Controversy over alleged importation of low quality fuel
• It is not true, say DPR, NNPC, others
A controversy is brewing over an alleged importation of lower quality fuel to Nigeria and other West African countries.The controversy follows a report by Public Eye, which alleges that some Swiss traders are deliberately blending toxic fuel and dumping it in Nigeria and other countries in the West African sub-region. Public Eye is an international group based in Switzerland. It was formerly called Berne Declaration.
Some traders who spoke with The Guardian alleged official complicity because fuel exported to West Africa is according to government specification. And they considered this fuel as having a standard lower than that of Europe.
The report titled “Dirty Diesel” by Public Eye showed how Swiss commodity trading firms exploit lax regulatory standards to sell African customers fuel with high sulfur content. The document which was released recently revealed that the petrol, which is being produced by the trading firms themselves, has long been banned in Europe.
According to Public Eye, the fuel contributes significantly to the rising air pollution in African cities and jeopardises the health of millions of people.In a petition addressed to Trafigura, Public Eye and its West African partners, called on the Geneva-based commodities giant to sell only fuel that meets European standards in all of its operations around the world.
The report insists that around 50 per cent of the fuels imported to West Africa come from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp, collectively known as the “ARA” region, and that 80 per cent of the diesel exported to Africa has sulphur content at least 100 times above the European standard.
This figure, according to Public Eye, soared to an average 90 per cent for West Africa, with Ghana (93 per cent), Guinea (100 per cent), Senegal (82 per cent), Nigeria (84 per cent) and Togo (96 per cent).But in a reaction to the report, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) described it as erroneous and misleading in its entirety.
Also responding to The Guardian enquiry, Oryx Energies states that the report, by definition, paints quite a bleak picture as it compares fuel quality found across Africa to the standards set in European countries.According to the company, in reality, each African country has set specifications for fuel imports, and these are controlled to ensure that they comply before entering the country.
Oryx said: “It is only when African governments have set fuel quality standards similar to those in Europe that the issues raised in the report will be overcome with all market participants complying with the new standards. We are optimistic that the process towards lower-sulphur fuels that took decades in Europe and North America will take a much shorter time in Africa. The claim by Public Eye that companies engage in an illegitimate strategy of deliberately lowering fuel quality to increase profits is false.”
“Governments in East and West Africa have been working on roadmaps towards lower sulfur fuels in their countries for some time, with the objective of applying regulations with similar standards to Europe and North America by 2030, with the support of organisations like the African Union, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and ARA.”
According to the DPR, there is an established traceability protocol for receipt of imported petroleum products’ cargoes that ensures all products can be traced to a refinery of origin thereby eliminating those from unknown sources in the country. It insists that Nigeria’s product specifications are of international standards and sometimes exceed some of these standards.
“All products receiving depots are statutorily required to have in-house laboratory for conducting tests of key product quality parameters such as flash point, density, octane rating, sulphur content and water content. Products samples are taken daily from active tanks and analysed to make sure they meet specification before truck out is allowed.
“All the above tests at various stages of petroleum products distribution and supply chain are witnessed by assigned DPR staff as part of our regulatory oversight function.”Also, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) spokesman, Mohammed Garbadeen, said the corporation would not deliberately import toxic fuel into the country.
Similarly, President of Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA), Dapo Abiodun, told The Guardian that ‘the fuel from our depot is in accordance with DPR specification and I am not sure that the agency has relaxed on its oversight and regulatory and functions.”