Officials of a federal government agency, Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, working in concert with the Nigerian Police have been extorting money from petroleum marketers with very profound consequences for petrol consumers, investigations by247ureports.com have revealed.
Not only has the development pushed prices of petroleum products farther beyond the reach of consumers, it has made a mess of federal government’s new pump price which is supposed to be N86.50 per litre.
According to findings, every filling station in the state, with the exception of NNPC depots, sells petrol above the official pump price of N86.50 per litre.
Speaking with our reporter in Owerri, petroleum marketers in the state accused officials of the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, of extortion, alleging that the DPR officials took on this selfish path to enrich themselves.
The marketers said that the regulatory agency saddled with the responsibility of ensuring compliance to all petroleum laws and regulation and guidelines has taken to collecting exorbitant fees from operators, before allowing them operate.
A petroleum dealer who pleaded for anonymity told our source in Owerri that officials of DPR in the area were involved in some kind of serious racketeering with petroleum marketers in Imo State in the recent weeks.
According to the source, “the DPR officials who are aware that NNPC depots at Port Harcourt, Enugu, Aba, and Makurdi are not currently selling products, still turn round and seal filling stations because of selling above government’s official rate.
“We have said this severally that we are not opposed to selling petrol at government price, but the products should be made available for us to sell and remain in business’’, he said.
The petroleum marketers noted that dozens of filling stations across the state had been shut down by the officials of DPR since January, regretting that the team compelled them to pay non receipted amount before they re-open.
“Some of them would come and begin to make unnecessary threats that if we don’t give them N50,000.00 they would seal our stations. And they would do that citing various reasons”, he said.
Chairman of the Association of Imo State Petroleum Marketers/Dealers, Chief Christopher Amadi, had said that petrol dealers in the state no longer get supply from the four NNPC depots.
According to him, “There is no petrol at Aba, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Makurdi depots of the NNPC in recent weeks, and that has resulted to the dealers sourcing for petrol from private tank farms elsewhere’’, he said.
According to Amadi, “owners of the petroleum tank farms do sell petrol at relatively higher price, but would force buyers to agree that they bought at government approved rate for dealers. If you disagree, you wont get any product from them. Meanwhile, NNPC has no product to sell to us. In that situation what do you do?
“This clandestine business is the reason behind the sale of petrol above N86.50 at privately owned filling stations in parts of the state’’, Amadi claimed.
He maintained that until the shoddy deal by the tank farm owners was addressed it would be difficult for marketers buying on such condition to remain in business.
Apart from this, the marketers claimed that the DPR officials were also involed in dubious dealings with the agency as some of the payments they made were receipted.
One operator said “The official fees we pay to the Federal Government for licensing, filling stations, lubricant retailers’ licenses, lube plants, among others, are very okay but DPR officials collect excess charges, which are not receipted. The official fees in the receipts are ridiculously low but what we pay is very huge. These are the people who are trying to make the government fail”.
When our reporter called at the DPR office in Owerri, he was told that the new Controller, Mr. Morrison Nwokedi, does not talk to journalists and that any enquiries should be made to the office President Muhammadu Burai, who they said is the petroleum minister.