As part of its ongoing efforts to end graft in the administration of subsidy regime, the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Authority (PPPRA) has suspended Swiss-based oil firm, Nimex Petroleum, for failing to provide shipping documents.
The agency has also moved against Swift Oil, a Lagos-based company, directing it to also provide similar documents or face suspension.
PPPRA’s action is an indication that the agency has embarked on taking serious steps to clamp down on subsidy graft estimated to have cost the country over one trillion naira.
The Executive Secretary of PPPRA, Mr. Reginald Stanley, who confirmed the suspension Wednesday night, said NIMEX was sanctioned for “failing to provide documents relating to its shuttle vessels, which loaded from the mother vessel, as well as the original documentation on the cumulative load-outs of the mother vessel”.
On his appointment last November, Stanley had vowed to enthrone a regime of transparency in the downstream, warning petroleum marketers “to shape up or ship out of the industry”.
He stated that “NIMEX is therefore, suspended from supplying cargoes to Nigerian marketers under the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) Scheme, pending the provision of the necessary documents’’ by the company.
The Executive Secretary said that “all marketers are hereby warned that with effect from May 3, 2012, all purchases of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) from Messrs NIMEX Petroleum shall not be processed for PSF claims.”
The PPPRA boss said further that the Independent Cargo Inspectors, who superintended the receipt of the products from NIMEX, would also be sanctioned, if found to be culpable.
Stanley pointed out that the sanction would send a powerful signal to all operators that a new regime of transparency and due process in the industry is here to stay.
In a related development, the agency has directed Swift Oil and Gas Ltd, based in Lagos, to provide required documentation on “originals of discharged documents (shore tank certificates), detailed truck-out of the discharges, as well as a comprehensive bank statement detailing lodgments in respect of the sale of the discharges”, failure of which it would also be sanctioned.
Reuters reported that Nimex Petroleum had confirmed that PPPRA had suspended its activities in Nigeria in a letter dated May 3 over missing documentation relating to the delivery of two shipments of between 10,000 and 12,000 tonnes of PMS.
At current spot market prices, the subsidy payment due for the shipments in question is worth around $10 million.
Nimex said it had sent the PPPRA copies of documents - rather than originals as requested - because the Nigerian banking system was holding the original papers as credit until the subsidy payment was received.
"The originals are in the banking channel," Nimex's general manager Oliver Hess told Reuters, adding the bank would hold the documents until the regulator had paid out the sum due for the shipments.
But the bank would not release the original documents until the regulator had paid the subsidy, Hess said, creating a situation in which the oil firm was going around in circles to obtain the missing documentation requested.
Two Nimex employees were travelling to Nigeria's capital Abuja with most of the original document requested, Hess said, adding the firm hoped to resolve the dispute by Friday.
The investigation by the House of Representatives disclosed that 18 firms never produced the documents required to prove the subsidy funds received from the government tallied with the amount of fuel they had imported.