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SON, DPR at war over diesel adulteration

At a stakeholders’ forum for operators in petroleum products sector held penultimate Tuesday in Lagos, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) raised alarm over the…

At a stakeholders’ forum for operators in petroleum products sector held penultimate Tuesday in Lagos, the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) raised alarm over the increasing level of adulteration of petroleum products in the country.

The Director-General of the agency, Joseph Odumodu said preliminary study by SON showed a high level of trade malpractices such as under-dispensing of products particularly PMS (petrol) and AGO (diesel) across many fuel stations.

According to him, some of the outlet owners were found to have connived with like-mind individuals and companies to compromise dispensing machines to cheat consumers.

The Director-General said, “The Standards Organisation of Nigeria has statutory responsibility to rid the Nigerian society of substandard products of any form and this we must do even in the petroleum products sub-sector of the oil and gas sector.

“In line with our zero tolerance to substandard products campaign, we aim to achieve significant reduction in the presence of substandard products in our markets before the end of this year. The oil and gas sector should actually rank number.”

Odumodu disclosed that his agency will soon commence testing of petroleum products for quality as well as checking of volumes dispensed for accuracy of declared measurement.

DPR faults SON

However, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), an agency of the federal government saddled with responsibility of maintaining standards in the nation’s oil and gas said the petroleum products adulteration theory being bandied by SON is not true.

The agency’s director, Austen Olorunsola said on Friday at the agency’s quarterly media briefing that SON has ulterior motive to unnecessarily castigate DPR.

He charged Nigerians to dismiss the statement as it is the duty of his agency to monitor and enforce quality in the oil and gas sector. “I don’t believe it is true there is adulteration of petroleum products. DPR has played its role in the sector for 50 years and followed up on product quality. We completely disagreed with this. If they [SON] were really sincere, they would have called us…,” Olorunsola argued.

Olorunsola said in January this year, his agency sealed almost 100 retail stations in the country on offences that bordered on under-dispensing, overpricing, hoarding and diversion of petroleum products.

Besides, Deputy Director, Public Affairs of DPR, Mrs Belema Osibodu explained that the agency has put in place adequate measures to guarantee petroleum product quality in order to adequately monitor petroleum imports and exports for best quality to safeguard the public from foreseeable dangers.

According to her, the agency has established operational laboratories, employed accredited third party laboratories, mandated the use of tamper proof seals on all tankers transporting petroleum as well as continually   monitoring movement of petroleum as empowered, to ensure quality and quantity accountability at points of interest like crude oil and gas terminals, refineries, petroleum blending plants, jetties, depots and retail points nationwide.

Naval men in the mess

DPR on Tuesday inspected some oil depots in Lagos in view of the adulterated oil claims. During the exercise, the agency identified Waziri Jetty in Apapa as one of the spots where adulterated diesel and other petroleum products were discharged by wrongful ways.

Deputy Director, Depot and Jetty Operations of the agency, Mr Buraimoh Olarenwaju who led the inspection team, disclosed that activities that go on in the jetty leaves his agency with no option than to suspect it as one of the hotspots of products adulteration. Olarenwaju said criminals always discharged the products at night from barges directly into awaiting trucks through the connivance of some naval officers.

According to him, the depot had been shut down several times in order to stop these activities but to no avail. He said the criminals threatened to deal with the officials of the agency should they persist to stand in their way.

Also speaking at the inspection site, Patrick Emordi, Head of Depot and Jetty Operations said, “We sealed the Waziri Jetty and used chains to tie it and within few hours naval officers came to re-open it. On February 4th, this year, we also locked this place but within few hours the naval officers re-opened it.” Emordi said the agency has written the naval authorities to call their men to order.

SON stands its ground

At a sensitization and enforcement exercise on filling stations in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) last Thursday, the Director-General of SON maintained that 50 percent of diesel there was adulterated with kerosene. He said over 30 percent of the filling stations checked in Lagos cheated their customers while dispensing fuel.

So who has the power to check products?

The current controversy between the two agencies no doubt elicited the question of who actually is to regulate operations in the oil and gas sector.

The Deputy Director, Public Affairs of DPR argued that the subsisting laws of the country have handed the trust to DPR adding that the agency has performed this role with a high sense of responsibility and total commitment.

Armed with Petroleum Regulations Act 1967 Cap.P10 LFN 2004,Petroleum Act 1969,Cap P10 LFN 2004 and Petroleum(Drilling)and Production) Regulation 1969 Cap P10 LFN 2004, she said DPR has the mandate to ensure that all operations—siesmic acquisition, well drillings and completions, crude oil and natural gas production, measurement, transportation through the pipelines, exports through the terminals and jetties, refining, products distribution and retails etc are carried out in accordance with Nigerian laws and international standards.

SON was established by Decree No. 56 of 1971 and charged with the responsibility of developing and enforcing product and process standards. The organisation has remained the fulcrum of Metrology, Standardization, Testing and Quality Control (MSTQ) activities at the national and international levels.

Decree No 20 of 1976 as amended conferred on the Minister of Industry the power to declare mandatory Industrial Standards in respect of products or processes recommended by SON.

The functions of SON, according to the laws include: establishing and compiling Nigerian Industrial Standards; compiling an inventory of products requiring standards; to ensure reference standards for calibration and verification of measures and measuring equipment; to undertake investigations as necessary into the quality of facilities, materials and products in Nigeria, and establishing a quality assurance system including certification of factories and products and laboratories etc.

Any duplication of functions by the agencies?

Observers say the friction between the two agencies over action on adulterated products is due to duplicity of functions. Spokesperson of DPR, Osibodu said her agency has over the years, consistently enforced most of the standards published by SON as regards petroleum and its derivatives. According to her, there have been no complaints from consumers to support the allegations made by SON.

“If they had any concerns or observations on products quality during their random checks, we expect that DPR as the sister body saddled with the responsibility of licensing the erring facility or operations should have been properly alerted, to demonstrate a healthy synergy. We believe that oil and gas industry regulation should be left with the experts who have been trained, and equipped to handle it,” she stressed.

An official of SON said his agency is by no means usurping the roles of DPR as the law that set up SON is quite explicit on product regulation saying, “Petroleum sector is an integral part of the nation’s economy and SON’s quest to rid Nigeria of fake and substandard products must be extended there. The agency is doing that in accordance with the provision of the laws.”

But the Lagos Chairman of Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), Reverend Folorunso Oginni told our correspondent that there is duplicity of functions. According to him, the development leaves much to be desired on the nature of Nigerian laws.

Mr.Sanni Aberuagba, an energy expert said the roles of SON and DPR in enforcement in the petroleum industry is overlapping saying, “The Department of Petroleum Resources has the mandate to regulate the operations of oil and gas in the country. The agency has continually done this although there are still some lapses. The Standards Organisation of Nigeria is vested with power to ensure quality on product which also includes petroleum products. But one wonders whether the agency has the requisite expertise or trained personnel to begin to test petroleum products.”

Solution

In order to put to rest the disagreement between the two agencies, Oginni suggested that DPR should be proactive in tackling adulteration of products. According to him, the agency should explore ways to partner with SON in the drive to nip the practice in the bud instead of engaging in war. He said, “The fact is that  we have had several complaints of petroleum products adulteration especially in the riverine areas where fake refineries are discovered.”

Adebayo Ranti, a resident of Bariga told our correspondent how an adulterated diesel he bought in a filling station recently nearly burnt him and his residence. Others are not lucky to stay alive to tell the misfortune adulterated products caused them.

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