From Judex Okoro, Calabar
The Cross River Chapter of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has raised concerns over the proliferation of illegal fuel stations in the state.
Cross River IPMAN Chairman Robert Obi, who raised tha alarm when the association paid a courtesy visit to Mr George Ene-Ita, the new Operations Controller, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), in Calabar on Thursday, also decried lack of supply of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) and Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) to the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) depot in Calabar.
Obi said it was worrisome that the state has become a hub for illegal petrol dealers who have been operating unregistered filling stations and even have constant supply of petroleum products more than members of IPMAN who go through rigorous processes to procure products.
He said all efforts to curb the activities of these illegal operators have failed, thus the petition to the DPR for urgent intervention to save their businesses from total collapse.
The chairman explained that IPMAN members were instructed not to take petroleum products to outlets within 20 kilometers of the Nigerian border, which they have complied with; but that illegal fuel stations’ operators are constantly smuggling petroleum products to those outlets and neighbouring countries.
He disclosed that the Akpabuyo, Bakasai and Ikom borders have turned to smuggling routes even with the huge presence of Customs officials, while marketers who do legitimate business are not allowed to take products to those routes.
On the lack of supply of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK) and Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) to the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC) depot in Calabar, Obi said the association had complained earlier and the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company (PPMC) promised to ‘send us products but was told that the Calabar depot doesn’t have enough storage facility.’
The chairman complained that the process of being a petroleum product marketer and getting DPR licence was burdensome and expensive, adding that it was demoralising for a legitimate marketer to obtain all the required certifications only to see someone open an unlicensed and uncertified station next to his facility.
‘The Chairman of PPMC called and told me to engage with the Managing Director, Storage, which I did last year before the advent of COVID-19; but up till now, we still have issues with the tanks and are still not receiving the products, even though PPMC is ready to send us products,’ he explained.
‘The NNPC tanks are available in Calabar but need to be cleaned up and slightly recalibrated to take DPK and AGO.
‘We also have the issue of private tank farms getting PMS from PPMC and selling to us at N162 per litre; if a marketer buys PMS at N162 per litre from the tank farms, how much do you expect him to sell in his fuel station?
‘To make matters worse, officials of the DPR will come to clamp down on us that we are selling above the approved pump price.
‘The correction should be done at the tank farms and not the fuel stations because they are putting us out of business.
‘It is frustrating that those of us who are registered marketers and pay taxes just to get DPR licence are not allowed to do business because of so many confusing conditions.
‘DPR should not just be there to run after and penalise IPMAN members, but must also look into their genuine concerns and assist them remain in business,’ Obi stated.
Responding, DPR Operations Controller Ene-Ita noted that IPMAN is an important association in the oil sector and it is important for the DPR to assist to meet its aims and objectives of ensuring the availability of petroleum products to the general public.
He said although some of the issues raised by IPMAN do not fall within the purview of the DPR, it was important to see how they could be resolved because if IPMAN goes out of business, the DPR won’t have much to do.
‘It is in our best interest that IPMAN remains not just in business but profitably in business.
‘Even though a few of the issues are not within our jurisdiction, we will take them before the management so that, at that level, there will be an institutional meeting point among relevant agencies.
‘Also, we will engage our security agencies to assist in curbing these illegal cross border smuggling of petroleum products,’ Ene-Ita said.