Operators in the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil industry have expressed concern over what they called the overbearing attitude of the lawmakers who they accuse of overstretching their bounds usurping the responsibility of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
The House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Tank Farms, Petrol, and LPG are currently visiting petrol stations across the country to ensure compliance and safety precautions, something the marketers said is not their duty, and leaving accusations of exploitative practices in their wake.
Thus, the DPR made it known in its website that it has “statutory responsibility of ensuring compliance to petroleum laws, regulations and guidelines in the Oil and Gas Industry.”
Its functions involve monitoring of operations at drilling sites, producing wells, production platforms and flow stations, crude oil export terminals, refineries, storage depots, pump stations, retail outlets, any other locations where petroleum is either stored or sold, and all pipelines carrying crude oil, natural gas and petroleum products.
Oil traders and petrol station owners expressed outrage that when these lawmakers get to their stations, they demand for their operating licences and other statutory registrations and if they conclude that it is irregular or incomplete, they seal up the station and invite the owners to their hotel rooms for settlement. This sharp practice of the lawmakers had been ongoing.
The ugly development did not go down well with the oil traders and petrol station owners who said it creates one more hurdle for them to easily doing their business.
Reacting to the situation, a key member of the Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Clement Isong, asserted that the “association is confused and concerned because its understanding is that the DPR is the only organisation recognized by law to play this role and the lawmakers role is to make laws and oversee government agencies.”
Isong said that increasingly other state and federal agencies are seeking to regulate and supervise station and depot operations “which is increasing our cost of doing business especially when we receive conflicting directives from them.
“We will seek clarification on these visits on behalf of our members and revert once the true position is established,” he said.
Last month, the House of Representatives set up an Ad-hoc Committee to take stock of petroleum products marketing firms and evaluate their level of compliance with the industry regulation and guidelines.
The lawmakers said they were acting on concerns across the country over unsafe practices of petroleum marketers, transporters, and safety of their operations.
The committee visited some petrol stations within Ilorin metropolis Kwara metropolis said the visit was not meant to witch-hunt anybody but stimulate public safety compliance.
Another team of the lawmakers under the same committee also visited Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state on a purported oversight function.
Other lawmakers in the committee visited South east in Imo state claiming that they were ascertaining whether tank farms, petrol, gas and other LPG stations in the state were sited in accordance with guidelines, regulations, and other safety measures. A role that is solely meant for the DPR. This suggests that the committee’s role should have been limited to inviting DPR to ascertain and clarify these safety concerns. Taking over the role and function of DPR by the legislators will not augur well for the oil industry especially in the downstream. Oil traders pointed out that they were also perturbed as the lawmakers demand for money whenever they sighted infraction in the inspection process thereby compromising standard.