Consumer group, others kick as Reps clear dirty fuel importers

CONSUMERS of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, on Thursday, kicked against the decision of the House of Representatives not to sanction those who imported methanol-blended contaminated PMS in January this year.

The House of Representatives said on Thursday that nobody would be sanctioned for the supply of adulterated petrol which caused a major crisis in Nigeria’s fuel chain and untold hardships on Nigerians.

At the plenary on Thursday, the House considered and adopted the reviewed report on the investigation by its Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), which exonerated both the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, former Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, and the suppliers in the Direct Sale-Direct Purchase deal between the Federal Government and the importers.

Tempers had frayed in the House on February 10, 2022, over the importation of methanol-contaminated petrol. Several members who spoke on the development called for sanctions against Federal Government agencies and officials who failed to carry out due diligence before passing the product for onward distribution to marketers.

The House had consequently resolved to investigate the matter, insisting that those in the import and distribution chain whose action or inaction led to the spread of the commodity must be held accountable.

The Majority Whip, Mohammed Monguno, had moved a motion of urgent public importance, titled ‘Need to Investigate the Release and Sale of Adulterated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) in Petrol Stations Across Nigeria.’

Adopting the motion, the House mandated the Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to “investigate the release of adulterated PMS across the country, with a view to ensuring that culprits are brought to book as well as make recommendations towards curbing a reoccurrence of such incident.”

The House also asked the committee to “ascertain whether the Nigerian specification concerning importation, distribution and dispensing of the alleged toxic petrol in Nigeria, from January till date, complies with international standards.”

Also, the lawmakers further asked the committee to “investigate the roles played by NNPC Limited, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Navy, any other government regulatory agencies, limited liabilities companies, and individuals in the unfortunate episode.”

Furthermore, the House asked the NNPC to suspend the four companies involved in the importation of the adulterated PMS.

However, the committee had presented a report which failed to address the main issues for which it ordered the probe, causing the House to reject it.

Consumer group kicks

Commenting on this, the National Secretary, Network of Electricity Consumers Advocacy of Nigeria, Uket Obonga, stated that the National Assembly had failed Nigerians by its position on the dirty fuel probe.

He said the NNPC had earlier indicted some companies and it was surprising that the National Assembly would clear all the oil companies.

Obonga said, “How come the NNPC, which we know as the sole importer of fuel into Nigeria, will come to declare to the world that Oando, MRS and some other companies were involved in the importation of that contaminated fuel into the country?

“Who are the people behind it? When did they change the rule? There is so much inconsistency. Then coming to the National Assembly, what do you expect? Were you expecting that the National Assembly will come up with anything contrary to what they have done? Certainly not!

“We see inflated fuel consumption figures, they will tell you today that it is 50 million litres that we consumed daily, tomorrow it will be 70 million litres, and the next day it is 100 million litres.

Obonga added, “Now, are those in the National Assembly bold enough to challenge these figures. Elections are coming and they have to gather money for the 2023 elections and that is why they are doing what they are doing.

“So don’t expect the National Assembly to do anything more than what they have done. It is an assembly that is controlled by a political party and they do as it pleases them and they don’t care.”

The NECAN secretary, however, urged those whose vehicles were damaged by the adulterated fuel to sure the NNPC.

“Those whose vehicles were damaged by that toxic fuel should sure the NNPC to court. They should seek compensation because they have the liberty to go to court and seek redress,” he stated.

He added, “As for the National Assembly, they do whatever pleases the presidency. Most of them can’t do otherwise because if they do, they will lose their nomination to re-contest for the Senate or House of Representatives.

“That is the reason and so you don’t have to expect anything from them more than what they’ve done.”

Also speaking on the development, a former President, Association of National Accountants of Nigeria, Dr. Sam Nzekwe, stated that it was surprising to hear that the National Assembly had cleared the companies that imported the dirty fuel.

He said, “Is the National Assembly saying that the imports of bad fuel didn’t happen or what? Everybody saw it and a lot of vehicles crashed and their engines were knocked as a result of that product.

“So I am surprised that they will go ahead and clear the companies. People should be held responsible for that situation and it is surprising that they have cleared the firms. It is not good.

The General Secretary, Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, Lumumba Okugbawa, however, stated that the National Assembly might have been shown reasons why the firms should be cleared.

“We are outsiders and the people who conducted the probe must have been given certain documentation before they arrived at their decisions,” he stated.

Several members of the House had on March 23, 2022, criticised the earlier report by the committee as failing to hold any persons, group or company responsible for the development or recommend sanctions.

The PUNCH observed that the recommendations in the second report were similar to those in the first version.

In the report adopted on Thursday, the committee recommended “that the Hon. Minister of Petroleum Resources should expedite action for completion of the rehabilitation work and ensure upgrading of the major refineries at Warri, Port Harcourt and Kaduna to meet AFRI5 Specification, to boost local refining and reduce over-dependence on imported PMS into Nigeria to avert reoccurrence.”

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is the Minister of Petroleum Resources while Timipre Sylva is the Minister of State.

The committee also recommended “that the Hon. Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, should initiate the adoption of the 2017 PMS Standard (NIS 116:2017) as approved by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria, which include testing for methanol for future importation of the product into the country to mitigate reoccurrence;

“That the Federal Government should position the SON to implement its mandate to the latter by subjecting all imported white petroleum and other products to the offshore conformity assessment, and resume routine quality control of them and other products imported into the country at our various seaports, airports and borders throughout Nigeria as shrined in the Standards Organisation of Nigeria enabling Act of 2015.”

According to the panel, this will finally address the reoccurrence of the importation of off-specification PMS and other substandard goods into Nigeria.

The committee further recommended “that based on the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited exoneration, the four oil marketers/importers (Duke Oil; MRS Oil and Gas; Oando Oil; and Emadeb, Energy/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Britannia-U Consortium) did not commit any offense, therefore not recommended for suspension.


Article first published on the Punch Website

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