Adulterated fuel: Marketers fear court cases, FG hints at compensation for damaged vehicles

Customers having problems with fuel suing outlets, arresting owners – Marketers

Consumers of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, are allegedly arresting workers and owners of filling stations over the sale of adulterated products that have reportedly affected their vehicles’ engines.

It was also learnt that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited might face litigation, especially if owners of filling stations find it difficult to manage the pressure from petrol users.

This came as a major oil marketer explained that methanol was prohibited in petrol imported into Nigeria, contradicting the position of the Federal Government on the acceptability of methanol in the PMS.

Also, the NNPC, through its spokesperson, Garba-Deen Muhammad, stated on Wednesday that the oil firm had released products to help reduce the queues seen in Abuja and other parts of the country.

Speaking on the attacks on filling stations by motorists, the President, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, said the situation grew worse on Wednesday.

He said, “There are customers who have problems with the products they bought and are suing our retail outlet owners. They are already arresting retail outlet owners and not the NNPC, but obviously, it will still get to them (NNPC) if we cannot resolve it.

“Right now a lot of arrests have been made. That is why we are concerned and always request that we should be taken along so as to get early information.

“Retail outlet owners are being arrested now and this is because when the vehicles of customers get bad they will try to hold somebody accountable. And that is happening across the country.”

Gillis-Harry, however, stated again that the matter would be addressed in about a week time, as the adulterated products had been identified and quarantined and would require time to be fully removed from tanks.

Also speaking on the issue, the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, confirmed that workers at retail outlets were being arrested.

He stated that about 20 filling stations in Port Harcourt had to close down due to the presence of adulterated petrol in their tanks.

Ukadike said, “We set up a team to go round and check the stations that have already been contaminated and see how evacuation will take place. Some people unknowingly sold the product and it was discovered a little bit late.

“I cannot give you all the filling stations affected now because the monitoring is still ongoing but I know in Port Harcourt we have reported about 15 or 20 stations. But we can’t mention their names due to safety reasons.”

He added, “Commuters don’t want to know that you got the bad fuel from the NNPC, it is unexplainable to them. And some policemen take the issue out of hand, making arrests without thorough investigation.

“In some stations, they (police) went there and packed everybody, including the pump attendants and managers and dumped them in the cell. This is what we are facing now.”

On whether the adulterated petrol issue would be sorted out soon, Ukadike replied, “It will take a few weeks. Evacuation is very difficult. You have to hire a truck, drain your tanks, put the necessary safety precautions, get a pumping machine, etc.

“In fact, how is NNPC going to reconcile these issues? You have to clean the tanks. Who will bear these costs? This is a big problem we are facing now.”

Oil marketer faults FG, says methanol illegal in petrol

A major oil marketer that stored some of the adulterated petrol imported into Nigeria by NNPC said methanol in the commodity was illegal, in contrast to the position of the government.

On Tuesday, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority had said that methanol was a regular additive in petrol and usually blended in an acceptable quantity.

But in a statement issued by MRS, seen on Wednesday, the firm stated that methanol was prohibited in petrol, adding that urgent steps were taken to analyse the adulterated product to determine the basis for its contamination.

“The product analysis revealed that the PMS discharged by MT Nord Ganier had 20 per cent methanol, which is an illegal substance in Nigeria,” the statement read in part.

It added, “As a company, we are aware that alcohol/ethanol is not permitted to be mixed in PMS specification. We immediately informed NNPC, NMDPRA and

MOMAN (Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria) and it was confirmed that other members had similar experiences.

“As at the time of this press release, MRS had a total of 350,000 litres in the tank at the (MRS) eight stations; we await approval from NNPC and NMDPRA for the return of the product.

“The eight stations have been isolated, but there are other tanks within the stations, which will receive an uncontaminated product for sale as soon as possible.”

MRS said it would continue to work with NNPC and NMDPRA for the evacuation of the contaminated product to NNPC, the sole supplier of the product.

“We are aware that NNPC has taken necessary steps to reject further imports of this product from Litasco /Duke Oil and/or any other trader, supplying fuels which contain ethanol/methanol into Nigeria,” the firm stated.

The company also explained the facts that resulted in the scarcity of petrol nationwide and how the adulterated product came into Nigeria.

It said, “Due to the current subsidy regime, NNPC is the sole supplier of all PMS in Nigeria. Consequently, NNPC through their trading arm Duke Oil, supplied a cargo of PMS purchased from international trader Litasco and delivered it with Motor Tanker Nord Gainer.”

“This vessel discharged in Apapa between the January 24 and 30, 2022 and the following major marketers with receiving quantities were the recipients of the product:

OVH, 10,000 metric tonnes; MRS, 5,000MT; NIPCO, 5,958MT; ARDOVA, 6,000MT; Total, 10,000MT.”

FG begins probe of dirty fuel importation, car damage reports

Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Wednesday began a probe of the importation process of the polluted product.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, disclosed this to State House correspondents on Wednesday after briefing the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

Sylva, who spoke after the Federal Executive Council presided over by the President at the State House, Abuja, said, “The issue did not come up in Council, but of course, you will recall I was here yesterday to brief Mr President on the issue. I’m not in a position to disclose the identities of the companies, but there are some issues and we are actively tackling it.

“Nobody has, before now, checked for methanol in our fuel, it’s not very usual, and this is the first time this is happening, and NNPC is very much up to the task. I will also convey your question to the NNPC and maybe the Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority, but we’re actively handling it, and I want to assure you that the problem will be a thing of the past very soon.”

