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Safety: Nigerian Senate alerts consumers to substandard petrol, diesel in markets, alleges sabotage

*The Nigerian Senate raises an alarm over the influx of substandard Premium Motor Spirit, known as petrol, and Automotive Gas Oil, or diesel into the country’s market, accusing the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority of indiscriminate issuance of import licences for diesel and Jet A-1, despite sufficient local production capacity

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

Against the backdrop of the reported “importation of hazardous petroleum products” into Nigeria and the need to protect energy consumers, the Senate, in the National Assembly (NASS), Wednesday, July 3, 2024, raised an alarm over the influx of substandard Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, and Automotive Gas Oil (AGO) or diesel into the country’s market.

ConsumerConnect reports Senator Asuquo Ekpeyong, in a matter of urgent national importance on the floor of the Upper Legislative Chamber Wednesday, disclosed noted that a report June 16 indicated that 12 diesel cargoes conveying a total of 660 tonnes of diesel were exported by refineries to offshore Lome, in Togo, for further distribution to West African markets, mainly Nigeria.

Ekpeyong stated the quality of the said diesel was below the Nigerian standard in terms of flash and sulphur levels.

The Federal lawmaker also disclosed though the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), also known as The Authority recently revised the standards of diesel importation into the country in line with the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), 2021, the market regulator itself has been incapable of enforcing compliance with the stipulated standards.

Ad-hoc committee to investigate importation of hazardous petroleum products into Nigeria

In view of the development, the Senate has set up an ad-hoc committee to investigate into the continued importation of hazardous petroleum products, and dumping of substandard diesel into the West African country’s market.

Ekpeyong as well asserted that the NMDPRA has continued to issue import licences for diesel and Jet A-1 indiscriminately, despite sufficient local production capacity.

It is also noted that the Federal legislators expressed anger over what they described as “sabotage and a clear failure of the fundamental objectives of the much-touted Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), 2021.

The Senate, however, averred that those petroleum products importers found culpable in the illicit act must face the wrath of the law.

Speaking on the matter of public concern, Senate President Godswill Akpabio, also aligned his submission to views of other lawmakers, stating that the issues raised within the PIA should be reviewed, not as an act of witch-hunting anyone, but to set the records straight in the downstream petroleum sector of the economy.

The Ad-hoc Committee to investigate the alleged importation of hazardous petroleum products into Nigeria has been given three weeks to report back to the house.

Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (Ekiti State), Senate Leader, chairs the Ad-hoc Committee of the Senate to probe the allegation.

How NMDPRA, other industry regulators frustrate operations of local oil refineries, by Devakumar Edwin, Vice-President, Oil & Gas at Dangote Group

ConsumerConnect reports Devakumar Edwin, Vice-President, Oil and Gas at Dangote Group, recently raised similar concerns like those of the Senators in regard to the purported frustration of oil-refining operations at Dangote Petroleum Refinery by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.

Speaking to a group of Energy Editors at a recent one-day training programme, organised by the Dangote Group, Edwin had lamented the activity of the NMDPRA, in granting licences, indiscriminately, to oil marketers to import “dirty refined products” into the country.

The Vice-President, Oil and Gas at Dangote Group, also said: “The Federal Government issued 25 licences to build refinery and we are the only one that delivered on promise.

“In effect, we deserve every support from the Government.

“It is good to note that from the start of production, more than 3.5 billion litres, which represents 90 percent of our production, have been exported.”

He also said: “We are calling on the Federal Government and regulators to give us the necessary support in order to create jobs and prosperity for the nation.”

According to him: “While the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) are trying their best to allocate the crude for us, the IOCs are deliberately and willfully frustrating our efforts to buy the local crude.

“It would be recalled that the NUPRC, recently met with crude oil producers as well as refinery owners in Nigeria, in a bid to ensure full adherence to Domestic Crude Oil Supply Obligations (DCSO), as enunciated under section 109(2) of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). It seems that the IOCs’ objective is to ensure that our Petroleum Refinery fails.”

Edwin further alleged: “It is either they are deliberately asking for ridiculous/humongous premium or, they simply state that crude is not available.

“At some point, we paid $6 over and above the market price. This has forced us to reduce our output as well as import crude from countries as far as the US, increasing our cost of production.

