By Jude Okwe in Calabar
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), eastern zone has explained that the recurring vandalism of pipelines by vandals to siphon petroleum products could become a thing of the past if state governors, who the pipelines run through their states, monitor and provide adequate security to prevent their destruction.
Chairman of the zone, Chief Chukwudi Fred Ezinwa, in an interview in Calabar, said the porous security network at the course way of the pipelines and the indifference of some state chief executives were providing vandals the leeway to destroy pipes and siphon fuel, diesel and kerosene with impunity.
He reasoned that the time had come for state governors, traditional rulers and community leaders to rise above rhetoric in fighting vandalism by practically seeing to the protection of the pipelines that run through their domains through the engagement of sincere vigilante groups that would collaborate with the police and other security operatives to protect the pipelines.
“Let each state governor provide security to protect the pipelines that run through his domain. Every state in this country has a boundary. Each governor as the state chief security officer should be bold enough to protect the pipelines in his enclave while his counterpart in the nearby state will do the same. If these measures are put in place, vandals will find it difficult to operate,” he said.
According to him, since these vandals live within communities where the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipelines run through, a close check on their activities and stringent security measures will easily give them out and thus put an end to the era of destroying the pipes and save Nigeria billions of US dollars lost every year to oil theft.
Federal Government, he advised, should reward any traditional ruler, state governor or security officer who is bold enough to bring to book those caught vandalising oil pipes so that others would be motivated to protect the pipes too even as the identity of such informants should be kept secret to avoid reprisal.
On the deregulation of the petroleum sector, Ezinwa said IPMAN was not against the exercise except that it wants government to restructure its business, noting that: “If government removes subsidy and the depots not working the whole country will be in a mess. We have 21 government owned depots but that of Calabar is a mono product.”
He revealed that none of the Federal Government owned depot was working at 100 per cent capacity whereas the private ones do and called on government to fix the depots so that marketers can sell at the official pump price adding that for now, most marketers were operating at a loss because of the high cost of buying from private depots and transportation to the respective filling stations.
“The Department of Petroleum Resources [DPR] does not check marketers. Marketers do not sell fuel at N97 per litre because DPR has not done what it is supposed to do. DPR should start monitoring private importers who enjoy subsidy for importing petroleum products. They indulge in so many excesses,” he said.
Ezinwa wants government to start sending petroleum products to the Calabar depot to meet the demands of marketers. The Eastern Zone of IPMAN has five depots serving 13 states. Most of these depots are operating far below installed capacity hence the occasional scarcity being witnessed.
He emerged as the interim chairman of the zone following the political appointment of the former chairman as commissioner in Enugu State. Plans are on to conduct bye-election to fill the position as provided in the constitution of the association.
“There is no rancour over who is the chairman of the zone or chairman of the Calabar depot. We have no leadership tussle. Members are one united family as evident in the attendance to this meeting”, he said.
The National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of IPMAN held in Calabar at Mangel Hotel to formalise its decision on the appointment of Ezinwa as interim chairman for the Eastern Zone and resolved other outstanding issues.