By Bassey Udo
As the blame game continues over the culpable party in the toxic fuel supply scandal, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited insist the Belgian suppliers of the adulterated premium motor spirit (PMS), popularly called petrol, are to blame.
The Group Managing Director/CEO of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, told the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum (Downstream) on Wednesday that the scandal would have been avoided if the Antwerp-based suppliers demonstrated sufficient good faith by ensuring full disclosure on the percentage methanol content and additives in the products exported to the country.
Kyari told the Committee, headed by its Chairman, Abdullahi Mahmud Gaya, that there was no way either the NNPC or the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) could have known the petroleum product contained overdose of unspecified additives if the suppliers did not disclose same.
Since the adulterated fuel was uncovered, Kyari has always said the NNPC first received a report from its petroleum products quality inspectors about the presence of some emulsion particles in the petrol cargoes shipped to Nigeria from Antwerp, Belgium.
He said further investigations revealed the presence of methanol in four of the cargoes brought into the country by NNPC’s Direct-Sale-Direct-Purchase (DSDP) suppliers, including MRS, Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium, Oando Plc, and Duke Oil, all from the LITASCO port Terminal in Antwerp-Belgium.
Although the four companies have variously denied being complicit in the scandal, the NNPC has continued to lay the blame on the Belgian suppliers.
The NNPC CEO told the lawmakers that the consignments of petrol contaminated with overdose of methanol brought into the country by the suppliers were not detected prior to their distribution to retail outlets across the country was because Nigeria’s fuel specifications do not include methanol.
Besides, he said the quality inspection protocols employed in both the loading and discharge ports did not cover the test for percentage methanol content and additives in the petrol.
In his briefing to the Committee, the NNPC boss said: “We (NNPC) are a law-abiding company. There is no way we could have known about the methanol presence in the petrol consignment brought into the country. The only way we could have known about it is if our suppliers, in good faith, made the disclosure to us.
“In this particular instance, the discovery was made by our inspection agents who noticed the emulsification at the filling stations and brought it to our attention. Subsequent investigation revealed that the four cargoes which are all from the same source also contained methanol-blended PMS.”
Following the discovery, Kyari said the NNPC moved swiftly to trace all the affected products, quarantine and isolate same from the stock that was being distributed.
He assured the Committee and Nigerians that adequate measures were being taken to speed up the process to evacuate all contaminated fuel from circulation and restore normalcy in supply and distribution of products in the country.
Beyond that, he disclosed that the company had placed significant orders for over 2.1billion litres of methanol-free PMS to be brought into the country to ensure the long queues of motorists at filling stations across the country disappear in a few days.
The NNPC, he said, would be ready to co-operate with the Committee and the NMDPRA to get to the root of the matter.
He empathised with Nigerians on the current situation and assured that adequate measures were being taken to maintain supply sufficiency and prevent future occurrence.
In his response, the Chairman of the Committee assured Nigerians that the lawmakers would get to the bottom of the issue, by ensuring it handled companies who imported the off-spec methanol-blended Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) into the country.
Editor’s Note: The report was edited to update on fresh facts and information. Thanks