By Bassey Udo
The Federal Government on Sunday regretted the scarcity of premium motor spirit (PMS) experienced by fuel consumers last week, promising to unravel the circumstances that resulted in adulterated products being brought into the country.
The fuel supply and distribution system in the country, which has not experienced any prolonged disruption in the better part of the last six years, was jolted last week when the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited reported the discovery of adulterated products in four of the consignments imported into the country.
The Group Managing Director/CEO of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, said the toxic products, which involved an overdose of methanol blended into the products were traced to four cargoes shipped to Nigeria from Antwerp, Belgium.
Kyari said the cargoes, which showed the presence of some emulsion particles of ethanol, were imported by its 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.
The NNPC boss who promptly apologized to Nigerians for the development, gave reasons why the regulatory authorities, including the Midstream/Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, failed to detect the overdose methanol in the products prior to being distributed to retail outlets.
Nigeria’s quality inspection protocols in both the loading and discharge ports, he said, do not include testing for methanol content and additives in petrol.
Besides, he said there was no way the NNPC and NMDPRA could have dictated the methanol presence in the petrol consignments brought into the country if Belgian suppliers failed to show good faith by disclosing those details to Nigeria.
Following the discovery, the effort by the NNPC and NMDPRA to isolate the contaminated consignment from the rest of the stock resulted in a shortage of supply, which culminated in long queues of motorists at petrol filling stations across the country.
However, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Horatius Egua, blamed the scarcity on inspection failure, which allowed the adulterated products into the country.
Part of the statement reads: “In the last weeks, Nigerians have grappled with fuel scarcity, not because of the absence of supply of products, but due to inspection failure, which allowed adulterated products (ro be imported) into the country.
“This is regrettable, and the Federal Government sympathizes with the citizenry over the unforeseen hardship, occasioned by the inevitable scarcity.
“Let me once again appeal to Nigerians to be patient with the government in finding lasting solutions to the crisis.
“We appreciate the NNPC for showing so much concern to the plight of Nigerians by coming forward with an apology. This is unprecedented and shows that we on the government side are not afraid to take responsibility.”
The Minister said the NMDPRA has been out on the streets and filling stations to ensure that the situation normalizes quickly, adding that the gradual return of normalcy in fuel distribution throughout the country was enough evidence that the efforts are beginning to yield fruits.
He said rather than continue to trade blames as was customary in Nigeria, this was the time for collective action to save an unforeseen situation.
“It is therefore not a time to query anyone, but a time to come together to salvage the plight of the average Nigerian.
“After the storm settles, there will be time enough to investigate and get to the bottom, so that this does not repeat itself.
“Mr. President’s charge to all parties and agencies concerned is to work together to ensure that normalcy returns quickly. The Nigerian people deserve the best and President Muhammadu Buhari’s government is determined to set the country on the right path of petroleum products availability and sustainability, as demonstrated in the award of the contracts for the rehabilitation of all our refineries and the acquisition of stake in the Dangote Refinery.
“Let us as Nigerians stand shoulder to shoulder in our shared quest for a greater country,” Sylva said.