Operations of the Petroleum Downstream Sector in Rivers State got ruffled last week, following a face-off between the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association (IPMAN), the management of the Port Harcourt Refining Company (PHRC) and the Petroleum Products Marketing Company (PPMC).
Problem started when the leadership of IPMAN mobilised its members last Wednesday to stage a peaceful protest at the premises of the PHRC and PPMC in Port Harcourt to register their discontent over perceived institutional breaches and inefficiencies on the part of the companies to discharge their statutory functions.
The protest which commenced in the early hours of Wednesday, last week, shut down the operations of the two federal agencies, as the aggrieved IPMAN members barricaded the entrances to the two companies with placards of varying inscriptions to press home their demands. Some of the placards read thus: “Diversion of our products is a crime,” “Private depots owners steal “PPMC products with the backing of NNPC staff,” “We want products not excuses, “ PHRC, PPMC encouraging illegal bunkering.”
Since then Motorists and other users of petroleum products have been thrown into a state of apprehension and panic over a looming fuel scarcity following the shutdown and the threat of IPMAN and other related organisations to down tool if the PHRC and PPMC failed to heed their demands.
But IPMAN has insisted that its actions as a body was justifiable as it was billed to expose the sharp practices in the sector which have undermined their business concerns and service delivery to the public.
The major bone of contention, according to the IPMAN leadership, is that for over two years now, the PHRC and PPMC have failed to produce AGO(diesel)or DPR(kerosine) thereby making the independent marketers to depend on adulterated diesel (kpoofire) to fuel their haulage trucks before they could load the “imported PMS((Petrol) made available at the deport.”
This tendency, according to the IPMAN leadership, was an indication that PHRC and PPMC were encouraging illegal bunkering.
Rivers State Chairman of lPMAN, Comrade Emmanuel Inimgba, who spoke with The Tide in an exclusive interview prior to the protest, disclosed that the dependence of the independent marketers on adulterated diesel to fuel their trucks in the loading of products was destructive on the engines and also exposed them to health dangers and other associated hazards.
The Rivers IPMAN said petroleum products sent from Lagos and Warri to Port Harcourt were diverted to private depots in Port Harcourt which are mostly owned by PPMC and NNPC management, and thus deny the independent marketers acces to the products at PPMC depot in Port Harcourt.
He said; “For more than two years now we haven’t been loading any products apart from imported PMS, we don’t have access to diesel and kerosene and we are constraint to depend on illegally refined products to power our loading trucks. This has resulted in very high cost of operation on our part and affected the delivery of our services to the public, we are not going to load from those private depots where our products are diverted to until the products are supplied to the right depot.”
Comrade lnimgba who described the operations and services of IPMAN as capital intensive, said most of the independent marketers obtained loan facilities from banks to run their businesses and as such were under tight obligation to pay back the funds.
He regretted the perceived “indifference” of the regulatory agency in the Petroleum industry, i.e the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) which according to him seem to gloss over the anomalies in the activities of the downstream sector in Rivers State despite several overtures made by IPMAN and other affected stakeholders to address the rising challenges.
He pointed out that the protest was to expose the; “shoddy deals going on in the down stream sector and to bring to the fore the sad experiences of the independent marketers.”
He called on the DPR to live up to its statutory responsibilities by creating the enabling environment and ensuring transparency in the process, especially in products availability, arbitrary increase in prices of products and renewal operational licenses.
Comrade lnimgba also raised concern over the growing spate of insecurity against the investment of the independent marketers, noting that filling stations have become targets of incessant robbery, especially in the night.
While applauding the Rivers State Governor for his efforts in promoting the security of lives and properties in the state, he appealed to the government to create a special police division to protect the investments of the independent marketers to enable them render services to the public with relative ease.
“ Filling station owners have become endangered species, we can’t sell at night without threats of robbery attack.
The use of POS has helped to an extent but we want the government to come to our aid by creating a special police division to protect our operations. This will go a long way to address the challenges of insecurity we are experiencing,” he stated.
