On Sunday, oil marketers demanded that the Federal Government evacuate and distribute the products currently trapped in depots shut down by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority.
Marketers argue that the products should be dispensed at the regulated rate of N148/litre to help address the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol, in some states, rather than leaving them trapped despite the country’s fuel crisis.
However, the NMDPRA claimed that it calculated the effect of the closed depots to ensure that it did not have a significant impact on the affected zones, and that it would now check the tanks of filling stations and other depots to prevent petrol hoarding.
The Federal Government announced on Saturday that it had shut down the operations of seven depots in various locations across Nigeria that were dispensing petrol at exorbitant prices to retail outlets.
Farouk Ahmed, the Chief Executive of the NMDPRA, told journalists in Abuja that the affected depots’ actions violated the provisions of the Petroleum Industry Act 2021, and also contributed to the recent PMS supply crisis in the downstream oil sector.
In response, Mohammed Shuaibu, Secretary, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, Abuja-Suleja, told our correspondent that the government should go beyond shutting down depots.
“It’s not just by shutting down the depots,” he explained. If you close the depots while there are products in them and do not evacuate the products to the public at the regulated price, you may end up causing more PMS supply problems.
“If you are a regulator, go in there and enforce, let them open the gates, bring in tankers to evacuate the products to the public so that there will be surplus fuel that will help in driving down the price.
“But by the time you shut down the depots and the products remain in their tanks, we won’t get the products, and who suffers when two elephants fight? The masses will suffer, and we are already suffering. These are the consequences.”
“So the NMDPRA should open up the depots and allow them to dispense the products at the regulated price,” Shuaibu added. It must also ensure that it is strictly monitored. But, by the time you close and reopen the next day, and these are businessmen, are you helping or harming the situation?
“These people have products and you are shutting them down, why not regulate it if you want to enforce it? And if anyone is found wanting, punish the individual rather than shutting down.”
However, the NMDPRA dismissed concerns that the closure of depots would result in fuel shortages in many parts of Nigeria.
“We calculated the effects of shutting down the depots on the flow and distribution of petroleum products,” Ahmed explained.
We have enough products to go around the country.
“We also looked at availability in other depots within the zones and realized that even if we closed the seven depots, the impact on supply within those zones would be minimal.”
It will also help us by forcing those who are hoarding to release the products, because the next step is to begin checking the tanks of petrol stations and depots to ensure that no marketer or retailer is hoarding the product.”
There had also been trucking distribution, according to Ahmed, who added that the next step was to monitor the trucks and ensure they arrived at the various destinations on time.