Fuel Scarcity: IPMAN Vs Capital Oil

Opinion

By Abel Okpechi

Last week, the Managing Director of Capital Oil and Gas, Mr. Ifeanyi Ubah, told journalists in Abuja that his company “adopted the no change of number measure to curb illicit practices by marketers”. His riposte was a response to a piece by a public affairs commentator, Johnson Nwanuforo whose essay entitled, “IPMAN, Capital Oil and Fuel Scarcity” sought to blame Capital Oil for the lingering fuel scarcity in Nigeria.

Mr. Ubah said that his company “…noticed some sharp practices by oil marketers who use our facility as an avenue for selling loaded products or loading tickets at unapproved prices. The modus operandi adopted to stop these unwholesome practices is what we call ‘no change of number’….” Anybody who is out for the truth regarding the root cause of the lingering fuel scarcity in the country should be comfortable with Ifeanyi Ubah’s explanations. Unfortunately, we have allowed a situation where a factional President of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Elder Chinedu Okoronkwo, has been using the media to spread falsehood in order to demonise Ifeanyi Ubah.

For instance, shortly after Ubah’s response to Mr. Nwanuforo’s treatise on the matter of fuel scarcity in the country, Elder Okoronkwo, through his Special Adviser on Strategy and Public Communication, Chief Larry Nworuh, countered with a deceptive riposte entitled, “Fuel Scarcity: Capital Oil takes over DPR’s statutory functions…”. Elder Okoronkwo wants the world to believe that “Mr. Ubah… has threatened to sanction oil marketers nationwide over issues bordering on NNPC products stored in Capital Oil tank farm…”. How Elder Okoronkwo came to this ridiculous conclusion is hard to fathom. However, it is difficult to see how an effective measure adopted by Capital Oil to “… ensure that only marketers that presented approved trucks listed on the loading tickets would be loaded with products”, as emphasized by Ifeanyi Ubah, translates to a threat to sanction marketers involved in illicit practices in the oil supply and distribution
business nationwide.

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Again, Mr. Ubah profoundly contends that “the marketers collect loading tickets from NNPC with a particular number, come to our terminal with a different truck which is not indicated on the loading tickets. We have resorted not to load products for any marketer with such loading ticket”. By any stretch of the imagination, this commonsensical strategy ensures that marketers do not abuse government’s policy on the supply and distribution of petroleum products throughout the country by not allowing change of truck number that makes “it easy for some marketers to engage in illicit acts”. Unfortunately, people like Elder Okoronkwo misrepresent the import of this measure by dismissing it as an attempt by Capital Oil to usurp the powers and functions of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).

Interestingly, Ubah pointed out in his outing with journalists in Abuja that “…there are many terminals used by NNPC to store products in Lagos and other parts of the country, and marketers were at liberty to use any of them”. To discerning minds, this critical information from Ubah puts a lie to Elder Okoronkwo’s continuous insistence that IPMAN members are being forced by the NNPC to lift petroleum products from Capital Oil tank farm. In other words, if marketers can lift petroleum products from other depots outside those owned by Ifeanyi Ubah, what is the basis for the contention by Elder Okoronkwo that Capital Oil is largely responsible for the lingering fuel scarcity in Nigeria? Is this Ubah-bashing game by Elder Okoronkwo not simply an uninspiring attempt to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it?

There is no doubt that from the contents of Johnson Nwanuforo’s essay, and the press release by the IPMAN led by its factional President, Chinedu Okoronkwo, that there is a grand design to continuously weave negative stories in the media against Capital Oil, in the hope that the Buhari Presidency will go after the jugular of Ifeanyi Ubah. Well, the point needs be made that there is nothing in the character-traits and disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari that suggests that even in his vaunted determination to fight corruption that he will go after patriotic citizens like Ifeanyi Ubah who have not been found guilty of any crime in Nigeria. Unless Okoronkwo’s IPMAN is telling the world that it does not pay to render patriotic service to Nigerians, I do not see how even the Buhari Presidency will deny that Ifeanyi Ubah rendered to the country one of the most patriotic favours by a Nigerian citizen when he broke the back of the strike action embarked
upon by petroleum products’ marketers a few months ago.

— Okpechi sent this piece from [email protected] (081-87208957).