February 11, 2022

Bad fuel: Buhari, Reps talk tough, say heads must roll

Bad fuel: Buhari, Reps talk tough, say heads must roll

*Direct NNPC Ltd to immediately suspend 4 firms identified as suppliers

*Marketers bicker over accusations

*MRS, Emadeb deny involvement

*NARTO insists on haulage rates review

*APC shielding leaders behind adulterated fuel importation — PDP

By Udeme Akpan, Energy Editor, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Dirisu Yakubu, Obas Esiedesa & Ediri Ejoh

President Muhammadu Buhari and the House of Representatives talked tough yesterday over the bad fuel imported in to the country, saying those behind it must be held accountable.

In fact, the House at its plenary, said heads must roll, if the situation was to be averted in future.

The President and lawmakers’ positions came on a day marketers distanced themselves from  controversies around who brought the bad fuel into the country.

It will be recalled that the Nigeria National Petroleum Company, NNPA, Limited had late Wednesday night, listed four marketers as those responsible for bringing in the bad fuel.

This is even as Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, alleged that the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, was shielding its leaders behind the importation of the product.

Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, said in a statement yesterday that President Buhari  ordered that producers and providers of the bad product be held accountable for sub-standard services.

He said the President’s order came on the heels of outcry over importation of  adulterated fuel that had caused damages to car engines.

According to him, the President also gave “directives to relevant government agencies to take every step, in line with the laws of the country, to ensure the respect and protection of consumers against market abuses and social injustices.”

The statement read:  “In a reaction to the issue of petroleum product shortages linked to the inadvertent supply of products of foreign origin into the Nigerian market, President Buhari said the protection of consumer interests is a priority of the present administration and is ready to take all necessary measures to protect consumers from hazardous products, loss or injuries from the consumption of substandard goods.

“The President directed that in line with the law, service providers must make full disclosure of relevant information with respect to consumption of their products and that dissatisfied consumers are entitled to a proper redress of their complaints.”

On its part, the House in a motion by Chief Whip, Mohammed Monguno yesterday at plenary, directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC, Limited to immediately suspend the four firms said to be involved in purchasing and supply of the product.

It also asked NNPC to submit the deeds of purchase to parliament for scrutiny, while also mandating all  relevant committees including   Petroleum (Downstream), Petroleum (Upstream), to look into  details of purchases of petroleum products made from January till date to ascertain whether they met international standards.

The joint committee will also investigate the roles played by Standards Organization of Nigeria, SON, Navy and all other regulatory agencies in the petroleum sector in the supply of the contaminated product.

The motion

Presenting the motion, Monguno bemoaned  adulteration  of petroleum products, saying it is an illegal and clandestine practice which pose severe risks to public health and automobile engines among others.

He said: “Recently, the country witnessed a sudden scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, with attendant long queues at petrol stations, especially in the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos State.

“According to reports, the scarcity was a result of adulterated petrol in circulation, upon discovery of which the Federal Government ordered stoppage of further distribution of the product.

“Poor quality product was noticed about a week ago when many car engines of motorists were reportedly damaged and consumers allegedly started arresting and suing retail outlet owners for selling products which damaged their vehicles.

“The Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, NMDPRA, which replaced the defunct Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, is directly responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance in the nation’s downstream sector, including technical, operational and commercial activities.

“Adulteration of petroleum products is an illegal and clandestine practice which poses severe risks to public health and automobile engine, among others.

“The sudden scarcity of premium motor spirit across the country has not only caused untold hardship to Nigerians, but also affected the country’s economy with sudden increase in transportation cost which in tum affects the price of goods and services and the loss of man-hours as people are held up in fuel queues.

“The seeming lack of a credible monitoring and surveillance system to ensure adequate fuel quality at the consumer end and prevent undue stress to the citizenry and the country as a whole is unfortunate.’’

READ ALSO: Bad Fuel: Reps blow hot, probe NNPC, SON, others on roles in importation

Contributing to the debate, lawmakers took turns to condemn the development and demanded a comprehensive probe and imposition of sanctions against any party found culpable.

It’s unacceptable— Mohammed

Speaking on the motion, Nalaraba Mohammed (APC, Nassarawa), said the situation was unacceptable.

“It is unacceptable. Someone somewhere will go and bring adulterated fuel, it is unacceptable. A question must be asked and someone must answer. I want investigation to be carried out immediately. We cannot fold our arms and watch billions of naira wasted. I support this motion whole-heartedly.”

Cars of many Nigerians damaged — Mshelia

In his contribution, Haruna Mshelia (APC, Borno) said:  “The person that brought in this adulterated petrol should repair the damaged cars and machines this has caused.

