By Elizabeth Chukwuma
When long queues appeared in filling stations in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre that has the ports of Apapa, and Tincan Island, which controls over 75% volume of cargoes that enter into the country, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT and other parts of the country, there was fears that it was a ploy by the All Progressive Congress, APC, led government to arm-twist Nigerians to cave in and agree to the planned increase in the pump price of Petrol.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, now baptised Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPC, going by the Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, had recommended that the pump price of a litre of petrol should be sold for N345.00 per litre, if it must compete with other major importers and distributors of petrol in the country and still be in the business.
Mele Kyari, Managing Director , NNPC, may have known that there was trouble ahead that he quickly rose to the challenge by explaining the cause of return of queues in filling stations in Lagos, Abuja and other parts of the country. The NNPC Chief Executive Officer, CEO, who was working closely with Temipre Sylva, a former governor of Bayelsa state and now minister of state, Petroleum Resources, had blamed’’ the importers for trying to return the country to the bad old days by importing adulterated petrol into the country’’.
He had had said that four PMS cargoes imported into the country were made by MRS, a Petrol Marketing and Distribution Company owned by Aliko Dangote, a business mogul, Amaeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi Brittania Consortium, Ondo and Duke Oil but were contaminated with ethanol.
MRS, was said to have used MT Bow Pinoneer , Emadeb /Hyde/AY Maikifi Brittania U Consortium, MT Tom Hilde while Ondo and Duke Oil, had imported the gasoline using MT. Eka Appolon and MT Nord Gainer, respectively to ship their PMS import into the Nigerian market through the Lagos port of Apapa.
An aggrieved Kyari had said that the PMS imported into the country by the four Petroleum Products marketing companies contained Methanol which was not detected by checks because ‘’the quality checks do not include checks for Methanol percentage before the vessels were loaded with the product and shipped to Nigeria’’.
Funny enough, the cargoes quality Certificates that were issued to the importers at the port of Antwerp, Belgium, by Amspec Belgium shows that that the shipped gasoline had’’ complied with Nigerian Certification’’ .
Even GMO, Societe Generalle de’ Surveillance, SGS, , Geochem and G& G, engaged by NNPC , that were said to have also conducted tests on the gasoline before it was discharged at the Lagos port confirmed that the gasoline met the Nigerian government Certification which may not have given the Corporation any cause to worry .
The NNPC bos, however,s may have known that the imported was not good when motorists stated complaining about it. He has no option but to open up to save the situation from degenerating. More worrisome was the report of NNPC inspectors at the Lagos port of discharge has confirming that the gasolie met Nigerian Certification.
Given an insider information on how Petroleum Products are imported into the country, he had said that such cargoes are usually certified by the Inspection agents appointed by the Dowstream and Midstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, to ensure it met Nigerian Certification before shipment.
He had said that the adulterated Petrol could not be discovered early enough in the port of Shipment at Antwerp, Belgium and the port of discharge in Nigeria, because ‘’the usual quality inspection protocol employed in both the load port in Belgium and the discharge port in Nigeria ‘’do not include the test for percentage of Methanol content’’. Methanol, according to informed sources had been prohibited in PMS , imported into the country .
Kyari , the NNPC, boss who had been under intense pressure from the higher Authorities to return the situation in the country to normalcy to avoid giving the Opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, room to use it as a Campaign issue in the 2023, general situations.
It is not surprising why the Corporation is currently sourcing for additional cargoes to meet the PMS demands of the country and prevent the distribution of the Methanol adulterated gasoline. As a prelude to ensuring that the imported adulterated gasoline was not sold in filling stations across the country may have informed why NNPC, has ordered ‘’the quarantine of all un-evacuated volumes and the holding back of all the affected products in transit both truck and & , including marine.
The Down stream and Midstream Regulatory Authorities, officials were said to also have beamed their search light on the on the suppliers of the affected products as they were said to have been’’ put on notice for remedial action ‘’. Although NNPC had said that it will work closely with the Downstream and Midstream Authority ‘’to take further necessary actions in line with the subsisting regulations’’, to bring the situation under control.
The Independent Petrol Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, would not want to sit by and watch NNPC , rubbish their business, as they have turned the heat back on the Corporation. The Association, in tun had blamed the regulatory agencies for the problem even as they lament that many of their members have incurred huge losses from buying the contaminated petrol . Officials of IPMAN had said that ‘’if the NNPC officials and foreign inspectors were alive to their duties, they could have ‘’stopped the adulterated petrol from the point of entry into the country’’.
In spite of Claims by NNPC, that that four petrol and distribution Companies including Dangote’s Company, MRS, had imported the adulterated petrol in into the country, officials of MRS,had come out to make a bold Statement that ‘’it does not import PMS ,as alleged by NNPC but gets its product supplies from the Corporation which is ‘’the sole importer of all PMS, in Nigeria due to the current subsidy regime’’. The Company had said that it received 5,000 metric tons but when it was discovered that it was adulterated ,’’ it was immediately isolated’’.
The Company had said that its cargo vessel discharged at the Apapa port between January 24 and 30, 2022 and distributed to eight of its filling stations in Lagos, stressing that 350,000 litres are still in their tanks, awaiting for the regulatory Authorities to approve the return of the unsold quantities of petrol back to the company.
Other major marketers that were said to have got their supplies from MR include NICO,5, 958 MT, rdova, 6,000mt , bringing the total allocation to 16,950 mt. The Company has given its words ‘’to work closely with NNPC and NMDPRA, for ‘’the evacuation of the contaminated petrol’’.
Sylva, the minister of state, Petroleum Resources may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he hinted that there will be a major investigation ‘’to unravel the cause of the unsafe quantity of methanol petrol imported into the country’’. The minister had said that the identities of the companies involved will be known after the investigations and what will happen to the culprits. The former Balysa governor was emphatic: We will do everything within our powers to get the bottom of the imported adulterated petrol.
Given that NNPC, had already released the identities of the companies that imported the adulterated petrol into the country, may have encouraged Femi Gajabiamila , led House of Representative ‘’to suspend the four companies. The House were said to have mandated the Committee on petroleum downstream ‘’to investigate the release and sale of the off –spec Premium Motor Spirit by filling stations across the country and bring the culprits to book’’. As NNPC and PMAN, are throwing brickbats on each, there are fears that both the government and House Investigation Panel may have a difficult job to do, meaning that the country would be back to square one.