Product bridging: Why Aquila I system was scrapped – Kasali

Sharon Kasali, Executive-Secretary PEFMB*Says system saved govt N14bn in overpayments to marketers

Oscarline Onwuemenyi

16 January 2014, Sweetcrude, ABUJA – The Executive Secretary of the Petroleum Equalisation Fund Management Board, PEFMB, Mrs. Sharon Adefunke Kasali has explained that the fund decided to scrap its Project Aquila I system due to deficiencies involved in the tags used on petrol tankers involved in bridging.

PEFMB had two weeks ago announced that unregistered trucks will no longer be allowed to lift petroleum products at depots nationwide.

Project Aquila is the high-tech electronic loading and delivery system implemented by the board to check leakages in the system as well as enthrone transparency and due process.

Mrs. Kasali told newsmen in Abuja that although the project enabled government to save about N14 billion in payment to marketers, loopholes noticed in the system has necessitated the need to upgrade the system especially on how the trucks are tagged.

According to her, “In 2012 when we first started Project Aquila I, we concentrated on Conoil which was our pilot organization but in April of 2012 we expanded it to other marketers. Then by January 2013 we full blast and only about five facilities out of the almost 70 facilities did not have the infrastructure for whatever reasons known to them.

“By March last year we began to feel that something was wrong with the system and the first sign was that people were coming to us either telling us that their tag was been stolen or they were losing them for whatever reason.

“To check this we imposed a penalty which with hindsight that was the wrong thing to do but then we thought we should do something that would act as deterrent but indeed what it did was put value on the tag. So people who were really not happy with the system, who were doing bridging by air before capitalized on that and leaked to the market that the tags contain mercury and that they had chips in them that you could use to make phone calls.”

She further explained that “the stealing of those tags just escalated. The drivers actually came to say people were stopping at gun point and taking away the tags. When these information we decided to scale back not actually cancelling it but we relaxed the rules to enable us put in place of a new strategy.

“The tag itself was not expensive, we bought one for about N1, 100, so it was not the problem, and the challenge was the people who were still interested in creating a loop hole to defraud the government. We found that the tag was the weakest link in the project, if not it was a well thought out and well executed project,” she added.

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