What if it was aviation fuel? — Isiaka

Also speaking, Ibrahim Isiaka (APC, Ogun), wondered how Nigerians would have survived, assuming the product was aviation fuel, adding that  aircraft would have suddenly been dropping off the skies.

“When it comes to putting the lives of Nigerians in danger, a lot of people are getting away with this. This must stop and this is the right time. I want to draw your attention to the fact that assuming, which is not impossible, the so-called alleged contaminated fuel happened to be aviation fuel, aircraft would have been falling from the skies. The originating country too should be held responsible for this heinous act because they only attribute something to this country when things are bad. There was a time they brought toxic fuel to this country which caused Nigerians so much damage.’’

Heads must roll — Magaji

In his remarks, Magaji Da-u said: “This is very disheartening and saddening. It means the system is completely compromised. There are several checks to be carried out. One is at importation level.

‘’The second one is when it comes to Nigeria, you will also test. All the landing companies have independent laboratories to ascertain  quality. It is obvious this was not done.’’

In her contribution, Oluga Taiwo said it was a shame that Nigeria, as an oil producing nation, could not refine its crude.

“If you know the source of this adulterated fuel, what are we waiting for? It is a shame that we are producing and another person is refining for us. If it is food, it is poisonous. They should come to plenary and explain to Nigerians. I don’t want a committee thing,” he said.

We must investigate, says Okechukwu

On his part, Deputy Minority Leader of the House, oby Okechukwu, said there is need for an investigation.

“There is need to investigate the release and sale of adulterated PMS in petrol stations across Nigeria. Unfortunately, what we have seen is that this parliament has been hired by NNPC to work for it. We are investigating the refineries that are not working. We are investigating from 30 million litres consumption to 100 million litres. Mr Speaker, we have worked on PIB which you supported heavily.

‘’I do not know what to say about an agency of government, a revenue generation agency of government that has not been into production for the past few years, as our refineries have not been working.  Mr Speaker what is it?

“Now, like Isiaka said, to bring in aviation fuel that means that you want to weaponize it against Nigerians. What if this had been taken into an aircraft and it burst into flames?   What we are doing is a situation where we are heavily tolerant.

‘’They have refrained from under-recovering, they are now saying it is N3 trillion that we have to spend every year. What are they contributing to the economy?  And we are retaining overhead costs, recurrent costs for the refineries for the past six years.

“Mr Speaker, each time and every day, we would be looking for what are the challenges of security. The consequential effects of the refineries working and producing is the employment of young people. And the simple thing as per due diligence to import petroleum products has become a war that we have to win.

“Engr Magaji talked about the protocols, about seven protocols. It is much more than that. Any production of any refinery must have to interrogate the kind of quality of what you are putting out.’’

Adopting the motion, the House gave the committees four weeks within which to conclude the investigation and report back for further legislative action.

No hand in this — MRS, Emadeb

Also yesterday, MRS and Emadeb refuted claims by NNPC that they were among the four marketers that imported the bad fuel into the country.

Partners in the Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium which was listed among the companies by NNPC Limited, disowned Brittania-U, saying it was Brittania-U, rather than the consortium, that was involved.

A statement released by the lead partner, Emadeb Energy Services explained that importation of the contaminated PMS was executed by a “member of the consortium, to wit: Brittania-U.

“Therefore, the blanket claims made against the consortium by the NNPC are misleading and contradict the actual events that happened; they do not fully reflect and/or represent what transpired. It is important to inform the public of these facts and provide clarifications relating to delivery of the said contaminated PMS to the country.

‘’We also deem it necessary to protect our image as we have invested a lot in building our respective brands in the industry”.

The company held that  Brittania-U Nigeria Limited (Brittania-U) was the sole supplier of the 90,000MT of PMS delivered via MT Torm Hilde with laycan January 2 to 4, 2022.

It said:  “At the formation of the consortium in May 2021 by NNPC, Brittania-U refused to execute the Service and Consortium Agreement submitted to NNPC in fulfilment of the award of the DSDP Contract.  

“Emadeb, as lead of the consortium, engaged Brittania-U severally and they insisted on dealing with NNPC independently. NNPC was expressly notified about this by the other consortium members via a letter dated June 2, 2021.’’

On its part, MRS claimed that the petrol brought into its facilities was imported by Duke that works for the Government”

Scarcity persists

While the marketers continued to trade blames, petrol shortage showed no sign of abating in Abuja as most stations were shut, with a litre of petrol selling at N350 per litre at the city centre.

