Cars queuing at a petrol station
By Ejiofor Alike
As relevant stakeholders intensify efforts to curb the current fuel scarcity across the country, the crisis has lingered as inter-agency rivalry is said to be delaying the discharge of products from cargoes imported by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), THISDAY has learnt.
THISDAY gathered that rivalry among NNPC officials, government auditors and regulators, particularly the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is said to be delaying the speedy discharge of the imported fuel.
Investigation revealed that the officials of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company (PPMC), a subsidiary of the NNPC, who are involved in fuel importation, have always insisted that as a government establishment that is mandated to end the current fuel crisis, the regulators and auditors should waive certain processes in the clearance of vessels for the corporation.
However, the DPR, PPPRA and auditors are said to always insist that NNPC’s cargoes should follow all the same clearance processes that cargoes imported by the private marketers undergo.
With the reluctance of the PPMC officials to allow the imported cargoes to undergo the normal processes of clearance, THISDAY gathered that the corporation is always locked in a supremacy battle with other government agencies before its vessels discharge imported products at Apapa Jetty.
A source at one of the jetties told THISDAY that the cargoes imported by the private marketers discharge promptly as the marketers always meet the clearance requirements of the various agencies at the ports to ensure speedy discharge and to avoid incurring demurrage.
“Apart from the rivalry among all the agencies, the PPPRA also causes the delay because its auditors are not always around, especially if the vessel comes in during the weekends. The DPR also contributes largely because it checks the quality of the imported products for about three times – at the high sea, during transshipment to daughter vessels and before discharge at the jetty. All these slow down the process and make government to lose huge money to demurrage,” he said
In one instance, an NNPC vessel did not discharge for six days – Tuesday to Sunday before it was cleared because of what the Deputy Director and spokesperson of the DPR, Mrs. Belema Osibodu had described as issues with the Bill of Lading, regarding the Mother Vessel.
A spokesman of the NNPC, Dr. Omar Farouk Ibrahim had also acknowledged that the vessel was prevented from discharging because it delayed in making a certain payment.
THISDAY gathered for instance, that a cargo, MT OCEAN PEARL, imported by the NNPC and which berthed at 5pm (1700hrs) on the previous Saturday, was only cleared to discharge last Tuesday evening at the Bulk Oil Plant (BOP) at the Apapa Jetty.
It was also gathered that as at Tuesday, the vessel was still having issues with the Nigeria Customs and allegedly incurring a demurrage of about $25,000 daily for the past 12 days at the expense of the federal government.
But, MT ANIZEA MORONVIA, which was brought in by the NNPC at the weekend had however started discharging its products to the major oil markers as at Tuesday.
A source at Apapa Jetty told THISDAY that no private marketer would allow its vessel to berth and accumulate demurrage for many days before discharging its products.
He stated that another vessel, MT CESARIA, which was also brought in by the NNPC berthed at the Petroleum Wharf (PWA) Jetty at Apapa on a Tuesday evening waited for some days before it discharged its products.
The source added that the delay of NNPC cargoes is a regular occurrence because the officials of the PPMC make no deliberate efforts to ensure speedy clearance of the vessels.
“PPMC officials do not care about demurrage because the bill is incurred by the Federal Government and not any individual,” he said.