Twenty-one depots belonging to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited and intended for the storage of petroleum products, in particular Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called gasoline, are dysfunctional.
Saturday PUNCH concluded that the facility had been redundant, as were the four refineries in Nigeria, which are also under NNPCL management.
Oil traders told our correspondent that the pipelines that supply or evacuate products to the depots were broken or obsolete, stressing that this was the reason why the NNPCL had been using the services of private depot owners.
The company is the only gasoline importer in Nigeria, a task it has taken on for more than four years. Other traders stopped importing the product due to the difficulty of accessing foreign currency.
The secretary of the Nigerian Independent Oil Traders Association, Abuja-Suleja, Mohammed Shuaibu, described the situation as precarious.
He said: “We are in a very precarious situation. The government has to wake up to its duties because as you know, none of the four refineries is productive. They are more or less obsolete.
“We also have 21 warehouses throughout the country, nine in the north and 12 in the south. But these warehouses, which are supposed to be storage facilities, are not productive because the pipelines that supply them with products are old or vandalized.
“So the only way to get petroleum products into Nigeria today is through imports. That is only done by NNPC and when it imports the product, it dumps it into private warehouses, which take care of the products”.
Shuaibu added: “But at this time, private warehouses have increased the price of products. This is making everyone apprehensive. Those who have paid the government-approved price could wake up to find that they can no longer purchase products.
“As it stands now, all parts of northern Nigeria have been affected and the warehouses that are supposed to be the storage facilities are out of product. Everyone now depends on going south to bring in produce.
“And when you go there, you’re not even sure you’ll get it. Some trucks spend weeks on the roads before reaching their destination due to the poor road network in Nigeria.”
Speaking further, he said that many independent trader-owned retail outlets had been closed due to a lack of products to sell, giving rise to the activities of black gasoline dealers.
“Many gas stations have been closed. These outlets were built to sell petroleum products, but when you don’t have the product, what do you do? This is the reason why black market traders sell gasoline in canisters everywhere,” Shuaibu added.
The association’s National Public Relations Officer, Chief Ukadike Chinedu, said that due to the dysfunctional nature of NNPC depots, some private depots sold the product at N210 per litre, while the NNPC-approved rate was N147 per liter.
Ukadike, however, explained that the charges incurred by these private deposits, such as paying the rental of the boats in dollars, among others, were factors that led to the rise in the cost of gasoline in the deposits.
“That is why we are pleading with the government to recover the deposits under the NNPC administration, so that we can access the products at the approved rate,” he said.
Industry sources revealed that concerns in the downstream oil sector had seen some people in the industry benefit from the lapses as they urged the NNPC to address the challenges quickly.
Meanwhile, NNPC officials pointed out that the vandalism of the pipes that transport and evacuate the PMS from the warehouses was the main obstacle to the functionality of the facilities.