Home Column Review Petroleum distribution and tank firm operating policy

Review Petroleum distribution and tank firm operating policy

by Business News Report

The order asking tanker drivers occupying the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway to vacate within 48 hours has made the Lagos State Government a laughing stock. When the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway was being rehabilitated, commuters and other road users went through hell. The hellish condition was bearable to many on the consolation that once the road work was completed, there will be a relief.
That was not to be. As soon as the Mile-Two end of the rehabilitation work was completed, tankers and articulated vehicles took over the road completely. It was as if the tankers and other heavy duty vehicles had decided to make the expressway their parking lot. All efforts to decongest the road failed. The police pleaded helplessness. The Navy did its best but no relief was in sight. The Lagos State Government went on blame games, shifting responsibility to the Federal Government. In all, nothing meaningful was achieved. The tanker drivers entrenched themselves on the road claiming that they have settled virtually all the law enforcement agencies of government deployed to salvage the situation. On several occasions, workers have had to either abandon their vehicles or sleep in the office.
Suddenly, and from nowhere, the Lagos State Government has woken up from its long slumber and found the moral courage to ask the heartless and unrepentant tanker drivers to leave the road in 48 hours. To any first time visitor to Nigeria, he would reason that if there is anything that symbolises a dysfunctional system and ineffective governance, it is the Apapa gridlock. Apapa houses the nation’s gateway, the biggest port in the country, yet it is inaccessible. The Apapa-Oshodi Expressway links the Lagos port to the Murtala International Airport and it is sad that both Lagos State and Federal Governments have not paid enough attention to it but rather, have been playing politics with it.
Apapa traffic gridlock is a symptom of much deeper shortcomings in the management of government business. The Federal Government has for long sold the downstream of the oil sector to a cabal who has ensured that the nation’s refineries would never work. This is to give them the lee way to continue to import refined products and line their pockets with ill-gotten wealth. It is to enable the few that have access to government apparatus to import products and claim subsidy. Subsidy racket has become a big and lucrative business in Nigeria’s rental economy. If the nation’s refineries were working, the trucks will not be converging on Lagos to lift imported petroleum products from tank farms concentrated in Apapa and owned by individuals who care less about the ordinary Nigerian.
Commercial activities along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway axis of Lagos are gradually being grounded as the uncivilized and uncultured attitude of most of the tanker drivers has become unbearable. They park their tankers indiscriminately thereby blocking the highway and causing pains and discomfort to other road users as if Nigeria is in a state of anarchy and absolute lawlessness. Residents along Oshodi-Apapa Expressway are beginning to relocate to other parts of the state all to avoid the traffic madness on the road.

Warnings in the past from well meaning Nigerians that port users will have challenges on that road and advised against locating tank farms within the ports area were ignored by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The Obasanjo administration gave approval to all the tank farms to be situated around Nigeria’s busiest ports and many had no environmental impact assessment. This greedy, singular and callous act of ‘Executive Recklessness’ has brought economic loss in terms of manpower and loss of valuable time to both the rich and poor.
The government also failed to make the network of pipelines that link Atlas Cove to the various depots across the country work. If the pipelines were in good state, the bulk of the products the tankers are waiting endlessly to carry would have been transported seamlessly to the various depots in the country. Equally important is the fact that these cabals who own these trucks have also made the railways to fail. If the rail system had not collapsed, most of the products would also have been transported by rail at even cheaper cost.
As a result of these failures, the energy to power the economy is undersupplied. And this is made even worse by a collapsing public power supply system. Many industries and business enterprises have been groaning as a consequence of energy crisis. Many have cut down on the number of work hours. Flights are being cancelled on daily basis because aviation fuel could not be supplied on account of the gridlock on the Apapa- Oshodi axis. Because of the convergence of trucks on Lagos ports, an unprecedented traffic gridlock has been created on the Apapa axis of Lagos with spillover effects to other parts of Lagos, leading to considerable loss of man hours. Generally, the toll on the welfare of citizens is profound.
The government should immediately review the operating licenses granted to tank farm operators. Those without adequate facilities across the country where product can be discharged in bulk should be eased out of the business. Products should not be discharged at the Apapa port alone. Those to serve the Niger-Delta should go to Warri, Koko ports while those for East should be discharged at Port Harcourt. The participation of the NNPC in the supply chain should be discontinued and the private sector should be allowed to operate in a fully deregulated regime, subject to appropriate guidelines. Existing pipelines should be privatized or leased to tank farm owners to operate. The current model is clearly not working for Nigerians and government should put an end to it. Nigeria needs to make the rail system work as well. For an economy of the size of Nigeria to be efficient in every sense, it must have a functional rail system. The review of the entire distribution chain in the downstream of the petroleum sector is needed urgently. It is hoped it will be the first change that Nigerians will see in the APC- led Federal Government whose magical pass word is change.

Related Posts