Nigeria: Buhari Talks Tough, Says Suppliers of Substandard Fuel Would Be Held Accountable

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday said suppliers of the methanol-blended petroleum products in the country were liable for the bad fuel and should be held accountable. Buhari directed relevant government agencies to take every lawful step to ensure the respect and protection of consumers against market abuse and social injustice.

The president was reacting to the saga of the adulterated petrol imported into the country, which was said to have damaged some vehicles. The withdrawal of the fuel is behind the recent petrol scarcity that has caused long fuel queues in some towns and cities across Nigeria.

In a statement by his spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, Buhari said the protection of consumer interests was the priority of his administration. He said his government was ready to take necessary measures to protect consumers from hazardous products, loss or injuries from the consumption of substandard goods.

The president directed that in line with the law, service providers must make full disclosure of relevant information with respect to the consumption of their products. He said dissatisfied consumers were entitled to proper redress of their complaints.

However, following the disclosure by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) that its investigation revealed the presence of methanol in four petrol cargoes imported by MRS, Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium, Oando and Duke Oil, the House of Representatives yesterday directed the national oil company to suspend the companies involved.

That was as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), also yesterday, called for an independent inquest into the matter. The main opposition party alleged that the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) was trying to provide cover for some of its leaders, reportedly, involved in importation of the bad fuel.

The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) also said NNPC, as the sole importer of fuel in the country, should be responsible for payment of damages to affected Nigerians.

But Emadeb-consortium yesterday distanced itself from the bad fuel saga, saying listing it among those partly responsible for the importation of the off-specification petrol by the NNPC is misleading. The group in a statement in Abuja released by the Lead Consortium, Emadeb Energy Services Limited, urged NNPC to single out Brittania-U, an initial member of the coalition, which opted out of the arrangement instead of lump everyone in the consortium together.

The House of Representatives also mandated its committee on petroleum downstream to investigate the release of adulterated petroleum in the country with a view to ensuring that the culprits were brought to book and recommendations made to avoid future reoccurrence.

The Downstream Committee of the House was also mandated to ascertain whether the importation, distribution and dispensing of the toxic petrol in Nigeria till date conformed to the international standard.

Members of the committee where further mandated to find out the roles played, if any, by NNPC, the Standard Organisation of Nigeria, the Directorate of Petroleum Resources, Nigerian Navy, Customs, limited liability companies, and, perhaps, individuals in respect of the incident and report back to the House within four weeks for further legislative action.

The resolutions were sequel to the adoption of a motion of urgent national importance, sponsored by Chief Whip of the House, Hon. Tahir Monguno (APC, Borno).

Monguno, moving the motion, noted that the country recently witnessed scarcity of fuel in petrol stations, especially in the Federal Capital Territory and Lagos State, due to the withdrawal of fuel with high methanol content. He said the House was aware that the fuel quality was noticed about a week ago when car engines of a lot of motorists were, reportedly, damaged and consumers had already started suing retail outlets for selling the adulterated fuel.

Monguno lamented that as a result of actions or inactions over the years, Nigeria, known to be a petroleum producing country, has now outsourced the refining of petroleum products to jurisdictions outside the country.

While noting that the situation was embarrassing, the chief whip said the incident further reinforced the widespread clamour that petroleum government refineries in the country should be revamped so that the ugly scenario won’t happen again.

In his contribution, Hon. Magaji Da’u (APC, Jigawa) was of the view that for the incident to happen, it meant the system was compromised, stressing that “heads will roll.”

Deputy Minority Leader, Hon. Toby Okechukwu (PDP, Enugu) said it appeared the parliament had been hired by NNPC to work for it.

On her part, Hon. Taiwo Oluga (APC, Osun), wondered what NNPC had done since the matter was reported.

Another lawmaker, Hon. Mshelia Haruna (APC, Borno), advised that citizens whose vehicles were affected should be considered during the investigation and recommendations.

PDP Demands Independent Inquest

PDP demanded investigation into allegations that APC leaders connived with foreign interests to import the fuel laden with methanol, “in their desperation to defraud Nigerians and corruptly raise billions of naira to fund the APC National Convention and rigging of the 2023 general elections.”

The main opposition party further alleged that with President Muhammadu Buhari as Minister of Petroleum, it would be impossible to achieve results without an independent inquest, else it would end like the #EndSARS inquiry.

In a statement by National Publicity Secretary of PDP, Debo Ologunagba, the party said it was now clear that APC leaders were desperately seeking ways to steal money to fund their 2023 rigging scheme, “since the PDP and well-meaning Nigerians exposed and challenged their plots to siphon a staggering N2.557 trillion padded as fuel subsidy for 2022.”

The statement said, “PDP strongly condemned these despicable acts by APC leaders, which further expose the impunity and wickedness of the APC towards Nigerians.”

It added, “The inclination for official concealment ostensibly informed the refusal by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, on national television on Wednesday, February 9, 2022, to name those involved in the importation of the poisonous fuel into our country.

“Against this backdrop, the PDP rejects the announced internal investigation of this terrible crime by the government, as the APC administration cannot be trusted, given its manifest predilection to shield the APC leaders involved.

“Nigerians note the various investigations instituted by the APC government in the past, which ended without any meaningful outcome; notable among which was the manipulated EndSARS Report.”

The PDP demanded, “An Independent Commission of Enquiry to investigate all issues connected to the APC toxic fuel importgate.” It maintained that those involved must be exposed and held accountable.

