Abuja and Katsina — Fuel marketers in Katsina have begun importing refined petroleum products from the newly-built refinery in neighbouring Niger Republic, investigations by Daily Trust show.
Niger-refined diesel is already available in many filling stations in Katsina State, and marketers say plans are on to begin importing petrol from the Soraz refinery.
The refinery was opened in November in Zinder, just 80 kilometres north of the border with Nigeria, with enough capacity to satisfy domestic requirements and a huge surplus for export.
Until the recent development, Nigeria imports refined products only from far away countries including India, Brazil and Netherlands.
Daily Trust investigations show that a company belonging to business mogul Dahiru Mangal started importing diesel from the Soraz refinery in April to outlets in Katsina State.
"We have been importing diesel from Niger for almost four months now. We have so far made three trips of 30 trucks each," an official at D.B. Mangal Petroleum, Alhaji Lawal Dahiru Mangal, told Daily Trust in Katsina.
Checks at some of the filling stations selling the Niger-refined diesel show that a litre sells at N160, compared with the N170 price of diesel brought up North from the ports in Lagos.
The Mangal company sells the imported commodity to end users at its own filling stations and to other retailers in the state.
Alhaji Lawal said the company has obtained import license from the Federal Government and "also met all requirements put in place by the government for importation of the commodity."
Asked if they will consider bringing in petrol, he said, "For now we are not importing petrol from Niger but arrangements are on for its importation. We are studying the situation for now and if we are okay with the gains we will start."
He added that the price of the commodity varies even at their own D.B. Mangal filling stations depending on the distance of the retail outlet.
"The price of the commodity within Katsina metropolis is different from the price at D.B. Mangal's outlets outside Katsina," he said, adding "We have permanent customers from within and outside Katsina State that are buying the commodity from us."
Some of the drivers of D.B. Mangal Petroleum confirmed to Daily Trust that they do bring in diesel from Niger.
"We are importing 30 trucks of diesel per trip from Niger. So far we have made three trips in four months. Right now, we have about eight trucks of diesel that are not offloaded," one of the drivers said.
A fuel attendant at the I.M. Petroleum in Katsina also told Daily Trust that they "have bought diesel from Mangal twice" so far.
He said the commodity is cheaper at Mangal's company when compared with the price of diesel imported to Nigeria through the seaports. "Availability at Mangal company also matters; you can always get the commodity from Mangal," he said.
No official of the Department of Petroleum Resources in Abuja was available for comments yesterday. Spokeswoman for DPR, Mrs Belema Osibodu, did not answer her calls and did not respond to a text message sent to her.
But a source at the department said there were some discussions about diesel import permits applied by some companies who want to import from Niger Republic.
The source said since diesel is a deregulated product, marketers may import the commodity when they satisfy regulatory requirements.
The Niger refinery, located some 900 km east of the capital Niamey, is a 20,000 barrel-per-day capacity and will be fed entirely by oil from the newly-launched Agadem oilfield, a further 700 km east.
It will initially draw crude from three Agadem wells with reserves totalling 480 million barrels. Local consumption of refined products accounts for 7,000 barrels a day with plans to export the rest.
The refinery is 60 percent-owned by Chinese state oil company CNPC and 40 percent by Niger. It follows a $5 billion deal signed between the two in 2008 to concurrently build the plant and develop crude oil from Agadem.