By Ike Uchechukwu
Chairman, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria IPMAN, Cross River Chapter, Mr Roberts Obi on Thursday decried the proliferation of illegal fuel stations in the state.
Obi made the assertion when the group paid a courtesy visit to Mr George Ene-Ita, the new Operations Controller, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Cross River Office yesterday.
The chairman said that the process of being a petroleum product marketer and getting DPR licence was huge and expensive adding that it was an anomaly for you to get all the certification only to see someone open an unlicensed and uncertified station beside yours and is selling.
He also complained of the lack of supply of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) and Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) to the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) depot in Calabar but to private tank farms in the state leaving them with only one product, Premium Motor Spirit (PMS).
According to him, the NNPC tanks are available in Calabar but need to be cleaned up and slightly recalibrated to take DPK and AGO.
His words: ” We had complained earlier and the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) promised to send us products but was told that the Calabar depot doesn’t have enough storage facility.
“The Chairman of PPMC called and told me to engage with the Managing Director, Storage which I did last year before the advent of COVID-19 but up till now, we still have issues with the tanks and are still not receiving the products even though PPMC is ready to send us products.
“We also have the issue of private tank farms getting PMS from PPMC and selling to us at N162 per litre; if a marketer buys PMS at N162 per litre from the tank farms, how much do you expect him to sell in his fuel station.
“To make matters worse, officials of DPR will come to clamp down on us that we are selling above the approved pump price.
“The correction should be done at the tank farms and not the fuel stations because they are putting us out of business,” he said.
Speaking further Obi said that they were told as an association not to take petroleum products to outlets that were 20 kilometers to the border which they obeyed but as he spoke petroleum products are constantly supplied to those outlets and the neighbouring countries.
“These routes such as the ones in Akpabuyo and Ikom LGAs have turned to smuggling routes; while the real marketers who do legitimate business are told not to take products to these outlets, smugglers, smuggle products through these routes even with the huge presence of Customs Officials.
“It is frustrating that those of us who are registered marketers and pay heavy taxes just to get DPR licence are not allowed to do business because of the so many confusing conditions.
“DPR should not just be there to run after and penalise IPMAN members but must also look into their genuine concerns and assist them remain in business,” Obi said.
On his part , Ene-Ita said IPMAN was an important association in the oil sector and has invested so much in its businesses, so, it was important for DPR to assist it meet its aims and objectives of ensuring availability of Petroleum products to the general public.
He said although, some of the issues raised by IPMAN do not fall within the purview of DPR, it was important to see how they could be resolved because if IPMAN goes out of business, DPR won’t have much to do.
“It is in our best interest that IPMAN remains not just in business but profitably in business.
“Even though a few of the issues are not within our jurisdiction, we will take them before the management, so that, at that level, there will be an institutional meeting point among relevant agencies.
“Also, we will engage our security agencies to assist in curbing these illegal cross border smuggling of Petroleum products,” Ene-Ita said.