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Implement Modular Refinery Policy To Curb Oil Theft, Expert Warns FG

Consequent upon the deliverables from Oil and Fuel summit held in London recently, the Nigerian government has been enjoined to, as a matter of urgent importance, revisit the modular refinery policy and give it the bite that it deserves.

Making the assertion in an exclusive interview with DAILY INDEPENDENT in Port Harcourt, Rivers state capital upon his return from the summit, an Associate Environmental Professional and Executive Director, Free Trade Zone Development and Promotion Initiatives, FTZD&PT, in Nigeria, Joe Ambakaderimo said the issue of the establishment of Modular refineries in Nigeria that has become monotonous should be religiously addressed and captured as a matter of national emergency.

Joe noted that the Modular refineries would certainly not only create genuine jobs for the teeming youths but will also curb the menace of illicit petroleum products and illegal crude laundering activities by some criminal gangs.

He said that all the products pushed into the market from the illegal refiners make up what “we consume with the refiners not paying taxes to government. Some of these products find their ways to the West African sub-region and to other African countries, and this is purely export of petroleum products by the illegal refiners thereby pushing illegal products into the international market with government losing revenue”.

According to him, “if the Modular refineries come on stream, the issue of offshore refining would be a thing of the past. At present, we do not even know the quantity of products that are brought back to the country from the NNPC SWAP programmes, which is saddled with the responsibility of monitoring what is taken out of Nigeria and what comes back for local consumption.

“Therefore, the SWAP programme of the NNPC in itself lacks integrity and should be called to question. However, much could still be done by government if only the Federal Government under this administration can muster the economic will to curb the rising wave of fuel fraud in the country”.

Making references to the just concluded international summit on oil and fuel supply chain security summit organised by the International Quality and Productivity Centre (IQPC), London, Joe explained that issues on pipeline tapping, fuel fraud, adulteration of petroleum, environmental impact among other things that affect the oil business in Nigeria and other producing countries of the world, formed the fulcrum of concern.

Stakeholders such as technology owners, service providers, consumers, consultants, security Agencies from across the world, county representatives among others saw great opportunity to help their respective countries overcome the problem of environmental degradation through oil spills and other hazardous conditions of a typical oil producing nation like Nigeria.

Ogoni and indeed, the entire Niger Delta coastal belt present a good case study at this point.

Engineer Joe advised that application of technology to militate against the menace of fuel fraud has become a necessity if the nation is to take full control of its oil production.

“The fuel marking technology is presently being widely used by countries around the world and Nigeria cannot be left out in this global crusade”.

Joe agreed that “there are few companies that have the technology and presently offering the services of monitoring the production and movement of crude from the point of production to consumption stage and “Nigeria as a country must intensify it strength in this regard. Although, the marking technology has come under intense scrutiny, various researches are ongoing to identify and bring new discoveries to nip the oil and fuel supply fraud in the bud”, he said.

Furthermore, he was of the opinion that in view of the massive oil spills in the Ogoni axis and indeed the entire Niger Delta region, it is important to note that the marker in the fuel is detected with specific technology, “there is the real time surveillance of pipelines with technology as well.

“For now, the existing technology has been embraced by many countries of the world and positive testimonies are abound. Nigerian government is yet to embrace this marking technology. I will use this medium to urge the Nigerian government to muster the political and legal will to introduce a legislation to back up the use of these technology including appropriate fines and punishment for offenders”.

Going forward, he said that the marking scheme could forestall the following, preserve the quality of petroleum products, detect and prevent the diluting or adulteration of petroleum products, monitor the quality of petroleum products among others.

In applying the use of this technology, the level of impact on compromise on products quality at the filling stations due to products laundering which leads to damage to vehicles, compromise on environmental and health quality, distortion of national consumption statistics, business losses to genuine petroleum services providers among others would be minimized if not eradicated out rightly.

“We also realised to our bewilderment that fuel theft and manipulation are not peculiar to Nigeria alone. It cuts across even technologically advanced countries of the world. From the United Kingdom to Ireland, United States, Asia, South America among others, these problems occur.

“All of these countries have one form of fuel manipulation or the other. But the difference is how all of these individual countries deal with it. The problems have been tackled head on by these countries. Take for instance local refining of petroleum products in Nigeria whose output and consumption does not reflect on the actual volume of products being consumed in Nigeria.

“The loss of revenue to government by ways of tapping of crude oil pipelines is enormous and we cannot agree to the development with that kind of situation. Nigeria was roundly mentioned in all of the panel discussions and presentation in the last summit in London. That is not a good commendation and we must do something urgently about it as a nation”.

He, therefore, called on the Nigerian government to begin now to buy into this technology of fuel marking and fingerprinting to identify illicit fuel movement, adding that in so doing, more revenue would be channeled to social services such as education, health services, housing and transportation.

“This is why, the first step to follow is to encourage the modular refining policy to save the environment, then veered into the technology to preserve the oil and use same most judiciously to the overall benefit and development of the country”, he said.