The Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA) has called on the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to own up and take full responsibility for the artificial fuel scarcity currently ravaging the country and the attendant long queues at petrol stations, depressing traffic snarls, and hikes in transportation fares, among other unpleasant consequences.
CAPPA made the call following the February 8, 2022, announcement by the Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) that the cause of the latest fuel scarcity is the current effort of the NNPC to recall from circulation and public consumption, over 100 million litres of harmful petroleum products with methanol quantities above Nigeria’s specification.
Media reports indicate that one of the business units of the NNPC imported the adulterated products which was then supplied to oil marketers by the Corporation for onward distribution across the federation.
Before the chapter of contaminated products in circulation, thousands of Nigerians had already besieged fuel stations in anticipation of a looming fuel scarcity premised on the possible removal of fuel subsidy by government, and threats by oil marketers to disrupt distribution upon an increment of ex-depot petrol price.
In a statement issued in Lagos, CAPPA said that the NMDPRA’s admission of contaminated petroleum products in circulation cannot be assuaged by the usual lip-service apologies to Nigerians, and mere withdrawal of the offensive product from circulation.
CAPPA Executive Director, Akinbode Oluwafemi said: “Once again, Nigerians are the victims of an industry that is not transparent and continues to demonstrate collusive lack of oversight on operators in the sector.
“The disaster of toxic petroleum products in public circulation tellingly spotlights the mindboggling corruption orchestrated by thieving capitalists in the country’s oil sector, the lack of accountability systems in the country that fuel the irresponsibility and negligence of regulators to their oversight responsibilities, and the consequences of Nigeria’s failures to resuscitate its moribund refineries despite being led by a former Minister of Petroleum.
“The incessant scarcity of petroleum products in Nigeria despite being the largest producer of crude oil in Africa once again lays bare the ineptitude of the ruling elite and unpleasant management systems of regulatory and administrative bodies empowered to exercise oversight of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry. It is a crying shame mainly because Nigeria’s situation is akin to a man who lives on the banks of the river yet washes his hand with spittle!”
CAPPA believes that it is also imperative to flag recent research studies conducted by veritable institutions that exposed the horrible fact that Nigeria’s dependence on imported petroleum products has created an international market of ‘’European refineries and commodity brokers’’ who collude with importers of petroleum products to ‘’blend crude oil with benzene and other carcinogenic chemicals that create fuels hundred times over limits’’.
CAPPA insists that the situation is causing significant particulate pollution in the environment and damage to cars.
A July 2020 report of the British newspaper, The Guardian reveals, this is not a new development as Nigeria has for long been a destination for “low-grade, dirty fuel, made in Dutch, Belgian, and other European refineries” which are found on the average too often exceed “EU pollution limits by as much as 204 times, and by 43 times the level for gasoline”. Consequently, Nigeria ranks fourth in the world for deaths caused by air pollution with at least “114, 000 people dying prematurely from air pollution each year”.
Meanwhile, Nigeria not only ranks as the 6th largest crude oil producer in the world but also boasts of a crude oil reserve that majorly consists of the high quality, low sulphur “Bonny Light” crude which is sought all over the world because of its low corrosive effects on refinery infrastructure and low environmental impact of its byproducts.
The group adds: “Unfortunately, this is not available to Nigerians as 2 million barrels per day of this highly valued crude oil is daily extracted and exported out of the country by oil majors for consumption by the European populace. The situation expressed above illustrates the paradox that continues to attend Nigeria’s oil and gas sector despite recent reforms including the signing of the Petroleum Industry ACT (PIA) 2021. We are of the strong opinion that this present scarcity calls for a holistic reevaluation and redirection of the way and manner Nigeria’s oil and gas sector is being run.
“CAPPA is not satisfied with the mere recall of the contaminated products which many Nigerians have already procured and will likely cause damage to their vehicles and other fuel-reliant machines. We call on the Federal government to issue appropriate sanctions against the culprit-supplier of the contaminated fuel product, and officials of the NNPC and other relevant national regulators for failing in their oversight functions.
“Furthermore, we urge state authorities to boost efforts to resuscitate local refineries to ensure Nigeria’s access to affordable fuel products, end the opaque subsidy regime, arrest perpetual occurrences of fuel scarcity, and protect the environment from the harmful effects of the ‘dirty’ fuel imported from Europe.
“We demand adequate compensation for citizens whose cars, generators, and other fuel-reliant appliances may have been adversely affected by the adulterated petroleum product in circulation.”