Fuel Scarcity: How NNPC officials, depot owners allegedly aid black market operation in Calabar
The fuel situation in Calabar, the Cross River State capital and its environs is epileptic as most filling stations have been operating without normal supply. Few independent marketers who have the product to sell do so at exorbitant prices, especially when they buy from third parties. As at last week, they sold a litre at N300, while black marketers sold a litre at N400 against the official rate of N86.50k.
The major marketers, apart from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Northwest filling stations, others hardly get fuel to sell.
Following the intervention of the Cross River State Ministry for Petroleum, the fuel situation changed dramatically this week as some independent marketers and black market operators now sell a litre of fuel at N200. Last week few independent marketers like Propel and Uddy King that got PMS at the official price of N77 sold at the official rate of N86.50k per litre.
Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) depot and other tank farms in Calabar are neck deep in shady deals deeming hope of ending fuel scarcity and long queues at filling stations.
While top officials in the NNPC are busy loading trucks for unknown filling stations, private tank farms are selling the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly known as petrol at prices above government approved prices.
For instance at NNPC tank farm, some officials are running a racket loading about five to six trucks daily to a particular company that has no existing filling station in Ogoja as claimed, and top government officials are alleged to be aiding the illegal practice.
Such loadings are diverted to other places and sold at exorbitant prices to filling stations that in turn sell at high prices to the motorists, and others.
At private tank farms which are about 22 in Calabar, PMS is sold to major marketers at official price, but they sell at illegal prices to the independent marketers.
The Guardian investigation in Calabar revealed that apart from North-West Petroleum, all other tank farms including government owned NNPC engage in some fraudulent practices.
Recently, independent marketers numbering over 200 demonstrated at the Calabar Free Trade Zone (CFTZ) against the activities of Vine Petroleum which they alleged collected money from them and failed to supply them with PMS, but diverted the same product to other marketers who paid higher.
The Managing Director of the First King Oil, King Amba Bassey said: “I am a marketer liasing between the tank farm owners and Independent marketers. I’ve paid for a product for two months now through a co-broker like me who is dealing directly with Vine Petroleum, a depot located in CFTZ, Calabar yet no product.”
“The amount I paid through the middle man to Vine is N107 per litre and that was on March 2. On the arrival of the product, we were asked to add N10 to what I paid making it N117. After discharging the PMS into their tank farm, we were also asked to add another N8 now making it N125 and that we will be loaded, but till date the product has not been given to us, so also our money.”
“Patiently we have been waiting for the past two weeks nothing, now information came to us that the product that was meant for us which we paid for about a month ago has been resold to customers that are richer than us at N135 and N140 per litre. The actual amount per litre we were supposed to pay is N77 government approved price at the depot, but we managed to pay N117 plus the additional charges because of the scarcity yet our product has not been given to us, our money has not been refunded and our products are being lifted.
“We have about 200 marketers who are involved and the product we are expecting from Vine is over three million litres. I have about four trucks which is about 160, 000 litres and if I check what I collected from the bank, I incure losses on a daily basis.”
Another marketer, Mr. Chukwuemeka Ejimkeonye, said: “They sold the product to us at N117. About two months plus we have not gotten our product nor our money refunded. Some people in the company came behind to sell the product to us at N145 which is not done anywhere.
“Government should help us because tank farm owners have become fraudulent these days. They take people’s money to trade. I can tell you the only depot that is selling the product at government price is North-West Petroleum, but when you pay to all these depot like Vine Oil, after two days they will come back and tell you to pay the difference again and they will not be able to load you. These are the products government has released to them to sell at government price of N77 per litre. We have to put a stop to this”.
“The tank farm owners now try to hoard products and sell in black market to us.” However the Depot Manager Vine Petroleum, Mr. Offiong Nsemo denied the allegation of fraudulent act noting that there was no issue there.
“As the time the marketers paid for their products, the person in charge of the product was not in Calabar. Now the person is here and we worked throughout the Easter period to ensure things are okay. We advised them to hold on and allow us reconcile the payments and other things before they will be loaded. Right now we have resolved everything and they are trying to write their passes for them”.
On allegation that the product was resold at a higher price to other marketers, he said: “How can they carry such information and where did they get the information from. There is nothing like that, I am telling you. How can someone make payment to a company and you divert it to another, it doesn’t make sense. What they are saying is not true. Some people say such just to blackmail. We are putting things in place ,they will be attended to. There is no issue there”.
Following the protest, Vine had issued passes to the marketers to commence loading but as at press time no truck of the affected marketers was loaded and even monies paid are yet to be refunded.
Reacting to the alleged fraudulent activities at the tank farms, the State Commissioner for Petroleum, Mr. Itaya Nyong, denied involvement in any fraudulent act and put the blame on NNPC officials saying, “two weeks ago I got information that PPMC products in private tank farms was going for N104 to N105 per litre and we felt bad.”
“In fact we need to thank North-West petroleum, without them this State would have been in real crisis today. That is the only private depot that is not only giving products at government price, but also dispensing products at official rate at their retail outlet. Without them I am sure this state would have been grounded.
“As we speak the entire private depot owners in the state have ganged up against North-West for doing the right thing but Cross Riverians are praying for them.”
“As I speak to you I don’t know the racketeering that is taking place there because there are procedures. You mentioned a company I don’t know. The question we should ask is how did they get NNPC product and through what name. What are the procedures in getting allocation and who minutes to who and who is at the other end that barges these products, there are procedures, where is DPR, PPMC and other agencies?
“I don’t work in NNPC so whosoever that is throwing any name please I want you to dig this out because the scandal in NNPC is just terrible.
Nyong said: “What they are doing in NNPC is that a marketer pays the ex-depot price N77 to the NNPC account and they (NNPC officials) get the differential and as I speak to you NNPC products are sold for between N120 to N125, you can imagine the difference they make. It is a racket they do and as a result the major retail outlets don’t get products. Whatever fraud or racketeering is within NNPC, they should be investigated… I pity the independent marketers”.
He gave the assurance that his personnel would start monitoring movement of trucks from the depot to their destination to avoid diversion.
On his part, the NNPC Depot Manager Alhaji Ali Tahir denied involvement in any fraudulent act, but admitted that the allegation that NNPC was loading six trucks a day to Omotosho Company was correct.
He said: “You are right on that issue. I saw a marketer Omotosho allocation paper and I signed the barge. Prior to that time we were on intervention and during that period, there were a lot of companies that were allowed to load to Abuja and that was an automatic intervention from Abuja and I thought it was part of those ones. I signed the product but after closing, I asked what is this Omotosho doing here and why did you batch it alone with five trucks in a day, is it part of the intervention? They said no because somebody complained. Then I immediately stopped its loading and I removed its ticket and up till now I am investigating it. They entered the system through the intervention and we are tackling it. Omotosho is a normal marketer with us and it is within the circle barge.”
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