Bad fuel: Tension as probe panel uncovers 3rd party involvement

Written by on February 21, 2022

There is palpable fear and tension in the oil and gas sector as security agencies commenced investigation into the importation of adulterated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as petrol into the country.

This is not unconnected with the findings of the investigation by security agencies, a source conversant with the probe told Blueprint in Abuja weekend.

The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited had admitted that four PMS cargoes imported by four consortia under the Direct Sale of Crude Oil and Direct Purchase of Petroleum (DSDP) program were adulterated.

The importers are; MRS which was imported through vessel MT Bow Pioneer and loaded at Litasco Terminal; Antwerp-Belgium, Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium, which used vessel MT Tom Hilde and loaded from the same terminal; Oando loaded through MT Elka Apollon from the same terminal; as well as NNPC’s subsidiary, Duke Oil, which used MT Nord Gainer and also loaded the vessel from the same terminal.

Blueprint learned that a loophole in the system was exploited to get the cargoes identified to contain dangerous levels of methanol, used to blend PMS into the country.

The discovery of the contaminated petroleum product, which has cost the country several billion in losses, has seen acute fuel shortages and long queues in Abuja, Lagos, and most parts of the country.

Over the past few weeks, the NNPC and its subsidiaries have been running helter-skelter to mop up the dirty petrol as well as restock filling stations.

Across the country, some motorists have complained of damages to their cars with civil society organizations threatening protests against the NNPC leadership as well as the affected companies.

In response to public outcry over what some in security circles have described as economic sabotage, President Muhammadu Buhari ordered that producers and providers of the bad product be held accountable and nobody should be spared.

A press statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, reads in part: “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.”

Security checks

Reports had it that in line with the presidential directive, security agencies had since commenced investigation into the circumstances and are expected to make their findings known within a two-week timeframe.

According to a source in one of the security agencies who asked not to be named as he was not permitted to speak, “findings of the probe indicate that heads would roll. The order by the president is clear. He said it should be investigated and that has put all security agencies on their toes.

“The agencies are on top of the matter and investigation has been up and all involved parties, individuals, and corporate companies were invited and they made useful revelations. They have answered questions and provided information on what may have gone wrong.

“The major players have been told they can be invited over and over as fresh facts emerge in the course of the investigation. Not too long from now, Nigerians will see decisive action on this embarrassing situation.”

On which agencies are involved in the investigation and which was leading the investigation, the source said: “The investigation falls directly within the mandate, role, and functions of the Department of State Services (DSS).

“They are saddled with the responsibility of, among others, prevention, detection of economic crimes of national security dimension; as well as provision of timely advice on all matters of national security interest.”

However, a source in the NNPC disclosed to Blueprint that the management of the corporation, which actually raised the alarm of the contaminated PMS, was in support of the investigation as their own findings uncovered the involvement of third parties.

According to the official, who asked not to be named, the probe was getting complicated and technical, especially with the establishment of third-party involvement in the supply of the bad products.

According to the source, a particular company (name withheld) that has been trying to absolve itself of blame was found to have got its supply from BP, which was discovered to have got its supply from other sources as well.

This, the source said, had created room for blame trading.

In a bid to forestall any legal complications from the outcome of the probe, the source said technical assistance had been provided for the investigating agencies.

The source further disclosed that the invitation and interrogation of some companies with DCDP were being delayed to avoid disruption of supply of products as the NNPC was committed to ensuring the complete disappearance of fuel queues.

CSOs express angst

Meanwhile, the Northern Coalition Forum (NCF) has called for the resignation of NNPC Group Managing Director Mele Kyari and CEO Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Engr. Farouk Ahmed over the importation of methanol adulterated fuel into Nigeria.

The forum, a coalition of 26 civil society organisations in Northern Nigeria under the aegis of Coalition of Concerned Northern Forum(CCNF), also urged the immediate sack of all NNPC management staff, punitive measures against the importers of the adulterated fuel, and adequate compensations for owners of vehicles, generators, and machines damaged by the fuel, which has caused extended fuel scarcity across the country.

In a statement jointly signed by leaders of the groups, Malam Ibrahim Bature and Comrade Abdulsalam Moh’d Kazeem, they said: “We condemn in totality the current persistent scarcity of petroleum products across the nation, the scarcity is aimed at embarrassing the current administration by its enemies and unpatriotic elements from within.

“Since 2015 till date, we have over two GMD’s, to our greatest surprise as progressives all the past GMDs of NNPC including Mr. Ibe Kachikwu have helped the current administration greatly, in ensuring that all petroleum products meet our nation’s required standard and also ensured no scarcity and fuel queues in our filling stations even during festive periods.

“The current administration has spent over six years without fuel scarcity and queues in our filling stations, the same administration has less than two years to go, but strangely, fuel scarcity has surfaced due to importation of an adulterated PMS, which has never happened in the history of our country, pointing towards discrediting the record of Mr. President and minister of petroleum.

“NNPC’s quality inspection unit which comprises of GMO, SGS, Geochem, and G&G did not conduct any test before the said products were discharged, the above units are saddled with the responsibilities of ensuring that the products are not above our required standard, yet the same unit has up till date equipment at her disposal with adequate funding for such tasks.

“NNPC management should make public genuine and comprehensive names of those involved in this national scandal and embarrassment. If our demands are not met in the next three working days, we shall occupy all NNPC zonal offices and their subsidiaries across our region and the FCT. We will follow up with full action after the expiration of our ultimatum and this will serve as the litmus test for the government’s fight against corruption and indiscipline,” the statement further said.

BLUEPRINT


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