By law, the mandate of the Pipelines and Products Marketing Company Limited, PPMC, a subsidiary and strategic business unit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), is to ensure flawless supply of petroleum products to Nigerians.
To be sure, PPMC’S mission, in its own words, is “To ensure security of supply of petroleum products to the domestic market at low operating costs, market special products competitively in the domestic and international markets, provide excellent customer service by effectively and efficiently transporting crude oil to the refineries and moving petroleum products to the market.”
Well, we can authoritatively inform you that the PPMC has been extremely diligent, not at delivering petroleum products to Nigerians at minimal costs, but at adding to the sorrow of the consumers, most waste valuable man-hours looking for fuel. Indeed, in Nigeria, the largest oil producing country in Africa and one of the top five in the world, people still keep night vigils at filling stations to buy fuel.
The PPMC, our checks have revealed, compounds the problems of Nigerians by creating unnecessary bottlenecks to frustrate marketers, giving preferential treatment to major marketers to the detriment of the so-called independent marketers, and sundry fraudulent practices that stand President Muhammadu Buhari’s CHANGE mantra on its head.
Our investigation at the Ejigbo, Lagos Depot, as well as the PPMC office in Apapa, shows that for over a month now, only major marketers are loaded with products because they are licenced to import, and they bribe big when push comes to shove.
An independent marketer who spoke to SaharaReporters at the Ejigbo depot, on Monday, said his company had not done any business in the last 12 months.
“Not for a single day,” he said, close to tears. “My staff shuttle between our office and Apapa (PPMC Office) every day, yet we have not got one litre of product for a single day.”
Although the NNPC has been in the eyes of the storm over billions of unremitted funds, and brazen looting, the corruption at the PPMC and the depots are mindboggling. No thanks to civil servants who suck the life blood of the system through diverse unwholesome practices.
“There is hardly any table or office you get to at Apapa that you are not made to pay one bribe or another. First, you obtain your ticket which is the passport to load products. But the programme people will not process your ticket unless you pay a bribe of N1.50 on every litre of product allocated to you.
“After that, they will ask you to pay another N5 per litre of petrol and N8 per litre of kerosene allocated to you. While the N1.50 is for PPMC officials in Lagos, they say the N8 (for kerosene) and N5 (for petrol) are for the ogas at PPMC Headquarters in Abuja. And the evil cycle goes on like that. You can calculate the amount of bribe you would pay if you are allocated say 10 or 15 million litres of products.”
Now, the big question is: how do all these affect the consumer? Simple. The bribes are passed on to them through illegal adjustments of metres at the pumps, and/or through outright hoarding. All these lead to the paralytic effects on the system that are now so apparent.
To solve the problem once and for all, most marketers spoken to unanimously advocated the total deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry. “Once there is complete deregulation, the system would open up,” one told our reporter, “and you can bring in products according to you financial capabilities not according to the volume of bribe you are able to pay.
“For now, everything is upside down. There is no petrol. Kerosene and diesel are scarce. Civil servants and major marketers are making a hell of harvest to the detriment of the country. But if we have total deregulation, sanity would return.”