Operators in the downstream sector of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry are groaning under conflicting operating requirements imposed by different government agencies, including the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), Ministry of Environment, Weights and Measures, Nigeria Police and the Town Planning Authority, among others, THISDAY has learnt.
These agencies, it was learnt, are issuing conflicting conditions for the establishment and operations of filling stations and depots, resulting in the sealing off of these businesses for alleged violation of the multiple regulations on many instances.
This development has impeded business activities in the downstream sector, especially in Lagos State that controls about 60 per cent of the activities in the sector.
THISDAY gathered for instance, that while the DPR, which is the apex regulator of both the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil and gas industry, provides that the minimum land space for the establishment of a filling station is 1,200 square metres, the Lagos State Town Planning Authority pegs the minimum space at 2,000 square meters.
The Weights and Measures Division of the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry is also intervening in the activities in the downstream in line with its mandate of ensuring balanced trading transactions through the use of accurate weighing and measuring instruments for trade, in line with international best practices.
Officials of the agency, which was upgraded to a government department in 2010, inspect filling stations periodically to ensure that operators use correct dispensing pumps and meters to dispense petroleum products.
This function, it was gathered, overlaps with the responsibility of the DPR, which is to ensure that marketers do not engage in profiteering.
While the DPR is also statutorily empowered to grant Approval to Construct (ATC) filling stations and depots to the operators, the Traffic Division of the Nigeria Police also intervenes to ensure that the station or depot is not sited where the queues of vehicles waiting to lift products will impede flow of traffic.
But the new Head of Downstream Monitoring and Regulation at the DPR, Mr. Oliver Okparaojiako, told THISDAY at the weekend that only the DPR has the statutory responsibility to seal off any filling station that violates the rules and regulations guiding the operation in the sector.
“You cannot tell any government agency not to come in and carry out inspection and regulation. But they cannot in the process of doing this, seal off any filling station. If they have any complaint, they should target the particular issue and not taking over the function of the DPR by saying they are sealing off the station. They did not grant the operating licence to the filling station in the first place. So, they cannot seal off what they did not license. But we appreciate the fact that they are playing their own roles,” he said.
Okparaojiako stated that the town planning authority has a role to play in siting a filling station; while the Weights and Measures monitors efficiency of dispensing meters.
According to him, the fire service is also relevant because petroleum products can easily cause fire outbreak.
He said the SON was also empowered to examine the specifications of petroleum products and lube oil to ensure that they were of the right quality, while the ministry of environment and the police are concerned with the environment and the potential effects on the flow of traffic, respectively.
Information from This Day was used in this report.