Little is known of illicit transactions among petroleum marketers in Lagos, until the Lagos state government rose to the challenge to address the excruciating pain suffered by motorists and residents of Apapa as a result of excesses of petroleum tankers and trailers on that axis. Following incessant complaints and petitions over the menace, the Lagos State government penultimate week announced the suspension of approval for development of tank farms in Apapa as part of its renewed efforts to restore sanity in the state completely as well as fashion out immediate and long – term solution along the Oshodi-Apapa corridor and prevent a repeat of the chaos caused by containerised trucks and tankers parked on the road. The decision came after a closed door meeting with stakeholders in the maritime and transport sectors, including Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Shippers Council, Tank Farm Owners, Department of Petroleum Resources(DPR), security agencies and clearing and forwarding agents, held at the Lagos House in Alausa, Ikeja and chaired by the state governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, where the state government also resolved to accelerate and complete work on the Bola Ahmed Tinubu Trailer Park in Orile, Lagos, within a month.
However, investigation by our correspondent revealed that part of the congestion was mostly caused by petroleum tankers, many who queue to transact illegitimate business offered by some unyielding marketers. According to an impeccable source in the industry, members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) and Depot and Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria ( DAPPMAN ) are the ones engaged in the junk business. Though, the national president of IPMAN, Chinedu Okoronkwo, denied the allegations but chairman of the Lagos State chapter of the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO), Sikiru Kaka, told our correspondent that IPMAN and DAPPMAN members were in the habit of issuing receipts to transporters over and above their holding capacity. “What we have observed for instance is that the marketers provide false information about availability of products in the tank farms. Whereas, they have products to serve 100 tankers, they would issue receipts and collect money from over 200 tankers, in anticipation of petroleum products that are yet to arrive and when they serve out the volume in their facilities, the rest tankers will continue to queue and wait for products to arrive since they have paid,” he said. Continuing, he said some of the marketers would queue, take supply and resell to other awaiting takers and return to queue again. According to his explanation, a marketer would receive allocation of 33,000 liters of petrol and at the same point, transloads to a waiting tanker who has offered a higher bid above depot price and in turn transloads to another waiting buyer with a higher bid and in that projection, a particular product designated for a particular station finds its way to a different location without trace.
Kakaka gave instance with the tanker that exploded on the Otedola bridge around Berger area of the state some weeks ago. He said when the Lagos police command demanded from the association to provide information about the ownership and point of loading of the tanker, no trace of it could be linked to any depot indicating it could be a beneficiary of such illicit transactions. He also attributed the menace to activities of other transporters he described as “Large Fleet Owners” that are not affiliated to any transport union and as such cannot be accounted for. “We in NARTO have designated marketers from where we load, most of us deal with Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN) which are more organised than IPMAN and DAPPMAN. We conduct ourselves such that members affiliated to us are not allowed to distort traffic and we move to load at depots when we receive signals, so we have offered explanations to the authorities and we are ready to comply with that ultimatum.”
The executive secretary of MOMAN, Clement Isong, told our correspondent that the association has adequate holding bay in Apapa and has not in any way breached the standards in line with guidelines by the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR). Isong said the entire MOMAN holding bay capacity was 655 trucks that can conveniently load at any given time. “We have 655 loading capacity at any given time, and when these numbers are served, another 655 can also load in that sequence, so we have fully complied with the directives and we are fully supporting the state government to enforce the ban and return sanity to the area,” he said. Mike Osatuyi, chief operating officer of IPMAN, who spoke to our correspondent admitted there were uncoordinated activities among operators along the Apapa corridor which may have led to the confusion at Apapa. Osatuyi, who is a member of the committee set up by the state government representing IPMAN, warned of dire consequences of the alleged illicit trade among marketers, even though he did not want to accept such transactions existed. In his reaction, the executive secretary of DAPPMAN, Femi Adewole, said that members of the association had provided loading bays at their various terminals. Adewole, though admitted that some may be limited in capacity, 30 days was such a short time to enable any marketer invest in any expansion project. “Such projects is capital intensive because you have to acquire land, get necessary building approvals before embarking on proper construction,” he added. He said they were engaging the government to trade softly such that their action would not truncate the current level of uninterrupted petroleum supply. He also, used the opportunity to appeal to federal government to offset debt owed marketers to enable embark on infrastructure expansion. But LEADERSHIP recalls that the federal government may have finally approved the payment of outstanding N650 billion subsidy payment owed members of Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association of Nigeria (DAPPMAN). Adewole, said the latest development followed discussions between DAPPMAN and the federal government on how to resolve the debt issue.
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