The IPMAN chairman also commented on the state of refineries in the country, particularly the Port Harcourt Refinery which he said was completely dysfunctional. He called on the Federal Government to fix the ailing refineries and make them effective in product delivery.
Apart from revamping the existing refineries, he said the Federal Government should also make real its promise of building modular refineries in the Niger Delta Region so as to give the people of the oil rich region a sense of active participation in the oil and gas industry as well as enhance massive economic growth and expansion in the industry.
He contended that the building of modular refineries in the Niger Delta would address the issues of unemployment and other social vices among the youth.
He said; “when modular refineries are created in the Niger Delta, most youths who engage in illegal bunkering will channel their talents and energies in a more positive way as their technological capacities will be fully developed.”
Comrade Inimgba said that existing policies in the Nigeria oil and gas sector were tailored to the disadvantage of the Niger Delta people. He regretted that despite the enormous contributions of the region to the development of national economy the region still suffered huge development neglects.
He, therefore, called for a review of Nigerias’ petroleum laws to reflect the imperatives of justice by giving the people of the Niger Delta assess to their natural resources for the development of the region.
“I want to correct the erroneous impression that the people of the Niger Delta are not fit to play roles in the oil and gas industry, we have qualified technologists and technocrats in the Niger Delta. We want the Federal Government to allocate oil blocks to indigenes of the Niger Delta, this will give the people a sense of belonging, create direct development impact in the region and correct the imbalances in the oil and gas sector. “
The lPMAN chairman was also irked over the issue of pipeline vandalisation and explosions which had become a recurrent event in the Niger Delta region, resulting in wastages of lives and revenue.
He said IPMAN as a body was totally against pipeline vandalisation which is considered as sabotage, adding that the association has contributed its quota towards addressing the menace, such as constitution of special anti-pipeline vandalisation committee with the mandate to work with relevant stakeholders to address the endemic vice.
He pointed out that the issue of pipeline vandalisation can not be tackled on a shallow bases except the root cause is addressed.
“IPMAN as a body condemns pipeline vandalisation in its entirety, it’s a menace that have brought incalculable losses as people are killed in the process while revenue is lost.These pipelines pass through communities, the government should liase with communities on the surveillance and security of the pipelines. Also, obsolete oil pipelines in the Niger Delta should be replaced to avoid leakages and possible explosion,” he said.
Speaking on the activities of multinationals corporations and International Oil and Gas Companies (IOCS) in the Niger Delta, the oil and gas expert described the modus operandi of most of the companies as “defective and bereft of international best Practices.”
He expressed disappointment over the fact that “ most of the companies operating in the Niger Delta deny the people employment quotas or simply engage them without stipulated employment policies or condition of service and subject them to slave labour and caualisation.”
He also kicked against the relocation of the corporate headquarters of the multinationals from the Niger Delta to Lagos on the excuse of insecurity, saying that such excuses were calculated ploys to slight the region economically.
Osinbajo Solicits Support For FG’s Housing Scheme
Osinbajo stated this on Monday when he received, on a courtesy visit to the Presidential Villa, a delegation from the Financial Markets Dealers Quotations Group (FMDQ) led by its Chief Executive Officer, Bola Onadele; who came alongside a delegation from the Independent Petroleum Producers Group.
Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, disclosed this in a statement titled ‘Let’s unlock Nigeria’s housing deficit, Osinbajo tasks financial market experts.’
Economic experts posit that the housing deficit in Nigeria is estimated between 18-22 million housing units, while the ratio of mortgage finance to GDP in the country is only 0.5 per cent, it is 31 per cent in South Africa and two per cent in Ghana and Botswana.
In his address, the Vice President said, “I like the point you made about the National Housing Blueprint. I very strongly believe that if we can unlock the conundrum in the sector, we can get things working.
“In our ESP, we have something on social housing but one of the critical issues there is how to market these houses, how we can provide the finance so that people can afford to buy them. These are houses that are in the order of about N2 million or N2.5 million.
“But there are still constraints on account of the fact that we just do not have anything like a feasible housing finance model, I think it is time for us to do so. It just looks like it has always escaped our capacity to find a real solution to the problem”.
