Nigerian Union Targets Bootleggers


A union of Nigerian petroleum workers launched its own motor oil recently as part of an effort to combat illegal sales of fraudulent products.

The head of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) said the project has a two-pronged strategy: to offer motorists a reliable brand; and to rein in truck drivers who help to divert base oil for the illicit products.

Since we are in the oil industry, we want to improve the quality of products that are being sold, the unions General Secretary Joseph Akinlaja told Lube Report during a phone interview last week. This is a problem for Nigeria, and the union can help address it.

Fraudulent motor oil sales are a chronic problem in Nigeria, as they are in some other developing countries. Scam marketers sell substandard products – often base oil without any additives – from roadside stands. According to Akinlaja, the fraudulent segment is built on pilfered base oils.

Nigeria has a lot of base oil imported ostensibly to be used in lubricant plants, he said. Unfortunately, in between the depot and the blending plant, deliveries are often diverted.

Fraudulent products end up being packaged in plastic bottles and other types of containers of indiscriminate shapes and sizes. NUPENG hopes to make it easier for consumers to identify a legitimate product by packaging its motor oil in uniform one-liter containers bearing its blue and white logo. The union has conducted a promotional campaign to inform the public that only licensed dealers are allowed to sell its product.

NUPENG is recognized as a name that is associated with quality, so people have confidence in it, Akinlaja said.

The union, which has 30,000 members, is also trying to convince drivers not to divert deliveries.

We are able to discourage the illegal activity because the drivers are also members of the union, he said. We are offering financial incentives for drivers who cooperate, but we also have disciplinary measures for those who do not.

NUPENG is marketing two products: NUPENG motor oil for passenger cars and NUPENG Super for diesel engines. Both come in one grade, 20W-50.

The undertaking is the unions first business venture. Because it lacks its own blending facilities, it has partnered with Azez Petroleum Nigeria Ltd., a well-established domestic firm.

Sales began in April. Volumes are averaging approximately 1 metric ton (1.1 short tons) per month.

We need to sell more if were going to have an impact, Akinlaja said. Were still at the beginning of this program, and we have quite a way to go.

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