· Clone Major Oil Dealers Crested Drums
. Influence power supply in Ajegunle, Apapa
By Kenneth Jukpor & Alphonsus Effi
While the Federal Government intensifies efforts to curb illegal refining of petroleum products in the Niger Delta region, several cartels have hidden in Lagos as these fraudulent oil dealers cook diesel and other oil lubricants in Ajegunle, Ijora, Apapa and other locations in Lagos.
The illegal operations which take place between midnight and 4am daily, have existed in these areas for over three decades with many operators evolving to become owners of petrol stations while others ventured into illegal ship bunkering.
The cooked diesel usually known as “rice and beans”, “lacasera” and other nick names are sold to hotels, ferry operators, private companies as well as government agencies operating in several parts of Lagos while Ajegunle, Apapa and Ijora represent the main market.
Our investigations show that these dealers utilize popular drums of 208 litres crested with major oil companies’ brand while they also issue falsified receipts of these oil companies.
While a drum of diesel is sold for N450,000 to N500,000 depending on the oil company, fraudulent oil dealers sell theirs between N185,000 and N250,000.
Most road side engine oil dealers in Lagos sell this adulterated oil as many generating sets and industrial engines have been destroyed as a result of impure engine oil utilization.
Our sources stated that the Nigerian Police, Army and the Navy have also fanned the flames of the business as they only visit the locations to collect settlements while serving as informants to the operators, alerting them when upright officers would be investigating their activities.
This claim of nonchalant attitude of security agencies is supported by the fact that the hub of this business is the Marine Beach axis in Apapa, an area central to Police Station, Naval base, Army barracks, and several major oil companies like Mobil, Navy, Oando, AP, among others.
Meanwhile, industry observers have expressed worry as to the source of crude oil utilized for the illegal refining of diesel at the locations, with the suspicion that the operators may have channeled crude via pipes to the said locations.
However, petroleum experts have explained that there were several chemical procedures to arrive at oil lubricants which could be deployed by illegal oil dealers.
As part of efforts to sustain their businesses, these oil dealers have also influenced power supply in the region over the years as they send monies to officials in NEPA, PHCN and now Eko DISCO to seize power so that their clients could patronize them.
When quizzed about this practice and the cloning of Mobil drums, a top management staff at Mobil lamented that all efforts by the company to curb the practice has been fruitless.
The management staff who was speaking at a recent oil and gas conference, attributed the growth of the business to the involvement of ex-Mobil and other oil companies members of staff who have sold the company’s secret seals and production patterns to fraudulent dealers.
While he blamed the security agencies for complacency in combating the crime, he also stressed that some of the illegal oil dealers were retirees and displaced workers from major oil companies in the country; hence they brought expertise to the business.
There are penalties clearly spelt out for defaulters in petroleum products regulations under the Miscellaneous Offences Act of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Under this act, anyone who imports, exports, sells, distributes or deals in petroleum or any petroleum product in Nigeria without proper license by the proper authorities thus robbing the government of revenue from such products will be liable on conviction to be sentenced to prison for life and any vehicles, aircraft or vessel associated with such activities will be forfeited to the federal government.
It also states that anyone charged with and is convicted of adulteration of petroleum products will be liable to imprisonment for a period of up to ten years and the federal high court may offer compensatory award as it deems fit to any unknowing person who purchases such adulterated products.
In 2017, operatives of the Lagos State Taskforce on Environment, at the weekend arrested 43 suspected oil bunkers and sealed-off property in which 2.5 million litres worth of adulterated diesel were recovered at Alausa, Ikeja area of the state.
One of the suspects, Mr. Iyiola Adeyinka, aged 40 years, from Ilero in Oyo State, confirmed that the company where the recovery was made, Jlobjin Petroleum Ltd, belonged to one Alhaji Lukumon Ojena. He confessed that they used to mix diesel with kerosene on daily basis to be supplied in large quantities to the public particularly communication companies and banks at cheaper rates across the state.
Mr. Adeyinka, who stated that they used to make sales of over N20 million everyday from adulterated diesel, said government should help him as he was the only son of his family.
Another arrested worker of the company, Mr. Nonso Mordi, aged 25 years from Ogwashi Uku in Delta State, confessed; “Our business is very lucrative as individuals get between N3,000 to N4,000 per day. “We have a very good contact with major oil marketers who supply us with diesel and kerosene everyday for our business,” he stated.
Chairman of the Lagos State Taskforce, SP Olayinka Egbeyemi, who led the recovery team said the operation was sequel to “Save Our Soul,” SOS, petitions submitted to his office over illegal activities of some oil bunkers at Plot 8, Elephant Cement Way, Secretariat, Alausa, Ikeja.