BY EDIDEM UYA in Calabar•
The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, (IPMAN), Cross River/Akwa Ibom State Chapter has disparaged the high level of unfair practices as well as acute racketeering that has become the order of the day at Calabar Depot, in Cross River State.
The association blamed these malpractices on the high cost of petrol in both states and have threatened to shut down over 2000 filling stations to protest the current practice at the depot.
Members of the association made these known in Calabar during a peaceful protest to draw attention to these practices at the Calabar Depot as well as the tank farms located at the Calabar Free Trade Zone.
Justifying the basis of the action, the Chairman of IPMAN, Calabar Depot Mr. Lawrence Agim disclosed that they decided to draw the attention of the public to these unfair practices after the management of the facilities discountenanced their complaints for redress.
“We are licensed marketers; we have our bulk agreement with NNPC, have filling stations and entitled to be allocated fuel to service our outlets in Cross River and Akwa Ibom.
“The irony is that the whole public is filling that IPMAN is the problem; we are not because we are not given product here to sell. In most cases we buy these products at outrageous prices ranging between N130 and N190 per litre at private depots.
“Therefore, it would be difficult to buy at exorbitant prices and sell at N145. And if they fail to sell to us we might be compelled to shut down over 2, 000 filling stations belonging to our members in both states”.
He said that the management of both depots does not sell petroleum products to their members but they rather sell petroleum products to people who are unknown to IPMAN and have no known filling stations.
“We are now wondering why they cannot sell to us since they are holding the product in trust for the government. We maintain that if they sell this to us and we don’t sell at government regulated prices then you can hold the leadership responsible.
“It is a pity that NNPC is encouraging this racketeering. And if goes on without checks we might be forced to shut down over 2, 000 filling station belonging to our members in both states”.
One of the marketers who simply gave his name as Unyime Edet pointed accusing fingers at the management of the NNPC stating that the organisation gives marketers two accounts if they don’t trust them. One account is government accounts to pay the official price and the difference to another account.
He said one of the Depots within the Calabar Free Trade Zone has over 50 million litres of petrol which they refuse to sell to members of IPMAN for onward sale to members of the public.
Giving more insight into these sharp practices, he said “When we confronted the NNPC officials, they told us that the fuel at mainland is an intervention product meant to serve Abia, Enugu, Makurdi and that marketers in Cross River and Akwa Ibom should go to Agara depot in Warri and load product.
“What kind of economic sense is that? You have product here they cannot sell to you unless you drive down to Warri?” he queried.
He also said that since November last year, 90 per cent of IPMAN members in both states have no access to the products rather they are made to buy through middlemen, thereby leading to scarcity and high cost of the petroleum products in Akwa Ibom and Cross River State.
An official of the NNPC who refused to disclose his name said, “We are not allowed to talk to journalist. Besides, we don’t allocate the product here. The names of beneficiaries are generated from our Abuja head office and sent to the depots to sell to”, he said.
He acknowledged that the members of IPMAN have complained severally about the marginalisation they suffer in the distribution process and advised them to channel their grievances to “the appropriate quarters”.
It was learnt that there are over 25 tank farms located in Calabar and these tank farms sell Premium Motor Spirit (Petrol) at between N137 and N140 per litre to middlemen who then sell them to IPMAN members at between N160 and N180 per litre minus other minor charges.
A visit to filling stations around the Calabar Metropolis reveals that majority independent marketers across the city sell PMS above the regulated price of N145 per litre at between N175 to N200 per litre to motorists.