Nigeria warns filling stations against hoarding fuel

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As fuel scarcity abated as well as worsened in some parts of Nigeria yesterday, industry regulator, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), has pointed accusing fingers at filling stations for hoarding fuel and threatened to confiscate and auction the commodity.

On the deregulation of the downstream sector of the industry, it was yet another finger-pointing yesterday as major oil marketers in Nigeria are said to be sabotaging Federal Government's plan to fully deregulate the sector.

The Director of DPR, Mr. Billy Agha, read the riot act to marketers yesterday when he led other top officials of the agency to monitor fuel supply situation in major distribution outlets in Lagos.

He told the marketers that the government had not authorised any increase in the pump price of fuel and that marketers who sell fuel above the official price of N65 per litre would be “severely sanctioned”.

Agha said the inspection tour of filling stations in Lagos became necessary owing to the unusual queues that resurfaced at filling stations last weekend.

“We noticed unusual queues and we felt that it was not normal. But we have not noticed any unscrupulous behaviour in the stations we visited. There is no fuel scarcity; people are just buying in panic. There is no need for anyone to buy and hoard because the government is not anticipating any price increase. However, the law is clear; if anybody is caught selling above the pump price, the products will be confiscated and auctioned to the public as stipulated by law,” he said.

The DPR team visited many filling stations in Lagos but all the stations were selling fuel at normal price and no queue was observed as the situation appeared to have been normalised.

However, to checkmate erring marketers, the DPR had constituted five teams of task forces to monitor the whole of Lagos State.

Consequently, the state has been divided into five zones to ensure effective supervision. The zones include Lagos Island/ Victoria Island/Ikoyi; Apapa/ Orile/ Festac; Surulere/Ikorodu Road/Somolu; Ikeja/Abeokuta Expressway and Ketu/Okota/Ikorodu town.

A task force is to supervise fuel supply and distribution in each of the affected zones.

Meanwhile, the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas, Mr. Ifeanyi Uba, alleged yesterday that major marketers were behind the move to scuttle the deregulation of the downstream sector of the oil industry.
He made the allegation in a chat with newsmen, saying the measures being put in place by government to ensure successful implementation of the deregulation are being thwarted by major marketers, who he insisted have not made any meaningful contribution to the economic wellbeing of the country in their 20 to 30 years of operation in the sector.

He pointed out that the major marketers are the most favoured by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in terms of fuel importation as they are the only certified companies that collect credit from the corporation.

Ironically, he said the same majors, “who for decades have been collecting NNPC cargoes and using the money to get interests from the banks”, have now turned around to frustrate government's deregulation policy.

He said: “It is important to say that to whom much is given, much is expected, and I think the major marketers should be fair enough to say what they have enjoyed from the NNPC in the past 20 years. Major marketers have been collecting credits from the NNPC on the products it (NNPC) has been giving them. They are the only certified companies that collect credit from NNPC, none has been given to any independent marketer till date, even when independent marketers account for 80 per cent of NNPC retail business.

“For the past 20 years, they have been collecting NNPC cargoes using the money to get interests from the banks. And if there is any banking audit, you would not find their names as people owing, while we (independent oil marketers) will owe to make investments, and they will turn around to accuse us of being a cartel. They are the ones that have been a cartel against NNPC and this country for the past 20 years.”

The marketers had last week protested their exclusion from the importation of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) aka petrol and Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) by the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA) for the fourth quarter of this year.

They alleged that the Presidency had deliberately ousted them from the importation of the products, and raised fears of an imminent scarcity as the deregulation period draws near.

They said the NNPC does not have the capacity to solely supply and distribute petroleum products across the length and breadth of the country.

The marketers also accused the PPPRA of failing to give them further approvals to import under the Federal Government subsidy scheme due to the inability of the government to pay them outstanding subsidy claims.