The Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has urged stakeholders in the petroleum downstream to join hands in the fight against bunkering and pipeline vandalism.
Chief Tagbo Nnamani, IPMAN Depot Chairman in charge of Enugu, Ebonyi and Benue states, was reacting to the arrest of four articulated vehicles allegedly conveying adulterated petroleum product from Ikoroabasi, Akwa Ibom through Ebonyi.
He also decried the alleged proscription of IPMAN in Ebonyi by the state government allegedly to forestall breakdown of law and order due to the effect of the proscription.
The vehicles were allegedly impounded by men of the Anti Oil Bunkering and Pipeline Vandalism task force unit of IPMAN at Abomege, in Onitcha Local Government Area of Ebonyi.
It was, however, gathered that Mr Okenwa Uka, Ebonyi task force chairman led other members of the group in the operation.
Nnamani called for collaboration and cooperation of government at all levels and other critical stakeholders to curb activities of vandals and other criminals operating illegal oil refineries.
He said that pipeline vandalism and illegal oil refinery constituted financial crime and economic sabotage, adding that perpetrators should not be allowed to continue with their illegal businesses.
Nnamani tasked officers and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) to intensify surveillance on the highways to track articulated vehicles on illegal business.
“We impound the trucks to use them as evidence to proof that some of the petroleum tanker drivers convey illegally ‘refined’ petroleum products into the market.
“There are cabals that sponsor or operate these illegal refineries and from where these adulterated petroleum products find their way into the markets.
“Two weeks ago, we intercepted and impounded four of such vehicles carrying oil products along Abomege axis of Ebonyi and those responsible have been making desperate attempts to ensure the release of the trucks.
“The products contained in the impounded trucks are pure adulterated oil products from local illegal refineries and we are calling on NSCDC, state government and relevant regulatory agencies to investigate our claims.
“These cabals are responsible for bringing adulterated fuel and other petroleum products into the filling stations.
“They vandalise the pipelines, bring out crude oil and blend it with some chemicals, cook it inside the bush and bring it out as refined products for the public.
“These unwholesome products when they find their ways into the filling stations cause serious damage to automobiles,” Nnamani said.
He noted that the purported ban on IPMAN activities in Ebonyi was illegal and unconstitutional.
“The state governments have no power to ban IPMAN in any part of Nigeria. IPMAN is on the exclusive list of the constitution and as such, it is under the Federal Government purview.
“So, I think that since we are working in states, they should have investigated and know what the matter is.
“The purported ban on the activities of IPMAN aside from been illegal, the action will allow for illegality and criminality by the bunkerers.
“The Ebonyi government should join hands with the association in fighting economic crime going on in the petroleum downstream caused by operators of illegal refineries,” he added.
The state government had in a statement by Mr Bassey Chima, Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Oil and Gas, announced the ban on IPMAN activities in the state to forestall possible breakdown of law and order.
The IPMAN and Petroleum Tanker Drivers Union face-off resulted to unofficial increase in the pump price of PMS from N143 to N170 and N200 in some filling stations in Abakaliki.
The petroleum tanker drivers were alleged to have been directed by the zonal chairman to boycott product delivery to Abakaliki.
However, Chief Peter Modebelu, zonal chairman of the petroleum tanker drivers union could not be reached for confirmation of the boycott.
Meanwhile, Mr Paul Odemba, NSCDC Public Relations Officer in Ebonyi, confirmed the seizure of four articulated vehicles allegedly conveying adulterated petroleum product through Ebonyi.