to seal stations hoarding fuel

Mr. Gbenga Koku, a Controller in the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, told the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN yesterday that government had not deregulated the sector nor increased fuel prices.

He said that the department had directed its officials to monitor fuel stations nationwide and deal decisively with offenders.

“Members of the enforcement team have been sent out to monitor the situation and deal accordingly with anybody found guilty.

“DPR has observed that some filling stations, especially in Lagos, have shut their entrances to motorists in anticipation that prices will increase.

“But now that the government has not implemented its earlier plans, it is expected that the filling stations should open their entrances to motorists,” he said.

Mr. Felix Wono, Area Manager of Mosinmi Depot, said that lifting of petroleum products at the depot was still normal.

Wono said that over four million litres of petroleum products were discharged from the depot to many states on Saturday, October 31, 2009.

He said that many dealers were stockpiling petroleum products in anticipation of the deregulation on November 1, 2009.

“We plan to distribute over five million litres of petroleum products to the various states across the country today.

“There is normal and regular distribution of petroleum products from Mosinmi depot and there should be nothing to fear,’’ Wono said.

Mr. Ralph Egwu, Spokesman for Pipeline Products and Marketing Company, PPMC, also said that the price of petrol remained N65 per litre until a new directive from the government.

Egwu said that some marketers were causing confusion by peddling rumours and exploiting motorists.

“We still have petroleum products that will last for more than 40 days. Marketers are just trying to capitalise on the anticipated deregulation that has not been resolved by government,’’ he said.

AC accuses FG

Fuel-Shortage1

Meantime, the Action Congress, AC, has accused the Federal Government of inflicting pain on Nigerians in the name of deregulation, saying the fuel scarcity that has resurfaced in some parts of the country is a fallout of the planned deregulation of the downstream oil sector.

In a statement issued yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said despite assurances from some government officials, who have been quick to describe the scarcity as artificial, it is possible that the scarcity is being slowly but deliberately orchestrated to force Nigerians to swallow the bitter pill of deregulation.

“The calculation seems to be to first ensure that there is scarcity of petroleum products, subject Nigerians to untold hardships and risks while they search for the products and then quietly raise fuel prices — which is what all the noise about deregulation is meant to achieve,’’ it said.

AC said despite the outcry of concerned individuals and groups, especially the organised labour, the government has insisted on proceeding with the ill-thought-out deregulation, especially now that the policy is out of sync with the economic realities on the ground.

The party said the government’s nonchalance is perhaps because its mandate to govern the nation was not derived from the people.

“If this government had felt that it would require the people’s votes, it would have thought more deeply before inflicting more pain on citizens that are already left battered by economic woes. After all, governments have been voted out of office elsewhere over less-critical issues.

“But since votes rarely count in these climes, the government believe it is alright to treat the people as mere subjects and disregard their opinions in decision making,’’ it said.

AC said it was particularly unfortunate that the fuel queues, especially in Abuja and Lagos, have come at a time that Nigeria is hosting the world, with the Under-17 World Cup in full swing.

 Empty fuel station due to fuel scarcity
Empty fuel station due to fuel scarcity

“It is a shock as to why the government has decided to embarrass the country by timing its deregulation plan to coincide with the World Cup. The government can deny all it likes that the deregulation is not about to take off now, but a government official announced that it will take off November 1, causing the current scarcity.

“If unscrupulous marketers now capitalise on the announcement to engage in hoarding of the products, with the satanic aim of maximising profits, the blame should be laid squarely on the shoulders of an unperceptive government’’ the party said.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.