By Oke Peter
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) on Wednesday, accused oil marketers of using the name and logo of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to cheat the public at the NNPC fillings stations by under-dispensing Premium Motor Spirit, popularly known as petrol.
According to the DPR, such marketers must be cautioned by the NNPC, as so many complaints by motorists on the illicit activities of the filling stations have reached the regulator.
This is coming as the agency sealed a filling station being operated by the NNPC in Wuse 2, Abuja, for under-dispensing petrol and illegally selling the commodity at a rate of N181/litre to unsuspecting consumers.
The Zonal Operations Controller, Abuja, DPR Abdu Abba-Misau, urged the NNPC to mandate operators of its retail stations to desist from illegal acts capable of tarnishing the reputation of the national oil firm.
He said, “I want to appeal to the NNPC, because they (marketers) are using its name to cheat the public. We know the NNPC is doing everything possible to make this product available at the government controlled price.
“So, I want to appeal to the NNPC that it should not allow a businessman that does not have conscience to continue using its logo to cheat the public. The NNPC needs to look into this issue and see how it can solve this problem.”
On whether the agency had informed the corporation about this in the past, Abba-Misau replied, “Whether we tell the NNPC directly or not, the fact is that we treat all marketers equally. So, if we have to go and tell the NNPC, it means we are not being honest to the other marketers.
“Whoever we find wanting, we just apply the needed sanction on the person. But right now, we are appealing to the NNPC.”
He added that the NNPC station that was sealed on Wednesday had been shut down on several occasions in the past, but the managers of the outlet had refused to change.
Abba-Misau said, “We have sealed this station four times and the last time it was sealed before being closed again today was just last week, and we re-opened it on Friday. Now, they’ve gone back to what they were doing. We figured out that what they normally do is that during the day, they ratify the pumps and when they are sure that we have closed from work, they will set the pumps to under-dispense.
“And this time, it is the worst under-dispensing that I’ve ever seen in my career here, because they are cheating the public. They under-dispense two litres on every 10 litres that they sell to the public, which translates to selling one litre of PMS at N181. We cannot just close our eyes and allow them to continue in this illicit act.”
On what the DPR would do to the NNPC station, he said, “We have sealed this station several times in the past and put a penalty, which they paid and are comfortable paying, but they always transfer the penalty to the public. We can’t allow them to continue doing that and so, this time, we are going to apply a maximum sanction, which means that the station will remain sealed for the next four months, after which we can now take a decision on it.”
When asked to explain why his station was defrauding customers, the manager of the NNPC retail outlet, who only gave his name as Abel, said, “I did not adjust any meter. The pumps are mechanical equipment, either they move up or go down when dispensing. It is really not our fault most times. I’m not aware that the pumps under-dispense two litres for every 10 litres of petrol sold to customers.”
On why the outlet paid N400,000 in fine, the station manager argued that the money was paid to the DPR because of the error that was discovered at the station by the regulator.
When contacted, the Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, NNPC, Ndu Ughamadu, told our correspondent that the station in question was an affiliate outlet of the oil firm, but stressed that the corporation would investigate the matter and apply appropriate sanctions if needed.