Adulterated petrol blamed for fuel shortage, damaged cars in Nigeria

Nigeria petrol shortage

Long queues of vehicles struggling to get petrol in some filling stations near NNPC office in Abuja, Nigeria. Adulterated imported petrol in Nigeria has been blamed for the scarcity of the product.

Photo credit: Mohammed Momoh | Nation Media Group


Adulterated imported petrol in Nigeria has been blamed for the scarcity of the product and long queues at filling stations in the past two weeks.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) finally opened up on the issue on Wednesday night in Abuja, confirming that more than 300 million litres of adulterated premium motor spirit (PMS) was imported from Belgium undetected.

NNPC group managing director Mele Kyari told the Nation that the PMS was imported by four companies — MRS, Emadeb/Hyde/AY Maikifi/Brittania-U Consortium, Oando, and Duke Oil.

He said the petrol came from Antwerp, with quality inspectors failing to detect the high level of methanol in it, which is not acceptable in Nigeria.

Nigeria had for more than two decades imported petroleum products — though it is a major crude oil producer — because its four refineries had broken down.

Dangote refinery

The country’s hope of stopping imports lies in the Dangote refinery, which is expected to be operational by the third quarter of 2022.

The refinery and petrochemical factory in Lekki, Lagos can refine 650 million barrels of petrol daily.

Wednesday’s explanation by NNPC — also an importer of petrol — came too late after many cars had been damaged by the adulterated petrol, while the withdrawal of the product from retail outlets has caused a shortage nationwide.

“It is important to note that the usual quality inspection protocol employed in both the load port in Belgium and our discharge ports in Nigeria do not include the test for percentage methanol content and therefore the additive was not detected by our quality inspectors,” Mr Kyari said.

“On 20th January 2022, NNPC received a report from our quality inspector on the presence of emulsion particles in PMS cargoes shipped to Nigeria from Antwerp, Belgium,” he added.

He said that the NNPC investigation revealed the presence of methanol in four PMS cargoes, despite the fact that the quality certificates issued at the load port in Antwerp by AmSpec Belgium indicate that the gasoline complied with “Nigerian specifications”.

“The NNPC quality inspectors including GMO, SGS, GeoChem and G&G [who] conducted tests before discharge also showed that the gasoline met Nigerian specifications,” he said.

Unsafe methanol levels

Meanwhile, petroleum minister Timipre Sylva has said the unsafe methanol levels in imported petrol will be investigated.

He said this after a meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari.

“There will be a major investigation to unravel everything. We need to get to the bottom of it before we can come back to tell you what will happen to the culprits,” the minister said.

He warned that companies found culpable will be blacklisted but added that the government would not rush to mete out any punishment until the actual cause was identified.

Regarding the cars damaged by the adulterate petrol, he said the losses will be taken into account.

“We know that some people’s vehicles must have been damaged; that is also going to be taken into consideration in dealing with the situation,” Mr Sylva explained.

On fuel queues in Lagos and Abuja, Mr Farouk Ahmed, the CEO of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Agency, said methanol quantities above Nigeria’s specifications were discovered in a supply chain that has since been isolated.

He explained that while the government’s quality control agencies have swung into action, NNPC and oil marketers have been directed to ensure a robust supply of petroleum products.