Checks by Vanguard showed that while a few major marketers were selling, especially around NNPC headquarters, most independent marketers had no product.

Also, the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners, NARTO, yesterday insisted that unless the Federal Government addressed its concern over low freight rate, its members would withdraw their trucks from transporting petrol across the country.

National President of NARTO, Alhaji Yusuf Lawal Othman, who addressed journalists in Abuja, explained that government’s action will compound prevailing shortage of fuel in circulation.

Othman stated that while the cost of their operation had risen sharply over the years, government had failed to effect the necessary upward review in rates for transporters.

According to him, the government had promised to review freight rates from N7 to N9.11, but failed to fulfill the promise.

He said: “For the records, I should emphasize the positive contribution of trucks to  efficient distribution of petroleum products across the country, despite  occasional problems associated with them.

‘’It is on record that over 98 per cent of petroleum products are transported by road today. The pipelines have not been operational for years, while the railways, despite their rehabilitation, are yet to commence.

“The current PMS scarcity is partly caused by lack of funds to run trucks profitably.   Many transporters have decided to park their trucks, and I am sure that many more will park theirs, if something drastic about increasing the freight rate is not promptly done.

“Consequently, we would like to notify members of the public that while we sympathize with them over  inconveniences PMS scarcity might cause them, we are constrained to inform them that if the situation remains unattended, we would have no choice but to park our trucks because we cannot continue to operate at a loss.’’

APC shielding leaders behind adulterated fuel importation, says PDP

Meanwhile, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP,  has accused the ruling All Progressives Congress of shielding its leaders involved in the importation of adulterated fuel into the country.

The party called for an investigation into reports of how “APC leaders allegedly connived with foreign interests to import very cheap, heavily contaminated fuel, laden with methanol, in their desperation to defraud Nigerians and corruptly raise billions of naira to fund the APC National Convention and rigging of the 2023 general elections.”

The party said it is now clear that APC leaders were frenziedly seeking ways to raise  money to fund their 2023 rigging scheme since the PDP and well-meaning Nigerians “exposed and challenged their plots to take a staggering N2.557 trillion padded as fuel subsidy for 2022.”

The party said these in a statement signed by  National Publicity Secretary, Debo Olgunagba, titled: ‘PDP Slams APC For Shielding APC Leaders Involved in Importation of Toxic Fuel…Demands Independent Inquest To Expose Culprits.’

The statement read:   “The PDP strongly condemns these despicable acts by APC leaders which further expose the impunity and wickedness of the APC towards Nigerians.

“The inclination for official concealment ostensibly informed the refusal by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, on national television on Wednesday, February 9, 2022, to name those involved in the importation of the poisonous fuel into our country.

“Against this backdrop, the PDP rejects the announced internal investigation of this terrible crime by the government as the APC administration cannot be trusted given its manifest predilection to shield the APC leaders involved. Nigerians note the various investigations instituted by the APC government in the past which ended without any meaningful outcome; notable among which was the manipulated #EndSARS Report.”

The PDP stated that all documents must be made public concerning the importation of the adulterated fuel, adding that “those involved must be exposed and held accountable”.

“Where was the toxic fuel imported from? Which company is the pre-inspection agent? How much was paid for the very cheap contaminated fuel and through which banks were payment effected? All documents relating to the transaction must be made public.

“Our party insists that President Muhammadu Buhari, as the Minister of Petroleum Resources cannot acquit himself with his reported comedy of anger, buck-passing, querying of subordinates and attempt by government to use some companies as scapegoats instead of accepting responsibility by exposing and naming individuals involved in the crime,” the party said.

It also said President Buhari and the APC must explain how the reported 317 million litres of adulterated fuel came into the country, got cleared and distributed across the nation.

“Apart from the consequential economic hardship occasioned by the damaging of cars and equipment, crippling of means of livelihood across the country as well as increase in the cost of food items and essential services, the cascading effect of adulterated fuel on our aviation industry can only be imagined.

“Sadly, the situation has the possibility to trigger loss of confidence by international airlines in our aviation fuel supply with attendant economic downturn as they would more likely prefer to fuel in neighbouring countries.

“Our party calls on all Nigerians, particularly the Organised Labour, Civil Society, Student Bodies, Professional Bodies and all persons of goodwill to insist on an independent inquiry of this crime against the Nigerian people.  In any case, the PDP strongly cautions the APC and its corrupt government to note that they are practically pushing Nigerians to the wall and there is a limit to which the people can continue to stomach the barefaced atrocities and impunity of the APC,’’ PDP stated.