THE current scarcity of petroleum products being experienced in many parts of the country may get worse, if at the close of work today, the Federal Government has not ordered the removal of security operatives at the Integrated Oil and Gas Depot, in Apapa, Lagos.
The development followed an ultimatum issued by the Jetties and Petroleum Tank Farm Owners of Nigeria, JEPTFON, yesterday in Lagos, warning that its members would shut their depots and tank farm facilities across the country if government failed to accede to their requests.
JEPTFON ultimatum, it was gathered, is in response to the alleged forceful invasion and take-over of Integrated Oil and Gas Depot in Apapa, Lagos, by armed men on the orders of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, last week.
It said: "The association unanimously resolved that if NIMASA did not vacate the illegal and criminal invasion of the depot and facilities of Integrated Oil and Gas, including their head office within 24 hours, we shall have no choice than to close all depots in the country."
If the association makes good its threats, the country would be plunged into even more serious scarcity of petroleum products, which had crippled business and social activities in many parts of the country. This is because JEPTFON members account for about 60 per cent of the nation's total fuel distribution facilities.
Indeed, some of its members are currently assisting the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, in distributing petroleum products by trucks around the country, pending when the corporation can resume pipeline distribution.
Integrated Oil and Gas was last week shut by NIMASA for allegedly receiving stolen petroleum products, in its tank farm. But the company had since provided evidence of the requisite approvals by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, the regulator of the oil and gas industry, and the Nigerian Navy for the clearance of the vessel which brought the product on throughput agreements to its depot.
Speaking with newsmen in Lagos, Executive Secretary of JEPTFON, Mr. Enoch Kanawa, said the association summoned an emergency meeting where members deliberated extensively on the matter.
At the end of the meeting, he said, JEPTFON members condemned the illegal and unlawful seizure of the Integrated Oil depot and offices, especially as it was only the DPR that is empowered by law to close down a tank farm, and not NIMASA.
He said: "The illegal and unlawful seizure of the depot and facilities of Integrated Oil and Gas Ltd. and their head office is in total disregard to the safety and sensitive nature of such an enormous asset. We totally condemn this action by NIMASA.
"More worrisome is the physical torture of its Chairman, Capt. Emmanuel Iheanacho, who was abducted and had to be rescued by the State Security Service, SSS."