As fuel scarcity worsens, controversy trails operations of marketers, unions

Tankers
petrol tankers[Photo Credit:News Nigeria]

Over 50 trucks loaded with petroleum products meant for supply have been prevented from leaving a depot in Lagos, a coalition of civil society groups alleged Friday.

The coalition, Transparency for Good Governance, in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES said it used a private team of investigators to discover this.

It accused the Tanker Drivers Union, TDU of preventing the trucks from leaving the depots by fixing exorbitant charges on each truck leaving the depots.

“Somewhere in Apapa Lagos earlier this week, precisely at a depot of Gulf Treasures and Danco Petroleum Limited, over 50 trucks loaded with petrol have been hijacked by a group of tanker drivers and prevented from leaving the depot,” Ali Abacha, the national coordinator of the coalition alleged.

Mr. Abacha alleged that instead of collecting the initial N4,500 per truck, the drivers’ union increased taxes on each truck leaving the depot to N20,000, a decision most companies and independent marketers rejected leading to restriction of movement of petroleum products.

He said same scenario played out in most of the depots visited by the investigators.

These claims are yet to be independently verified by PREMIUM TIMES.

However, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC does not rule out such incidents.

“There have been leakages up and down in terms of diversion and smuggling of products out of the country and so on. Some days ago, about 144 tankers surfaced in Kano after we threatened to sanction many independent marketers so what the group is saying is possible,” the NNPC spokesperson, Ndu Ughamadu, told PREMIUM TIMES on the phone Friday.

Mr. Ughamadu however noted that government monitoring agencies are combing the country to identify depots where fuel is being hoarded.

“There are many diversions going on. The average consumption of petroleum products in the country about two weeks ago is between 30 to 35 million litres per day. Now the corperation is pumping in 80 million litres per day so where are the supplies going to?” he asked.

The spokesperson also said he had taken note of the depots listed by the group and “it will be checked.”

Despite assurances given by the NNPC against any impending fuel crisis, there are still long queues in most filling stations in parts of the country. Some of the filling stations are still without the product.

According to the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, the major cause of the fuel scarcity is a shortfall in supply.

He said Lagos, Abuja, Benue, Port Harcourt were among the worst-hit areas.

Meanwhile, about 144 tankers loaded with petroleum products meant for Katsina and Kano, but diverted, were recovered by security operatives and the monitoring team from the NNPC last Friday.

In Abuja, Mohammed Saidu, Head Public Affairs Unit of the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, said petroleum marketers diverted 129,000 litres of petrol from Abuja.

Mr. Saidu, who revealed this the News Agency of Nigeria after monitoring the stations, added that some of the erring filling stations had been given a total fine of more than N30.5 million.

According to him, more intelligence units are liaising with the public to get information for on-the-spot checks since the scarcity began.

Mr. Saidu said the products were being diverted without the knowledge of security agents, who have no mechanism to check amount off loaded at filling stations.

“We now have an intelligence measure that ensures that even if one litre of petrol is diverted, the station is penalised. We have a way of tracing it.

”Through this means, we were able to get to Bulasawa, that remote area behind the National Assembly, and they diverted 13,000 litres and they have been issued a letter to pay N3.575 million to the TSA within one week before they will continue their business.

”Whatever products that were there, we allowed them to sell them off on the spot so we don’t compound the issue of scarcity.

”We also got to Oando on Olusegun Obasanjo Way, they also diverted 11,000 litres which means out of the three compartments of the 33,000 that was consigned to them, they took away one compartment.

”They have been issued a letter to pay about N12 million into the TSA.

”We got another station that diverted 15,000 litres and they have been written to pay N15 million to the TSA.

”We got to one station – Toniset, along the Zuba Junction. They applied for formal renovation, they are doing renovation and we were surprised they were given two full load trucks of products without any place to dispense the product.

”We had to trace the two trucks to PPMC to ask how they allocated products to a station that is under construction,” Mr. Saidu explained.

He further explained that the truck diverted from Bulasawa, was traced to one of its stations on Kaduna Road.

”The remaining 33,000 litres as far as we are concerned was not allocated to that station, so it has to pay the N3.5 million fine.

”The essence of making it N275 per litre is because they lifted the products at the depot at about N133 per litre, and so we double it, meaning, in addition to losing the product indirectly to the government, you are also charged additionally and this is to serve as a deterrent and many marketers are getting jittery.

”If the PPMC consign products to only stations that have physical presence, we are sure the scarcity will end,” he said.

He said the department had visited about 360 stations in Abuja, out of which 157 were found to be selling.

”Those few that we found that had products that were not selling, we stationed our staff there to make sure they sell, and they are about 20 stations,” Mr. Saidu said.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had earlier blamed the current petroleum scarcity in the country on marketers of the product.
The Group Managing Director of the company, Maikanti Baru, had repeatedly assured Nigerians that the queues would disappear by Saturday as it had a 25-day sufficiency.


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