The Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board has raised the alarm on activities of corrupt oil marketers who are hell-bent at subverting the smooth implementation of its ongoing real-time electronic loading scheme.
PEF stated that the scheme, “Project Aquilla” which is planned to enhance monitoring and distribution of petroleum products across the country and at the same time speed up processing and payment of bridging claims by petroleum marketers are now being threatened by theft of individual registration tags assigned to tanker trucks under the scheme by illegal marketers.
Project Aquila requires petroleum marketers and transporters including the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Worker (NUPENG) and Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), amongst others, to register and tag their trucks for easy tracking and processing of financial claims by PEF.
By design, the mechanism within its computerised framework, processes claims of oil marketers with minimal human interventions, thus, reducing wanton sleaze that has characterised operations in Nigeria’s downstream petroleum sector in which the government subsidises public consumption of premium motor spirit (PMS).
Aquila as an automated e-business solution for dispatch and reception of petroleum products, also confirms the loading and delivery of petroleum products at depots, thus, enhancing transparency in administration of bridging claims.
General Manager, Corporate Services of PEF, Mr. Goddy Nnadi, disclosed at a sensitisation visit to depots in Suleja and Kaduna that the agency had initiated measures to curtail such development, which he said was inimical to a transparent processing of bridging claims by marketers.
Nnadi explained that PEF had thought it appropriate to inform concerned stakeholders of its mitigation plans which include engagement of appropriate government security outfits to seek out culprits, prosecution of such culprits and eventual blacklisting of guilty marketers.
He stated that PEF had collaborated with such stakeholders like IPMAN to uncover the nefarious practice, adding that the activities of the criminal syndicates constitute economic sabotage to the nation, which PEF had already contacted the State Security Service (SSS) to take care of.
“We are already working with the SSS and relevant stakeholders in the industry to bring this economic sabotage of the nation to a halt and for now, the board has suspended issues relating to issuance of tags to marketers because it wants to evaluate the process.
“Also, all transactions and operations with a marketer that was caught in the shady activity at a depot in Lagos was suspended by the board and management has given directive to its staff to henceforth ensure meticulous matching of truck numbers with numbers registered on the tags,” he said.
Nnadi further noted: “We have also directed all depot representatives to henceforth ensure and verify that the truck numbers matches with the truck number registered on their tags before commencing loading operations and any of our staff found guilty of conniving with marketers to perpetrate this act will be summarily dismissed and handed over to the security operatives for further penalties.
“We are here today to inform you of these measures to avoid any form of misunderstanding when we begin to crack down on illegal marketers; we wouldn’t want it to appear like we are witch-hunting anybody, that is why we ask you to call your members to order because the board will not hesitate to come down hard any one found guilty.”
He disclosed that since inception in 2012, Aquila has covered about 61 out of the 71 depots in the country, while 30,000 tanker trucks have been issued with tags to operate.
According to him, PEF has also set September 2013 as deadline for manual processing of bridging claims, adding that by then, every transaction must be done on the Aquila platform.
Information from ThisDay was used in this report.