By Ifeanyi Izeze
It is pitiable that people occupying positions of trust in this country always find it difficult to own up responsibility when things go wrong by omission or commission in spheres where they hold sway.
In the recent importation of toxic fuel and the scandal that followed as a result of the attendant chronic petrol scarcity that has persisted across the country, Nigerians have waited to see both the technical and political administrators of the NNPC take responsibility for misdemeanours in the domain they oversee. But this has not happened; rather the nation’s apex oil concern and the celebrated sole importer of petrol and also sole beneficiary of the humongous subsidy doles have only been trying very hard to shift the blame of the atrocity to minors who operate as independents around the oil giant.
Was it not an outright self deceit for the President, General Mohammadu Buhari to say that “those responsible for importing and dispensing bad fuel (fuel laced with methanol) to motorist would be held accountable”? Without mincing words, that very statement as credited to the president, was at best a callous pronouncement and a devious outburst that only diminished the Office of the Honourable Minister of Petroleum who should know the exact situation in the crucial ministry he supervises.
Of course we know that the retired General never directly says anything on any issue not even when people from his home local government were massacred in their hundreds on daily basis by armed bandits. Tragically, all sorts of people under the gang name “Presidency” tell Nigerians what they want us to believe and hang it on the muted president.
Why should Buhari as the Petroleum Minister that directly supervises the NNPC or even the group managing director, Mele Kyari, not own up responsibility for the tragedy that struck this nation few weeks ago and which effect has remained till today over three weeks after the alarm was raised?
On the wake of the controversy surrounding the alleged importation of the off-specification premium motor spirit and the attendant scarcity that has persisted for three weeks running now, just hear what Kyari, the NNPC helmsman told Nigerians in a statement issued in Abuja: “On January 20, 2022, NNPC received a report from our quality inspector on the presence of emulsion particles in PMS cargoes shipped to Nigeria from Antwerp-Belgium.
“NNPC investigation revealed the presence of Methanol in Four (4) PMS cargoes imported by the following DSDP suppliers namely:
1. MRS MT Bow Pioneer LITASCO Terminal, Antwerp-Belgium;
2. Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium MT Tom Hilde;
3. Oando MT Elka Apollon;
4. Duke Oil MT Nord Gainer.”
As he said, “cargoes quality certificates issued at load port (Antwerp-Belgium) by AmSpec Belgium indicated that the gasoline complied with Nigerian specification.
“NNPC quality inspectors including GMO, SGS, GeoChem and G&G which conducted tests before discharge also showed that the gasoline met Nigerian specification.
“As a standard practice for all PMS import to Nigeria, the cargoes were equally certified by inspection agent appointed by the Nigeria Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority has met Nigerian specification.”
So according to the NNPC boss, four or more layers (firms) of quality assurance gates plus the NNPC’s inhouse checks did not discover any wrong with the quality of the fuel consignments before it was discharged and introduced to the Nigerian market? It took the consumers’ complaint for the NNPC to start to retest the product. Haba, what kind of story is that?
As stipulated in the ISO procedures, before PMS is imported into the country, a quality assurance certificate is provided by the refinery and this analysis is usually witnessed by the importer/trading company. Then the vessel management carry out their own analysis and this time samples from the vessel.
The owners of the product in this case the NNPC also pick samples from the vessel tanks and carry out analysis too. The depots where this will be dropped also pick samples and carry out another analysis. Then anybody buying from the owners of the product picks samples from sample tanks and also does analysis.
Is it not curious that everybody in this quality test matrix failed to detect this fraud?
Quality compliance and assurance tests are done at the point of delivery, as an irrevocable condition for payment and release of cargo to sail to destination.
Obviously, Kyari’s story did not add up at all and it was a pure lie to deceive the entire Nation.
From Kyari’s narrative, it means the four companies accused by the NNPC imported fuel from the same refinery abroad. Is this possible, except the four companies are creations of one entity called “the cabal”?
Which one do we believe now: the earlier statement that gave clean bill to the imported fuel or the second statement that “NNPC investigation revealed the presence of Methanol in Four (4) PMS cargoes imported by Oando, MRS et’al? Which NNPC carried out this after thought test, the same organisation that had earlier said it conducted a QA/QC test and certified the batch as fit for our domestic consumption? Chai! Who do us this ni? They can’t even articulate their lies very well and they want Nigerians to swallow it hook, line and sinker.
It should be pointed out that the Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) for PMS, NIS 116-2017, also known as petrol developed by relevant stakeholders with the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) providing the coordination completely precludes the addition of methanol for petrol in Nigeria. It also approved nil for ethanol.
Now, this is the true story of what transpired that the NNPC boss and his cabals do not want to accept: NNPC is the sole importer of all PMS in Nigeria till tomorrowand the sole receiver of all monies paid out by the Federal Government as subsidy.
It has been confirmed that NNPC through its trading arm Duke Oil, supplied a cargo of PMS purchased from international trader Litasco and delivered with Motor Tanker Nord Gainer.
This vessel discharged in Apapa between 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.
So it’s incomprehensible for the substantive Petroleum Minister and the NNPC boss to say that the four independent marketers that NNPC gave the bad fuel to distribute to Nigerians will be the ones to bear the full responsibility for the crime. What did the marketers do wrong? They received, stored in their tank farms, and went ahead to discharge the bad product brought into the country by the NNPC. Was that not what happened?
It is glaring that outright mischief or sabotage or a combination of both by the NNPC and their cronies at the Presidency created the current petrol scarcity and the attendant hardship on Nigerians. And the number one suspect in the mischief is the NNPC top management/Presidency.
Is it not curious that just while Nigerians were still grappling with what actually happened in the import scam, the NNPC boss announced a remediation expenditure of over N200 billion? And they are going to quietly take the money and nothing would happen because the displayed impunity that has characterised this administration and its operators.
From the look of things, Sspending N201bn to clean the mess may have after all been part of the original scam. This people are beginning to pile up money for 2023 presidential election and also to pay themselves off in case the game goes the other way. If you know, you know!
Whether anybody wants to hear this or not, the substantive Minister of Petroleum who happens to be the President of the Federal Republic, General Buhari, and the group managing director of the recently unbundled NNPC, Kyari have serious questions to answer. The National Assembly, if they were to be alive to their responsibility and pledge to service, would have been at the forefront of demanding this crucial explanation.
From all said and done, the claimed importation of off-spec Premium Motor Spirit has all attributes of corporate scam and executive impunity and the regulator/operator (NNPC) cannot deny culpability. This is purely an economic crime and outright treason. It can’t be an error; it was deliberate to profiteer on a contrived system that already pays billions of dollars in profit for little or no work done. How long can we continue like this as a nation of people and expect the country to make any meaningful progress? God bless Nigeria!
- IFEANYI IZEZE is a Columnist with National Daily Newspaper and can be reached on: [email protected]; 234-8033043009