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Fuel Scarcity Fraud: Major Marketers Connection

By: FRANK BOYEDE

Outside Abuja and Lagos, Nigerian motorists are now at the mercy of independent petroleum marketers. Motorists pay for fuel through their noses. Queues seem to have disappeared. But as soon as an NNPC station discharges fuel, queues appear, sometimes longer than a kilometre.

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]utside Lagos and Abuja, while the likes of Mobil, OANDO, Total, etc have no fuel at all, independent marketers have enough fuel to sell to motorists at cut-throat prices, as much as N250 per litre. For instance, in Port Harcourt over the weekend, all filling stations, including major marketers sell at N250/litre to N300/litre.

Our Correspondent found out that the only fuel marketer at Obajana, where Dangote Cement factory is located is NIPCO. And they sell to motorists at N220/litre.

Motorists have been paying the price of what an insider of Total Plc described as a racket between major and independent marketers. Major marketers (also known as bulk customers) receive supplies from Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), subsidiary of NNPC. They, in turn, are expected to meet the needs of millions of customers across the country for the products by discharging fuel at their marketing outlets and also supplying independent marketers.

According to a manager of an Ado-Ekiti based independent marketing outlets, who spoke to our correspondent in confidence over the weekend, major marketers know the states and isolated locations, where DPR have never “and will never ever visit”.

In connivance with independent marketers and truck drivers, major marketers divert most fuel lifted from depot to filling stations in the outskirts of the country; discharge the fuel at prices ranging from N87 to N90 per litre. And independent marketers, who are sure of DPR’s incapacity, would on the other hand sell to motorists at about 100% or even 200% of the price they bought from bulk marketers, which is why they freely sell to motorists at N200 to N260 per litre, using calculators.

Other means by which major fuel marketers maximise their profits is to sell as much as they could to black marketers at night, usually between the hours of 01am and 3.0AM. Such practice is still prevalent in major cities. While such black marketers keep fuel they buy at night under covered drainages along street close to the station, others transport the fuel to the outskirts of the city for sale at exhorbitant prices.

As at last week, Motoring World investigation revealed that lots of fuel imported into the country still find their ways to neighboring countries. Other unbelievable routes, where there is always abundant of fuel is the a partly tarred road before Egbin Termal station.

Our source, who visited the route recently said: “Shortly before you reach Egbin Termal Station, there is a finely tarred road on the left. If you follow the road, you would soon get to an untarred part and afterwards rough road. And you will soon get to a civilian checkpoint, where you would be asked what you are looking for.”

According to him, if you speak the right language, you would be sold as many 50 litre jerry cans of petrol as you desire.

“It’s like visiting an invisible depot,” he said. “But if you are suspected, especially when your language gives you out, you may never return. Can you imagine that kind of place still exists in a nation of this century? What surprises me most is the fact that fuel is stored there in abundant, especially when there is scarcity.”

Commenting on the sabotaging behavious of oil marketers, a top management staff of Toral Plc, who spoke to Motoring World in confidence, said: “The mistake the present regime made is to have fixed the pump price. The administration ought not to have fixed a pump prices after signing off subsidy.

“That is what is fighting back now. Secondly, given the present state of the economy manifested in the scarcity of FOREX, 78% is too much for NNPC to import. It should be far less than that. As you heard recently, NNPC has now gone to International Oil Companies cap in hand to help with FOREX so that the nation could import enough fuel for local consumption. Why not simply reallocate the percentage of fuel importation between NNPC and multinational marketers and then deregulate the market. You can’t dictate to those who have the money. They’ll frustrate you.”

According to our source, as a way of fighting back and frustrating the government regulation policy, what certain major oil marketers do is to either out-rightly refuse to import fuel or when they do, divert them to independent marketers, who will sell them at prices “that would embarrass the government in power.”

When they discharge at their marketing outlets, they discharge just about half a truck and the truck driver, under instruction diverts the rest to an outskirt station, where it would be purchased for as much as N90 per litre. And the latter would have a field day, selling at over N200 per litre.

Over the weekend, many independent marketers in Oshogo, Ado-Ekiti, Akure, Ilorin and PortHarcourt, without queues, were selling fuel, though at prices ranging between N200 and N250.

Fuel supply operations involves PPMC supplying fuel to the bulk customers, including the likes of OANDO, Total, Mobil, Total, Forte Oil, Corn Oil, etc fall into this category. Since President Buhari’s regime announced removal of fuel subsidy and fixing of pump prices at N86 for NNPC and N86.50 for major and independent marketers, saboteurs, who we gathered are connected to and sponsored by certain oil marketers are bent on frustrating the government.

Notwithstanding, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr. Ibe Kachikwu recently met with International Oil Companies (IOCs) operating in the country, who we gathered, have agreed to support petrol marketers with foreign exchange to import premium motor spirit (PMS) to reduce the tension and suffering of the nation’s motorists, many of who have severally had to sleep at petrol stations before they could fuel heir vehicles.

Fuel-HawkersAs a way of easing to forexfuel crisis, Kachikwu recently announced a $200 million forex package negotiated with the IOCs and the CBN to ease the forex challenges of petrol marketers. The package, he explained, would see individual IOCs tied to select fuel marketing companies to help them with forex to meet their Quarter-2 importation lot.

What NNPC has not done, however, is doing something about DPR, who only play to the gallery, whenever petrol crisis gets to the head. For instance, while in certain locations, including state capitals, in Eastern Nigeria, petrol has been sold for over N200 per litre in the last two years, DPR has several time showed off in Abuja and sometimes in Lagos. In a spate of six months, DPR was twice at Bida making scapegoats of marketers.

While in Akure, Ado-Ekiti, Ibadan, Oshogbo, Portharcout, Kaduna, Ilorin, among others, independent and major marketers continuously exploit motorists with impunity. DPR’s excuse is that they understaffed, although they have enough staff to visit the same location many times in six months, playing the video and photos on the gallery of the world media.

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