The federal government, through the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), on Tuesday confirmed the circulation of adulterated petrol with methanol quantities above the country’s specification.
Though the agency did not give the total volume of the product imported or that is in circulation, sources said at least 100 million litres of adulterated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) are in circulation in the country.
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It was learnt that a European company imported the product on behalf of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited.
NNPC was yet to react or give specific details on how the importer defeated all protocols to bring in the product and the failure to detect it in the ports, or at the deports until after consumers raised the alarm.
However, NMDPRA in a statement, Tuesday, confirmed that there was a problem.
“Limited quantity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol, with methanol quantities above Nigeria’s specification, was discovered in the supply chain,” it said.
It explained that methanol is a regular additive in petrol and is usually blended in an acceptable quantity.
“To ensure vehicular and equipment safety, the limited quantity of the impacted product has been isolated and withdrawn from the market, including the loaded trucks in transit,” it said.
NMDPRA said its technical teams were working with NNPC Ltd and other industry stakeholders to ensure that quality petroleum products were adequately distributed nationwide.
“The source supplier has been identified and further commercial and appropriate actions shall be taken by the authority and NNPC Ltd,” it said.
Speaking to BBC Hausa, the Chief Executive of NMDPRA, Faruq Ahmed, admitted that the adulterated petroleum products were imported into the country but the situation was not as bad as people perceived it.
He said the authority, with the help of relevant agencies, had done much to isolate and withdraw the adulterated product out of circulation.
“Some days back, four ships imported petroleum products to NNPC Limited. On arrival, we discovered that the product is blended with an unacceptable quantity of methanol, so we were able to stop all the ships supplying that particular product and stop the depots where it was uploaded in Calabar and Warri from distributing it.
“We were also able to stop many loaded trucks on transit, but some have already unloaded in filling stations but we succeeded in withdrawing the adulterated fuel out of circulation.
“As I am talking to you now, we have formed a committee with representatives from NNPC, NMDPRA, major marketers and depot owners, currently meeting in Lagos, on how they will rid the adulterated petrol out of depots before supplying the good product into the market.
“We also identified the company that shipped and sold the adulterated product to the NNPC Limited and we will take legal action against the company, and the NNPC will take care of the trade aspect of it,” he said.
It’s a huge loss – Marketers
Marketers and industry watchers valued the adulterated product at N16.5 billion, raising fears that some vehicles have been damaged already.
Our correspondents report that because of its inability to refine its crude oil, Nigeria exports the product and in turn imports petrol and other products for domestic use.
The “bad” product had already gone across Lagos, Abuja, Cross River, Delta and many other states as of Tuesday, the marketers told Daily Trust.
“Some marketers who bought the adulterated fuel from NNPC Ltd are now posting losses when it was later discovered that the fuel is bad following complaints from vehicle owners,” said an official of one of the major marketers comprising big names like Total, Mobil, among others.
“So far, NNPC has refused to state reasons for the bad fuel they imported,” he said.
The incident is coming just weeks after the petrol subsidy removal saga rocked Nigeria and the federal government had to budget N3 trillion for NNPC Ltd to cover for the 2022 fiscal year as the sole importer of petrol.
At N165 per litre petrol retail price, the adulterated petrol which will cover consumption for two days in Nigeria, according to NNPC figures, is worth N16.5 billion.
While marketers blamed queues being seen in parts of the country, especially Lagos and Abuja for the closure of many dispensing stations over the fear of the bad product, they asked NNPC Ltd to do the needful.
They also accused NNPC of having special agents that import the product on its behalf rather than liberalizing the market in line with the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) to have various importers competing.
Cars grounded as queues mount
Some motorists have also confirmed the effects of the adulterated fuel on their vehicles. Segun Onibiyo, a motorist posted a video on Twitter of how his vehicle became faulty after buying adulterated fuel.
“Palavar in Lagos; even Abuja is not spared. What kind of country is this?” Onibiyo lamented.
“This is a full tank and this is what we filtered from it,” he said, indicating that the fuel pump and filter of the vehicle had gone bad from using the deep brown-coloured petrol.
Another Twitter user, Eniola filmed a fuel attendant in Lagos dispensing petrol in a container and the colour appeared to be dirty and brownish contrary to the popular plain or pink petrol colour.
Meanwhile, queues at petroleum stations have not abated as of Tuesday as only a few of the pumps were dispensing as observed in Lagos and Abuja.
When asked why there were selective pumps in dispensing petrol, a pump attendant at a station in Abuja, said, “Other pumps are linked to the tanks containing the adulterated fuel which we have been instructed to stop selling.”
Abdulrasheed Olopade of Bayink Petroleum said the excuse being given by the NNPC was not tenable. He said, “The NNPC has a lab to test the texture of the PMS to be sure that it is consumable to the final consumers.
“This shouldn’t happen. I am telling you with all honesty that this is all about sabotage because before product is loaded at the NNPC depot, it must be analysed. It must be with the knowledge of regulatory agencies.
“No PMS will be in circulation without the knowledge of the government agencies. That means something is wrong somewhere,” he said. The NNPC has not commented on this and other allegations.
IPMAN to seek compensation
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) may seek compensation from NNPC Ltd for the adulterated petrol sold to them.
Speaking to Daily Trust Tuesday, IPMAN’s National Vice President, Abubakar Maigandi, said: “It was unfortunate that after reaching their stations, our members discovered that the product they bought from the NNPC depots is bad.”
Asked what would happen to the adulterated fuel they had bought from NPPC Ltd, Maigandi said, “The one that we have bought is still in our tanks but we have already instructed our consultant to go round to check the whole fuel stations, and anyone that has complain about this should quickly report it so that we will know how to go about it.”
On if the association will get compensation from NNPC, the oil marketer said: “Definitely, if the adulterated product is much in the fuelling stations, automatically we will have to call the attention of the NNPC.”
Also contacted, the Executive Secretary of the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN), Olufemi Adewole, said NNPC should respond to the issue.
“Talk to them, ask them. They are in a better position to give us the full gist. It is what they give us that we will sell.”
The Executive Secretary of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Clement Isong, said operators had commenced withdrawal of the contaminated petrol.
“While in the process of withdrawing from the system you have to ensure that fresh product is into the system. This process of withdrawal and replacement has disrupted the supply chain.
“This should be concluded by the weekend and all things being equal normalcy should be restored by Monday,” he said.
He was also against the role of NNPC as the sole importer of petrol. “We have also said that as a business principle, you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. The Nigerian market is too big for you to risk having one supplier.”
By Simon E. Sunday, Chris Agabi, Hamisu K. Matazu (Abuja), Abdullateef Aliyu & Eugene Agha (Lagos)
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