BY IKE UCHECHUKWU
CALABAR – The Independent Petrol Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, Calabar depot have threatened to shut down over 2, 000 filling stations in Cross River and Akwa Ibom state following non supply of petroleum products to their members.
This was made known on Wednesday when the leadership of the union embarked on protest at Calabar Depot and CFTZ against what they describes as “undue marginalisation” in the distribution of products by depot private operators..
Vanguard gathered that members of IPMAN in both states have been completely sidelined in the distribution of petrol, PMS, kerosene, DPK, and diesel, AGO, by NNPC and over 22 tank farms and major marketers.
Vanguard also learned that since November last year 90 per cent of their members don’t have access to the products rather they are made to buy through middlemen, thereby leading to scarcity and high cost of the petroleum products.
A source who pleaded anonymity told Vanguard that the private depot prefer selling to middlemen who in turn sell to the marketers.
The source said: There are over 27 private tank farms located in Calabar and they sell between N137 and N140 per litre to middlemen, then independent marketers buy from them at between N160 and N180 per litre minus other minor charges, making it difficult to sell at government approved pump price.
Speaking with Vanguard the chairman of IPMAN, Calabar depot,Mr. Lawrence Agim alleged that there was a lot of compromise in Cross River and Akwa Ibom as some people are trying to make sure that they(IPMAN) was completely cut off
Agim said: “We decided to embark on protest across the entire depots in Calabar Free Trade Zone, CFTZ, and NNPC Depot after our several representations about our marginalisation fell on deaf ears, we had no other choice but they embark on a peaceful protest to register our grievances because we have been segregated and sidelined.
“We are surprised at what is happening at Calabar Depot, they prefer selling to private depots where they can do “business”. We are licensed marketers; we have our bulk agreement with NNPC, have filling stations and entitled to be allocated fuel to service our outlets in Cross River and Akwa Ibom.
“The irony is that the whole public is filling that IPMAN is the problem; we are not because we are not given product here to sell. In most cases we buy these products at outrageous prices ranging between N130 and N190 per litre at private depots.
“Therefore, it would be difficult to buy at exorbitant prices and sell at N145. And if they fail to sell to us we might be compelled to shut down over 2, 000 filling stations belonging to our members in both states.
“Calabar is hosting about 22 active private depots yet IPMAN members with licensed filling stations cannot have access to products because the names they generate and sell to are unknown to us, many of which are not our members and definitely alien to us.
“We barricaded the gates of private depots; we are going round all depots to ensure they understand how we feel and the difficulties our members are going through just to get product. We also have information that Mainland depot has over 50m litres and our plea to them is to sell at least 2m litres to our members in Cross River and Akwa Ibom to service the our outlets.
“We are now wondering why they cannot sell to us since they are holding the product in trust for the government. We maintain that if they sell this to us and we don’t sell at government regulated prices then you can hold the leadership responsible. It is a pity that NNPC is encouraging this racketeering. And if it goes on without checks we might be forced to shut down over 2, 000 filling stations belonging to our members in both states.”
Another marketer, Mr. Joseph Ekpang who accused NNPC of encouraging fraud and other sharp practices said the Corporation provides at the depot by p two different accounts for payment.
He said: “The NNPC encourages fraudulent practices by giving marketers two accounts if they don’t trust them. One account is government account to pay the official price and the difference to another account.
“When we confronted the NNPC officials, they told us that the fuel at Mainland is an intervention product meant to serve Abia, Enugu, Makurdi and that marketer in Cross River and Akwa Ibom should go to Agara depot in Warri and load product. What mind of economic sense is that you have product here they cannot sell to you unless you drive down to Warri,”
When Vanguard visited NNPC depot no official was ready to speak.
However, one of the workers, who pleaded anonymity said: “We are not allowed to talk to journalist. Besides, we don’t allocate the product here. The names of beneficiaries are generated from our Abuja head office and sent to the depots to sell to.
“Our duty here is to monitor the private depots and ensure that those due allocation s are given to. It is true that IPMAN here have complained bitterly because their members are marginalised in the distribution process. They should channel their grievances to the appropriate quarters.”