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By NBF News
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Petroleum products terminal (depot) at Imore Creek, Kirikiri, Apapa.

Oil marketers at the Apapa depots are exploiting the current inadequacy in the supply of petrol to mark up the ex-depot price of the commodity above the official N87.90 per litre.

Instead, the product is being sold for between N94.50 and N105 per litre, depending on the depot.

Our correspondent learnt from the spokesperson of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Mr. Fidel Pepple, on Tuesday that the corporation was supplying the product to the depot owners at N87.50 per litre, while they were expected to sell to filling stations through tankers at N87.90 per litre.

The NNPC is currently using five depots in Apapa; they are, Folawiyo Oil, Capital Oil, Nigerian Independent Petroleum Company Plc, AITEO and MRS.

Tanker owners, who spoke to our correspondent on Tuesday and Wednesday in Apapa, said in recent times, there had been many cases of arbitrary charges at the depots and that there was little or nothing they could do about it.

Three of the depots visited by our correspondent were selling the consignments supplied by NNPC on throughput arrangement.

The situation, it was learnt, was the same in the other depots.

Investigations by our correspondent revealed that for every truck of petrol that was loaded, dealers had to pay some dues.

Some of the dues are: truck park expenses, parking dues, COT, ticket fees, safety fees, PPMC ticket fee, gate pass/security dues and union dues.

Others are VIO dues, loader charges, haulage fees, waybill and security outside gate fees.

One of the tanker owners, who spoke to our correspondent, said it would be difficult for filling stations to sell petrol for N97 because of the charges.

He said the charges were not only much, but had tripled in recent times because of the assumed scarcity of the product.

This situation, according to some marketers at Apapa, had left filling stations with only two options of selling petrol above the official N97 per litre or adjusting their dispensing pumps, thereby short-changing consumers.

Some officials of marketing outfits, who spoke to our correspondent under conditions of anonymity because they were not authorised to comment on the matter, however, expressed optimism that in less than two weeks, they would have their own products.

The General Manager, Media Relations Department, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Dr. Omar Ibrahim, in an email response to enquiries by The PUNCH, said, 'The NNPC is not aware of this development and if indeed this is happening, it should be brought to the attention of the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, the agency empowered by law to ensure that depot owners sell products to retailers at the approved price.

'And where retailers are found to hoard products, this should be brought to the attention of the Department of Petroleum Resources and the PPPRA. NNPC can only check this anomaly if it is happening in NNPC retail outlets. NNPC has no control over non-NNPC private retail outlets, nor does it have the power to sanction them.

'You may wish to understand that NNPC is one of many players in the nation's oil industry, although a major one. While we have striven to be the nation's product supplier of last resort, the fact remains that NNPC is not a monopoly, and that successive governments, in accordance with our Constitution, have been encouraging private participation in the oil industry, especially, by Nigerians.

'Should there be systemic failure; the blame should be shared by all players, not just one. NNPC will continue to do all it could to ensure that products are available to the public at the approved price.'

Also commenting on the development, the Operations Controller, Lagos Zonal Office, DPR, Mr. Gbenga Koku, told our correspondent on the telephone that officially, the department was not aware of the anomaly.

He said the department would go ahead to shut any depot of filling station selling above the official prices if it had clear evidence; like was the case when it sealed three depots at Apapa and some filing stations nationwide.

'We must see invoices before we do any thing. We must be careful because there could be false claims,' he added.

Koku said with the current condition on the ground, any marketer that bought product at the ex-depot price of N97 or above, could not sell above N97 at filling stations.

When asked what DPR's role was at the depot, he said transactions were between sellers and buyers and it was difficult to know what transpired between them, adding that what DPR was primarily concerned with was quality and quantity of products traded.