It further stated, “Our party insists that President Muhammadu Buhari, as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, cannot acquit himself with his reported comedy of anger, buck-passing, querying of subordinates and attempt by government to use some companies as scapegoats instead of accepting responsibility by exposing and naming individuals involved in the crime.

“President Buhari and the APC must explain how the reported 317 million litres of toxic fuel came into our country, got cleared and distributed across the nation to worsen the life-discounting experiences of millions of Nigerians under the APC administration.

“Apart from the consequential economic hardship occasioned by the damaging of cars and equipment, crippling of means of livelihood across the country, as well as increase in the cost of food items and essential services, the cascading effect of adulterated fuel on our aviation industry can only be imagined.

“Sadly, the situation has the possibility to trigger loss of confidence by international airlines in our aviation fuel supply with attendant economic downturn as they would more likely prefer to fuel in neighbouring countries.”

NNPC Responsible for Payment of Damages to Affected Nigerians, Says IPMAN

Secretary of Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Mr. Ismail Osatuyi, who spoke yesterday, while featuring on “The Morning Show” on Arise News Channel, said the NNPC and its agents must go back to the drawing board and make sure things were done well.

Osatuyi stated, “if you are cooking a soup and you put too much salt, definitely you can’t eat it. This is the scenario we are seeing now.”

He said Nigerians whose cars were destroyed by the product had rights to take legal action.

Osatuyi added, “The buyers – Nigerians that had their vehicles spoiled – have the right to take legal action. And we have told our members that we have to know who and who are affected, which stations, which companies, so that we can also pass the information to the government.

“Since we are not responsible for the importation, then there must be restitution and that is the fact. And the government has to come in this time around for them to mitigate whatever damage they have done to the vehicle of Nigerians’ and individuals.”

Asked if IPMAN would sue NNPC or its agents, Osatuyi stressed that the association would rather engage NNPC in dialogue.

He explained, “We are not going to sue the government on this issue, but we are going to collate data of affected stations and what it could cost us and pass it to the authority.

“We are going to engage in dialogue so that we don’t add to the problem. This has already happened and they are trying to mitigate the problem.”

Osatuyi pointed out that if the country’s four refineries were working, such an issue would not have occurred.

Asked if he was confident that NNPC would reimburse IPMAN members in anyway or bear the cost, Osatuyi said the government agency had no choice than to compensate them, otherwise the association would take legal action.

He stated, “They have no choice this time around. These are facts and figures. It is only when we engage them in discussion and say these are the figures, these are the facts, and they are trying to be funny, then we can now look at what we can do within the ambit of the law.”

Emadeb Denies Involvement, Says Brittania-U Should Be Held Responsible

Emadeb/Hyde/Ay Maikifi stated that in several communications, it had notified NNPC of the decision of Brittania-U not to abide by the consortium’s agreement, leading to deal that other members would not be liable for damages incurred by the company in the course of operations.

The consortium stated that NNPC was aware of the refusal of Brittania-U to cooperate with other members by way of making information available when needed.

The Emadeb statement stressed that the information released by NNPC did not exactly represent what transpired.

It stated, “We refer to the press release of February 9, 2022 by the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited on the issue of contaminated Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) with higher concentrates of methanol, allegedly, imported by Emadeb/Hyde/Ay Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium.

“We hereby state that the said importation of the contaminated PMS was executed by a member of the consortium, to wit: Brittania-U.

“Therefore, the blanket claims made against the consortium by the NNPC are misleading and contradict the actual events that happened; they do not fully reflect and/or represent what transpired.”

The consortium stated that the clarifications relating to the delivery of the said contaminated petrol to the country were necessary to protect their image, as they had invested a lot in building each member’s respective brands in the industry.

The statement said, “Brittania-U Nigeria Limited (Brittania-U) was the sole supplier of the 90,000MT of PMS delivered via MT Torm Hilde with laycan January 2 to 4, 2022.

“At the formation of the consortium in May 2021 by NNPC, Brittania-U refused to execute the Service and Consortium Agreement submitted to NNPC in fulfilment of the award of the DSDP contract.”

Emadeb stated that as the lead of the consortium, it engaged Brittania-U severally and the company insisted on dealing with NNPC independently of which the national oil company was expressly notified via a letter dated June 2, 2021.

Further, the consortium stated that Brittania-U vehemently refused to execute the Consortium Agreement with the other consortium members – Emadeb/Hyde/Ay Maikifi- saying it became surprising and frustrating to everyone.

It stated, “Brittania-U communicated all her actions to the other consortium members and NNPC harping on the following points: Brittania-U’s preference to perform a sole contract for crude lifting and PMS supply under the DSDP arrangement.

“Brittania-U’s choice to be solely liable under her supplies to NNPC and in the light of which she indemnified the other consortium members accordingly.”

It stated that the alleged culprit further refused the nominated international partner agreed by other consortium members – Emadeb/Hyde/ Ay Maikifi.

Emadeb stated that Brittania-U failed to cooperate or share information and documents with the other consortium members in respect of the December 2021 crude cargo allocated to her by NNPC.

It further stated that following the repeated refusal of Brittania-U to work with the consortium, it indemnified the other consortium members-Emadeb/Hyde/Ay Maikifi and the resulting agreement was executed by their company on June 16, 2021.

The indemnity clause, the consortium said, covered Emadeb/Hyde/Ay Maikifi against all damages, losses, costs and expenses.

It noted that this also included reasonable legal costs, expenses and attorneys’ fees and liabilities incident to claims, demands or causes of action brought by or on behalf of any person or entity as result of the performance of or failure to perform the project.