Nearly a week after the country almost ran aground owing to the withdrawal of large amount of contaminated petrol across states, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, weighed in on the crisis by ordering that producers and providers of the dirty fuel be held accountable for substandard services and products sold by them.
The President also directed the 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.
In a reaction to the issue of petroleum product shortages linked to the infiltration of adulterated petrol into Nigeria, President Buhari said the protection of consumer interests is a priority of the administration and is ready to take all necessary measures to protect consumers from hazardous products, loss or injuries from the consumption of substandard goods.
A statement signed by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, quoted the President as also directing service providers to make full disclosure of relevant information with respect to the consumption of their products, adding that dissatisfied consumers are entitled to a proper redress in line with the law.
Recall that over 100 milion litres of adulterated fuel had found its way into the Nigerian market, prompting scarcity of the product as government regulatory agencies tried to mop up the bad product from the system.
THE House of Representatives, yesterday, ordered immediate probe into circumstances surrounding the sale of adulterated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) in filling stations across the country.
Adopting a motion sponsored by Mr Tahir Monguno under matters of national importance at the plenary presided by Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, the lawmakers directed the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited to take punitive measures against firms involved in the purchase and supply of the dirty fuel.
The House also directed NNPC to submit the deeds of purchase for further scrutiny. The House, thereby, mandated its Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to probe into the issue with a view to ensuring that culprits are brought to book, as well as make recommendations towards curbing recurrence of such incident .
The committee is to probe the roles played by NNPC, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Nigeria Navy and all other regulatory agencies in the petroleum sector.
Monguno, who is the Chief Whip of the House, said it was unfortunate that the sudden scarcity of fuel across the country not only caused untold hardship to Nigerians, but also affected the county’s economy with the sudden increase in transportation cost, which in turn affected the price of goods and services and the loss of man-hours as people are held up in fuel queues.
He also expressed concern over the seeming lack of a credible monitoring and surveillance system to ensure adequate fuel quality to end users in the country.
HOWEVER, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government had begun moves to provide official cover for its leaders allegedly involved in the criminal importation of toxic fuel into the country.
The PDP demanded investigation into reports of how APC leaders allegedly connived with foreign interests to import very cheap and heavily contaminated fuel laden with methanol.
In a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, the main opposition party said: “It is now clear that APC leaders are frenziedly seeking ways to steal money to fund their 2023 rigging scheme, since our party and well-meaning Nigerians exposed and challenged their plots to siphon a staggering N2.557 trillion padded as fuel subsidy for 2022.”
The PDP condemned the alleged fraud, adding “the inclination for official concealment ostensibly informed the refusal by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, on national television on Wednesday, 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 statement added.
The PDP said there is need for an Independent Commission of Enquiry to investigate all issues connected to the “APC Toxic Fuel ImportGate” adding that “those involved must be exposed and held accountable.”
The party insisted that President 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.”
MEANWHILE, following the naming of four companies as responsible for the importation of adulterated petrol into Nigeria by the NNPC, marketers have moved to distance themselves from the controversy.
MRS and Emadeb, yesterday, refuted the claims by NNPC on who imported the methanol-laden petrol into the country. Partners in the Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium, which was listed among the companies by NNPC, has disowned Brittania-U, saying it is Brittania-U rather than the Consortium that was involved.
A statement released by the lead partner, Emadeb Energy Services, explained that the 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 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 the 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.
“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 fulfillment of the award of the DSDP contract.
“Emadeb, as the 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,” it clarified.
On its part, MRS claimed that the petrol brought into its facilities was imported by Duke Oil, a subsidiary of the NNPC.
According to the company, “due to subsidy regime, NNPC is the sole supplier of all PMS in Nigeria. Consequently, NNPC through their trading arm, Duke Oil, supplied a cargo of PMS purchased from international trader, Litasco, and delivered to it with Motor Tanker (MT) Nord Gainer. ”
WHILE the marketers continue to trade blames, petrol shortage showed no sign of abating in Lagos and Abuja, as most stations were shut with a litre of petrol selling at N350 per litre from the N250 it sold at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) since Tuesday
Checks showed that while few major marketers were selling, howbeit with fewer pumps, creating long queues, most independent marketers had no product to dispense.
Also, the Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) has insisted that unless the Federal Government address its concern over low freight rate, its members would withdraw their truck from transporting petrol across the country.
National President of NARTO, Yusuf Lawal Othman, who addressed newsmen in Abuja, yesterday, explained that though mindful that such action would compound the prevailing shortage, it is impossible to continue to operate at a loss.
Othman stated that while the cost of their operation has risen sharply over the years, government has failed to effect the necessary upward review for transporters.
Last year, government had promised to review freight rate from N7 to N9.11, but failed to fulfill the promise, NARTO stated.
Despite assurances from government that petrol would be available this weekend, NARTO urged Nigerians to brace up for scarcity of the product, as its members would stop operation owing to the high cost of transporting PMS on the roads.
He said 98 per cent of petroleum products are transported by road, with the pipelines not being operational for years, while the railways, despite their rehabilitation, are yet to commence lifting of products.
He said truck replacement and operational costs, which keeps growing exponentially are now unbearable, as they involve the use of foreign exchange to acquire them, which transporters must source by themselves since they are not beneficiaries of the government official forex allocation.
THE Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has, however, urged NNPC to name and shame the corporate bodies allegedly responsible for the importation of bad fuel into Nigeria. The rights group also said the defaulting companies should be dragged to court by government if they fail to compensate their victims.
In a statement issued, yesterday, in Abuja by its National Coordinator, Comrade. Emmanuel Onwubiko, and National Media Affairs Director, Miss Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA encouraged the Federal Government to work out and enforce systematic compensations of claims that may result from the use of the toxic fuel by Nigerians.
The statement reads: “Urging that the stiffest sanctions be imposed on the culprits, the central government has been commended for handling the national scandal of importation of toxic petrol into Nigeria, with an uncommon openness and transparency. This openness and transparency is commendable and should be sustained going forward.
HURIWA called on the importers to spare Nigerians of needless brickbats and media war and enter into constructive dialogues with government and victims of their bad fuel on issues of compensations to stave off huge legal damages that may come up if the victims are forced to go to court.
Source: Guardian Newspaper