By Lillian Okenwa

A sour Valentine it was for many Nigerians as the adulterated fuel induced scarcity failed to take even that special day into consideration. And…the affliction is still biting harder. Vehicle owners and other users of the precious Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) continue in the seeming unending battle to procure that priceless liquid. Sadly, Petroleum marketers, hint that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) Limited is yet to evacuate the adulterated fuel from filling stations. It does not seem like good news is anywhere in sight.

To spice up the already very salacious situation, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has alleged that NNPC is seeking to withdraw N201 billion from the national coffers to clean up the tainted fuel. NNPC had since admitted that four firms MRS, Oando, Duke Oil and Emadeb/Hyde/AY imported adulterated fuel into the country, leading to fuel scarcity across the country and a 10-day shortage in national fuel reserve capacity. Meanwhile, the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) has asked the Federal Government to pay compensation to Nigerians whose vehicles have been damaged on account of adulterated fuel. That is yet to be addressed

However, the group managing director of NNPC, Mr. Mele Kyari has apologised to Nigerians over the importation of the off-spec PMS. Kyari spoke when he appeared before the House of Representatives Committee on Petroleum Downstream. Assuring that that the distribution of petrol would nomalise in the weeks ahead, Kyari said: “We regret this situation. It is completely unavoidable; we didn’t see it coming. We apologise to Nigerians. We didn’t see this coming.”  Mr. Kyari no doubt is touched by the plight of Nigerians following this undesirable situation, but Nigerians would like to know what happened to quality control when the contentious fuel was first brought into the country. If there is a body or group whose job it is to ensure the quality of petroleum product before it goes into circulation, where were they when the adulterated PMS escaped into the system? Also, what sanction is being meted out to the importers of this fuel?

This is not the first case of adulterated fuel importation in the country. At least one of the affected companies had been named in a previously polluted fuel importation. In 1996 an Italian vessel named ‘Ostention’, loaded with toxic fuel, entered the country’s territorial waters. The result was deadly. Again, prior to the Oando toxic fuel saga of 2008, Nigerians in 2003, were exposed to a similar experience.

In a July 2020 report, The Guardian UK disclosed that according to new laboratory analysis, “black market fuel made from stolen oil in rudimentary ‘bush’ refineries hidden deep in the creeks and swamps of the Niger delta is less polluting than the highly toxic diesel and petrol that Europe exports to Nigeria.”

As Nigerians continue to wait, a past President of Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Abiodun Adesanya, admitted in an interview with The Guardian that strategically, modular refineries will slow down illegality, “but those things don’t happen in a day. The problem is that government sometimes make pronouncement without the details. The Federal Government needs to get to work with technocrats to make the plan work.”

The President has barely a year left after an 8-year tenure and the country is worse off. In the second quarter of 2021, NNPC announced that it spent a whopping sum of N101.69 billion to service three non-operational refineries in 2020. Ironically, the three refineries did not process crude in the year under review.

By August 2021 the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved $1.5 billion (about N600 billion) for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery and $1.484 billion for the rehabilitation of both Warri and Kaduna refineries. At this time, about N3.8 trillion has been poured into Nigeria’s four derelict petrochemical refineries without any result being recorded. In the meantime instead of following up on the promise of modular refineries, the Federal Government has thrown its weight on the refinery being constructed by Dangote Petroleum and Petrochemical Refinery. It has since acquired a 20 per cent minority stake of $2.76 billion in the project. As far as Nigeria’s federal government is concerned this is a preferable option.

Unfortunately, it is the ordinary Nigerians that are suffering. The same ones who in the grip of General Buhari’s messianic spell launched him into power.