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Stop diversion of petrol, NNPC tells marketers

Concerned that the nationwide scarcity of petrol has refused to ease despite its efforts to flood the market with the product, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has raised the alarm over the alleged diversion of trucks of petrol meant for Abuja and other major cities to unknown destinations, where they are sold at high prices.
But some major marketers and depot owners, who spoke to THISDAY on the condition of anonymity, have blamed the NNPC for the diversion, alleging that the corporation had directed that most of the trucks that load petrol in Lagos should discharge in Abuja and the Suleija axis “as if these two cities were the only towns in Nigeria”.
The marketers have also accused officials of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund (PEF) at the depots of collecting between N70,000 and N100,000 bribe per truck to help the owners divert to other destinations by manipulating the agency’s online monitoring mechanism, Project Aquila, which was designed to check the diversion of petroleum products.
The spokesman of NNPC, Mr. Ohi Alegbe, however, stated that the marketers have no excuse for diverting products allocated to them by the corporation.
“We are doing our best. All NNPC stations have fuel. Why are the marketers diverting products? Why are they not selling in their filling stations? Why are they selling to black marketers? They are just indicting themselves,” Alegbe said.
Also, the spokesman of PEF, Mr. Goddy Nnadi, told THISDAY that the allegation against officials of the agency was false and baseless, insisting that the officials of the agency do not have control on the information concerning each truck, which he said, is dispatched electronically from depot to depot.
Sources at the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of NNPC, told THISDAY that 111 trucks were loaded to Abuja on Friday but 70 per cent of the petrol stations in the city were not selling on Saturday.
“I don’t believe all those volumes had been sold yesterday (Friday) to warrant the long queues in the few stations selling. What I suspect is that most of the volume have been diverted outside Abuja. If you take a drive along the Suleja-Kaduna Road, you will see that all the stations along the road are selling despite the fact that we didn’t supply fuel to them.
“The question is where are they getting the supply from? 111 trucks can refuel a total of 73,260 vehicles at the rate of 50 litres per vehicle,” said one of the sources.
Another top official of PPMC also confirmed that last week alone, the NNPC dispatched 386 trucks inside Abuja only.
According to him, 386 trucks can refuel 234,760 vehicles at the rate of 50 litres per vehicle.
“For as long as the black market exists outside Abuja, the product will definitely find its way to those hotspots where a litre of petrol sells for as high as N120 per litre,” he added.
He also stated that the NNPC would be compelled to read the riot act to the major marketers to desist from diversion of the product.
But some of the major marketers, who spoke to THISDAY, blamed NNPC for giving preferential treatment to Abuja and Suleja, thus encouraging diversion of fuel.
“When NNPC allocates 200 trucks to a depot, they will insist that all the trucks must go to major marketers and NNPC mega filling stations in Suleja or Abuja. Is it only Suleja or Abuja that is in Nigeria?
“They will bring their men to the gates to ensure that only trucks going to any of the two places will be allowed to load. That is why trucks meant for those places are diverted,” said one of the marketers.
The marketers also accused PEF officials stationed at the depots of aiding the diversion of petrol.
“Some marketers pay between N70,000 and N100,000 as bribe to PEF officials for each truck. The officials will give them the seal to go to Abuja, for instance. The marketer will not go to Abuja but will divert the product, while the PEF officials will help him to process the online information to prove that the product was delivered to Abuja,” said an official of the independent marketers.
On the allegation by NNPC that the marketers were diverting to areas where they sell at N120 per litre, one of the marketers also blamed NNPC for this malpractice.
“When marketers pay money to the NNPC for petrol, it takes NNPC up to three months to load the marketer. So the marketer adds all the financial costs of the delay to the cost of the product.
“NNPC has no moral right to sanction marketers that sell above official price,” he added.
Nnadi, however, exonerated PEF officials of alleged complicity in the diversion of petrol, saying that any marketer that diverts product is not paid bridging claims.
According to him, officials of the agency at the depots cannot collect bribes because they do not have the capacity to aid diversion successfully.
“Our staff cannot change what is on the system and the system goes with what is on the document, which is dispatched electronically from depot to depot. If the marketer does not produce the out-turn report duly signed by the manager of a filling station, he is not paid bridging claims,” he said.

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