Nigeria has suspended the operating licenses of 15 oil products marketing firms over discrepancies in fuel distribution, state television reported on March 29th.
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) temporarily withdrew the licenses on March 28th because the companies, including TotalFinaElf, Agip, African Petroleum and small local fuel marketers, had not accounted for fuel they had been allocated for distribution.
The Nigerian government had promised on March 14th to punish fuel distributors for diverting oil products amid the country’s worst fuel crisis in over a decade.
Nigerian Information Minister Jerry Gana said that: “This is no longer a question of supplies. It’s a question of diversion.
It’s a question of sabotage.” Petrol stations have run dry throughout the West African nation, although gasoline and other products are readily available on the black market for more than triple their original prices.
Gana accused oil marketers of smuggling products into neighboring states for much higher returns, and the DPR was ordered to shut any petrol station or outlet that was found diverting fuel.
“If within three days the fuel lifted from depots does not arrive at the station it is meant for, the DPR is mandated to close such a station,” Gana said.
Until now, the government of Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed fuel scarcities on problems with the country’s four refineries, which have been running at levels far below their combined nameplate capacity of 445,000 b/d.
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)