Sylva hinted that the government would look into possible compensation for Nigerians whose automobiles had been damaged by the contaminated fuel.

On possible sanctions for the errant companies, he said, “I didn’t expect you to rush to any conclusions. There’ll be a major investigation to unravel everything, and then let’s really get to the bottom of it before we can come back and tell you what is going to happen to the culprits.

“We know that some people’s vehicles must have also been damaged; that is also going to be taken into consideration in dealing with the situation.”

The Minister of State also revealed the approval granted to his ministry by the Council to construct the 17-storey local content building in Yenagoa at N1.82bn.

In his presentation, Minister of Aviation, Hadi Sirika, said FEC approved a contract to replace aviation operation bridges at airports for N12,097,215,800.09.

Also speaking at the post-FEC briefing was the Minister of Interior, Rauf Aregbesola, who disclosed that the Council approved granting of citizenship to 286 foreign nationals out of the 600 who submitted applications.

NNPC plans to re-blend dirty fuel to reduce methanol

Meanwhile, the adulterated petrol imported into the country by the NNNPC would be re-blended to reduce the methanol in it and bring the product up to standard, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority has said.

The NMDPRA said the blending would cost money, adding that for every 200 litres of the adulterated product, 800 litres of petrol with good quality would be required for the blending.

The regulator had on Tuesday said a limited quantity of PMS with methanol quantities above Nigeria’s specification was discovered in the supply chain.

The Chief Executive Officer, NMDPRA, Mr Farouk Ahmed, while visiting some depots in Lagos on Wednesday after a meeting with industry stakeholders, said at least six vessels, carrying 300 million litres of petrol, ordered by the NNPC had arrived in the country to close the supply gap created by the withdrawal of the contaminated product

He said, “It will cost some level of money to do the blending because the off-spec material cannot be just thrown away because of the environmental effect it will cause. Eventually, all the material will be re-blended to very good quality, and it will be certified and recertified before it goes into the market.

“We have learnt lessons of extra due diligence because there are no excuses. I will not make any excuses. The fact is there were mistakes made because we received a product that was off-spec, even though there was a surveyor that actually went on board and took samples. Because this parameter was not indicated, they didn’t capture that parameter. So, going forward, we have to try and look at all parameters, all the components of imported products.

“The component that was in excess was methanol; what we agreed was that for every 200 litres of the affected volume, we need about 800 litres to blend. The issue is the quality; it is not toxic. It is not something that can destroy the environment. It is just a matter of how its effect on machinery like vehicles.”

Ahmed said the regulator had been able to work with the technical team that included the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria, the NNPC and the Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria to address the issue.

He said, “Today, I am happy to say that loading has been going on in most of the depots because we have been able to identify, isolate and quarantine the limited amount of gasoline that was affected by the methanol volume that was discovered.

“We have vessels that have arrived in the country recently. At least six arrived in the last few days ordered by the NNPC, carrying a total volume of close to 300 million litres, just to close to gap created by those vessels we have withdrawn from the system.”

According to him, the country currently has petrol volume in store that can last for 20 days.

He, however, said, “Our ideal days of sufficiency is 30 but because of the concern that made us withdraw the vessels which created the gap in our 30 days sufficiency.

“Again, with aggressive importation by the NNPC, this will be closed in a few days, according to the data we got from the NNPC’s import programme.

“Loading is also ongoing in most of the depots that have confirmed spec products; so, there is no need for panic. Hopefully, by tomorrow, Lagos will be cleared.”

According to Ahmed, there is a 39,000MT vessel that is currently about to discharge at Apapa port to major marketers including OVH, TotalEnergies, 11 Plc, Conoil and Ardova Plc.

He said, “So, once these vessels complete discharging and start pushing the products to marketers, I believe Lagos will be cleared by Friday. We have got that assurance from the marketers.

“Also, most of these vessels will also be providing volumes to most of the members of the key members of DAPPMAN.”

Marketers need compensation, says MOMAN

The Chairman, MOMAN, Mr Olumide Adeosun, said all the vessels that discharged the product as well as the depots and filling stations that received them had been identified.

“What we are trying to do now is to manage two things. One to ensure that operations continue as normal,” said Adeosun, who is the chief executive officer of Ardova (formerly Forte Oil Plc).

He said two committees had been set up to address the technical and commercial issues, including “the compensation that is much needed thereafter”.

He said, “At Ardova Plc, for instance, we had about 136 reported cases of issues with cars. We addressed all of them. The worst thing that has happened to this country in quite a few years is seeing these queues build up again. We are working assiduously to make sure the clean products we receive into our systems are pushed through to the consumers immediately, obviously, subject to all of the testing.

“We are also looking at recertifying some of the products that have been cleared before, just to make sure that again we contain the issue at the source and to make sure it doesn’t get into the supply chain.

“The technical committee’s job is to really push remediation across the system in the shortest possible time. The commercial committee’s job is to make sure that any claims that have been suffered by companies in the process of handling these contaminated products are at least raised.”

“Now, we are not sure of whether or not they would address it, but it has been raised. So, we are prioritising cleaning up the system first, then we would go with the commercials later.”

According to Adeosun, having a single importer of products into the country creates a single point of failure.

“This means that whenever that supplier has a fever, the rest of the country has a cold. And this is one of the steps, regardless of what we choose to do with subsidy removal; this is one of the remedial steps we must take as a country to legislate and to drive forward,” he added.

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