He stated: “It appears that the objective of the IOCs is to ensure that Nigeria remains a country which exports Crude Oil and imports refined Petroleum Products.

“They (IOCs) are keen on exporting the raw materials to their home countries, creating employment and wealth for their countries, adding to their GDP, and dumping the expensive refined products into Nigeria – thus making us to be dependent on imported products.”

The Vice-President, Oil and Gas at DIL said: “It is the same strategy the multinationals have been adopting in every commodity, making Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa to be facing unemployment and poverty, while they create wealth for themselves at our expense.

“This is exploitation – pure and simple. Unfortunately, the country is also playing into their hands by continuing to issue import licences, at the expense of our economy and at the cost of the health of the Nigerians who are exposed to carcinogenic products.”

He equally lamented:
“In spite of the fact that we are producing and bringing out diesel into the market, complying with ECOWAS regulations and standards, licences are being issued, in large quantities, to traders who are buying the extremely high sulphur diesel from Russia and dumping it in the Nigerian Market.

“Since the US, EU and UK imposed a Price Cap Scheme from 5th February, 2023 on Russian Petroleum Products, a large number of vessels are waiting near Togo with Russian ultra-high sulphur diesel and, they are being purchased and dumped into the Nigerian Market.”

He stated: “In fact, some of the European countries were so alarmed about the carcinogenic effect of the extra high sulphur diesel being dumped into the Nigerian Market that countries like Belgium and the Netherlands imposed a ban on such fuel being exported from its country, into West Africa, recently.

“It is sad that the country is giving import licences for such dirty diesel to be imported into Nigeria, when we have more than adequate petroleum refining capacity locally….”

It is recalled that in May, Belgium and the Netherlands adopted new quality standards to halt the export of cheap, low-quality fuels to West Africa, harmonising its standards with those of the European Union (EU).

According to Dangote Group, these measures synchronise fuel export standards with the European domestic market, specifically targeting diesel and petrol with high sulphur and chemical content.

It also explained historically, these fuels, with sulphur content reaching up to 10,000 ppm, were exported at reduced rates to countries like Nigeria, and other West African consumers.

Belgium’s Minister of Environment, Zakia Khattabi, announced that his country followed the Netherlands, which in April 2023 also prohibited the export of low-quality petrol and diesel to West Africa via the ports of Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

Khattabi emphasised that the Netherlands’ decision to restrict dirty fuel exports had redirected the trade to Belgium, now used by oil producers and traders to export gasoline with excessively high levels of benzene and sulphur.

The Belgian Minister stated:

“For far too long, toxic fuels have been departing from Belgium to destinations including Africa.

“They cause extremely poor air quality in countries such as Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon and are even carcinogenic.”

In September 2017, an investigation by an international organisation, Public Eye revealed that polluted and toxic fuels were being exported on a large scale from the ports of Rotterdam and Amsterdam for export to African markets.

As much as a quarter of the petrol and diesel available in West Africa originates from the ports of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, and Antwerp.

These fuels contain sulphur and other pollutants, such as cancer-causing benzene, in quantities up to 400 times the limits permitted in Europe, said DIL.

The Netherlands and Belgium were enjoined to enforce regulations to shield millions of Africans from exposure to toxic fuels.

Dangote Group noted the decision of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), in granting licences indiscriminately for the importation of dirty diesel and aviation fuel has made the Dangote Refinery to expand into foreign markets.

“The refinery has recently exported diesel and aviation fuel to Europe and other parts of the world. “The same industry players fought us for crashing the prices of diesel and aviation fuel, but our aim, as I have said earlier, is to grow our economy,” Edwin said.

He also noted that because the refinery meets the international standard as well as comply with stringent guidelines and regulations to protect the local environment, it has been able to export its products to Europe and other parts of the world.

While appealing to the Federal Government and the National Assembly to urgently intervene for speedy implementation of the PIA and to ensure the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians are protected, he said: “Recently, the government of Ghana, through legislation has banned the importation of highly contaminated diesel and PMS into their county.

The Vice-President of DIL asserted: “It is regrettable that, in Nigeria, import licences are granted despite knowing that we have the capacity to produce nearly double the amount of products needed in Nigeria and even export the surplus. Since January 2021, ECOWAS regulations have prohibited the import of highly contaminated diesel into the region.”

Additional reporting by Gbenga Kayode.

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