Panic as many workers and owners of filling stations were arrested by Consumers of Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, for allegedly selling adulterated products that have reportedly affected their vehicles and generators engines.
It was also learnt that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited might face litigation, especially if owners of filling stations find it difficult to manage the pressure from petrol users.
This came as a major oil marketer explained that methanol was prohibited in petrol imported into Nigeria, contradicting the position of the Federal Government on the acceptability of methanol in the PMS.
Also, the NNPC, through its spokesperson, Garba-Deen Muhammad, stated on Wednesday that the oil firm had released products to help reduce the queues seen in Abuja and other parts of the country.
Speaking on the attacks on filling stations by motorists, the President, Petroleum Products Retail Outlets owners Association of Nigeria, Billy Gillis-Harry, said the situation grew worse on Wednesday.
He said, “There are customers who have problems with the products they bought and are suing our retail outlet owners. They are already arresting retail outlet owners and not the NNPC, but obviously, it will still get to them (NNPC) if we cannot resolve it.
“Right now a lot of arrests have been made. That is why we are concerned and always request that we should be taken along so as to get early information.
“Retail outlet owners are being arrested now and this is because when the vehicles of customers get bad they will try to hold somebody accountable. And that is happening across the country.”
Gillis-Harry, however, stated again that the matter would be addressed in about a week time, as the adulterated products had been identified and quarantined and would require time to be fully removed from tanks.
Also speaking on the issue, the National Public Relations Officer, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, confirmed that workers at retail outlets were being arrested.
He stated that about 20 filling stations in Port Harcourt had to close down due to the presence of adulterated petrol in their tanks.
Ukadike said, “We set up a team to go round and check the stations that have already been contaminated and see how evacuation will take place. Some people unknowingly sold the product and it was discovered a little bit late.
“I cannot give you all the filling stations affected now because the monitoring is still ongoing but I know in Port Harcourt we have reported about 15 or 20 stations. But we can’t mention their names due to safety reasons.”
He added, “Commuters don’t want to know that you got the bad fuel from the NNPC, it is unexplainable to them. And some policemen take the issue out of hand, making arrests without thorough investigation.
“In some stations, they (police) went there and packed everybody, including the pump attendants and managers and dumped them in the cell. This is what we are facing now.”
On whether the adulterated petrol issue would be sorted out soon, Ukadike replied, “It will take a few weeks. Evacuation is very difficult. You have to hire a truck, drain your tanks, put the necessary safety precautions, get a pumping machine, etc.
“In fact, how is NNPC going to reconcile these issues? You have to clean the tanks. Who will bear these costs? This is a big problem we are facing now.”
A major oil marketer that stored some of the adulterated petrol imported into Nigeria by NNPC said methanol in the commodity was illegal, in contrast to the position of the government.
On Tuesday, the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority had said that methanol was a regular additive in petrol and usually blended in an acceptable quantity.
But in a statement issued by MRS, seen on Wednesday, the firm stated that methanol was prohibited in petrol, adding that urgent steps were taken to analyse the adulterated product to determine the basis for its contamination.
“The product analysis revealed that the PMS discharged by MT Nord Ganier had 20 per cent methanol, which is an illegal substance in Nigeria,” the statement read in part.
It added, “As a company, we are aware that alcohol/ethanol is not permitted to be mixed in PMS specification. We immediately informed NNPC, NMDPRA and
MOMAN (Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria) and it was confirmed that other members had similar experiences.
“As at the time of this press release, MRS had a total of 350,000 litres in the tank at the (MRS) eight stations; we await approval from NNPC and NMDPRA for the return of the product.
“The eight stations have been isolated, but there are other tanks within the stations, which will receive an uncontaminated product for sale as soon as possible.”
MRS said it would continue to work with NNPC and NMDPRA for the evacuation of the contaminated product to NNPC, the sole supplier of the product.
“We are aware that NNPC has taken necessary steps to reject further imports of this product from Litasco /Duke Oil and/or any other trader, supplying fuels which contain ethanol/methanol into Nigeria,” the firm stated.
The company also explained the facts that resulted in the scarcity of petrol nationwide and how the adulterated product came into Nigeria.
It said, “Due to the current subsidy regime, NNPC is the sole supplier of all PMS in Nigeria. Consequently, NNPC through their trading arm Duke Oil, supplied a cargo of PMS purchased from international trader Litasco and delivered it with Motor Tanker Nord Gainer.”
“This vessel discharged in Apapa between the 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.”
Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Wednesday began a probe of the importation process of the polluted product.
The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, disclosed this to State House correspondents on Wednesday after briefing the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Sylva, who spoke after the Federal Executive Council presided over by the President at the State House, Abuja, said, “The issue did not come up in Council, but of course, you will recall I was here yesterday to brief Mr President on the issue. I’m not in a position to disclose the identities of the companies, but there are some issues and we are actively tackling it.
“Nobody has, before now, checked for methanol in our fuel, it’s not very usual, and this is the first time this is happening, and NNPC is very much up to the task. I will also convey your question to the NNPC and maybe the Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority, but we’re actively handling it, and I want to assure you that the problem will be a thing of the past very soon.”
Sylva hinted that the government would look into possible compensation for Nigerians whose automobiles had been damaged by the contaminated fuel.
On possible sanctions for the errant companies, he said, “I didn’t expect you to rush to any conclusions. There’ll be a major investigation to unravel everything, and then let’s really get to the bottom of it before we can come back and tell you what is going to happen to the culprits.