21 July 2015, Lagos – The ban of 133 oil tankers from the country’s waters by the Presidency through the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation will check the high level of impunity that has characterised the oil and gas sector, operators have said.
It was learnt that though the letter authorising the ban emanated from the NNPC, many senior officials of the corporation were not aware of the intention of the government to effect the change.
The NNPC had banned 113 oil tankers from the country’s waters, citing a directive from President Muhammadu Buhari, in what traders said could be part of efforts to crack down on illegal crude oil trading.
The vessels, according to a report by Reuters, include mainly VLCC crude oil tankers, and were banned from calling at crude oil terminals and also from Nigerian waters with immediate effect, as stated in a letter circulated by the NNPC “pending a notice to the contrary by (the) government.”
However, operators in the sector told one of our correspondents that the directive was a step in the right direction, judging by the level of impunity and corruption that were rife in the sector.
A former President, Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, who is also the Managing Director, Danvic Petroleum International, Dr. Afe Mayowa, noted that by banning the 113 vessels from lifting the country’s crude, the present administration was determined to stamp out corruption, particularly in the oil sector.
He said, “I may not be privy to the detailed information on the banning of the vessels, but we all know that quite a lot of things were done in the past without really going through the proper procedures. You are also aware of the subsidy issue.
“In fact, a lot of irregularities have happened in the industry and the oil and gas sector had been in focus for the greater part of the last administration.
“There were so many accusations that were not made open. The immediate past Minister of Petroleum Resources was accused of so many things, and because of her relationship with former President Goodluck Jonathan, she was always protected.”
But some oil traders and vessel owners noted that the list included ships that had not called at Nigerian ports for years as well as several tankers such as the Happiness, Huge and Diona, operated by Iranian group, NITC, which had little business in Nigeria for some time, Reuters reported.
Some of the vessels were also listed twice, meaning that the number of banned vessels could be smaller than 113.
An operator with a major oil firm, told one of our correspondents that he was not surprised to hear that some vessels had been banned.
“More scrutiny is coming to the sector. The ban is not a surprise to me. The President understands the sector and I think he will continue with many of such surprises,” the official, who pleaded not to be named because of his firm’s dealings with the NNPC, said.
Meanwhile, senior officials at the NNPC were alarmed on hearing that the President had directed the ban of some oil tankers.
An official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “There is a normal channel to follow before such information is released to the public. But we were surprised that we read it as released by Platts and we checked among ourselves to know if anyone was actually aware of it, but to our surprise, many people in key departments here said they didn’t know anything about it.