Speaking on the possibility of having a model that will work, Osinbajo noted that “everyone recognises that we are in very challenging times. But I agree with you that the sheer range and vastness of our potentials make it seem almost intuitive that we are bound to succeed.
“I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever, that given the right mix of policy initiatives, we can get these things done. And your characterization of what needs to be done like attracting capital and sustaining it is so important because ultimately, capital will go where it is best treated.
“And if we are able to attract it (because we have the market, we have everything going for us), even in the worst of times, despite the situation, you find that there is still a great deal of interest.”
Speaking earlier, Onadele said the visit was to inform the Vice President about the transformation taking place in the FMDQ and the need for government support in growing the financial market for the benefit of Nigerians and the economy.
Nigerians Spent N2.33trn On Petrol In 13 Months – NNPC
Out of this amount, the corporation disclosed, Premium Motor Spirit contributed about 99.61 per cent of the total sales with a value of N2.34tn.
A statement by the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division of the Corporation, Garba-Deen Muhammad, said the figures were contained in the May 2021 edition of the NNPC Monthly Financial and Operations Report.
The statement was titled, “NNPC records crude oil, gas sales of $219.75m in May …posts N295.72bn from sale of petroleum products”
It read in part, “Total revenues generated from the sale of petroleum products for the period of May 2020 to May 2021 stood at N2.345tn where Premium Motor Spirit contributed about 99.61 per cent of the total sales with a value of N2.336 trillion.
“In terms of volume, the figure translates to a total of 2.241 billion litres of white products sold and distributed by PPMC in the month of May 2021 compared with 1.673billion litres in the month of April 2021.”
Total sales of petroleum products for the period May 2020 to May 2021 stood at 18.65 billion litres and PMS accounted for 99.69 per cent of total volume.
The corporation also recorded a total crude oil and gas export sales of $219.75m in May this year.
The $219.75m represents an increase in sales of 180.29 per cent when compared to the previous month of April this year.
The report stated that crude oil export sales contributed $181.19m (82.45 per cent) of the dollar transactions compared with $4.22m contribution in the previous month, while the export gas sales component stood at $38.56m in May 2021.
Forex: CBN To Engage Crime Agencies To Fight Fraudsters
The apex bank had, few weeks ago, stopped selling forex to Bureau De Change operators and asked legitimate travellers to approach the banks to access cheap forex.
This is against the backdrop that many customers have been deceiving commercial banks with fake documents to obtain the forex at cheaper rate, and prevented genuine travellers from gaining access to forex.
The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had in an earlier statement, said that the BDCs defeated their purpose of existence to provide forex to retail users and had become wholesale and illegal dealers.
“They have remained renegade and so greedy, recalcitrant with abnormally high profit from these sales, while ordinary Nigerians have been left to feel the pain and therefore suffer,” the CBN boss said.
Emiefele had posited that the CBN had maintained its stand to discontinue the sale of forex to the BDCs.
He urged Nigerians with legitimate business to approach the banks for cheap forex.
According to him, travellers could access up to $4,000 for personal travelling allowance and $5,000 for business travelling allowance.
Findings, however, showed that commercial banks have been reporting fraudulent forex demands to the CBN.
Confirming this, the CBN governor said, “We conducted a study; one of the banks in one day sold to 52 people who said they wanted to travel. After two weeks, they went to check, 40 out of the 52 had cancelled their tickets.
“How could you have a situation where about 70 per cent or 80 per cent who went to bank to buy BTA on the reason that they want to travel, banks sold to them, they turned back and went and sold to the black market. They were asked to return it and we are going to pursue you if you are involved in these nefarious activities.
“If you go to bank with fake visa, fake passport, we have told them not to sell to you. If they sell to you mistakenly, and after two weeks, we check and find that you cancelled your ticket or your visa is fake, they will call you because you are their customer.
“They have your BVN, they have your number, they will call you to return the dollars. If you do not return it, they will place your name on their website, your BVN on their website, we will pick those details.
“We will send them to EFCC and other crime agencies, they will pursue you and you must return the dollars because you cannot acquire it illegally. That is our position”.
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