A plan by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to close six independent marketers’ oil depots at the Ibafon terminal and tank farm in Lagos is the latest threat to national fuel supply.
The facility on the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway is jointly owned by Integrated Oil and Gas, Ibafon Oil and Gas, Wabeco Oil and Gas, Ibeto Petrochemical, Capital Oil and Gas Industries, and Total.
It is strategic for its capacity to store and distribute more than 50 percent of fuel consumed in the Lagos area, which covers all the South West states.
Addressing journalists in Lagos on behalf of the companies at the weekend, the Chief Executives of Integrated Oil and Gas, B. Iheanacho, and Capital Oil and Gas Industries, Ifeanyi Ubah, alleged a plot by the NPA to drive them out of business, in order to create a monopoly for a marketer with a tank farm on the site.
A letter the NPA wrote to the operators on February 29 claimed that its decision to order the suspension of fuel discharge into the depot followed an audit its officials carried out on their facilities, which breached safety regulations, with potential risks to other facilities in the tank farm.
But, in protest, Iheanacho and Ubah have fired off a petition to Aso Rock, Senate President, David Mark, Minister of State for Transport, Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Director, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
They said though they knew that it was illegal for the NPA to audit their operations, they co-operated with its officials who visited their tank farms on February 5.
They reiterated that the DPR, which has an office at the facility, is the only agency authorised to monitor and regulate operations in the petroleum industry, including the importation, discharge, storage, and distribution of petroleum products, as well as compliance with safety and environmental protection procedures.
According to the petitioners, the NPA is yet to make details of its findings on the alleged breaches available to them, but the order suspending discharge of products and the disruption of business for more than four days last week resulted in the loss of billions of Naira through demurrage on their vessels at the jetty.
The petitioners argued that “the illegal decision by the NPA was clearly intended to achieve a predetermined objective of using the coloration of the law (Ports Act) to help a predatory competitor/company to realise its quest of driving the affected companies, most of which are owned by Igbo people, out of business, in order to create a monopoly at Ibafon.”
Members of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas (NUPENG) Workers and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) – who refused to lift fuel for the period the facility was closed last week – have threatened to withdraw their services again this week if the decision is not rescinded and the NPA called to order.