Proposed Bans in Nigeria Stir Debate


Stakeholders in the Nigerian lubricants industry have expressed their opposition to a proposal that effective Jan. 1 would ban imported lubricants as well as sales of lubricants dispensed from bulk tanks at gasoline stations across the country.

Their official stand on the matter is expected to be made known to the Nigerian government within the next two weeks. As at the time of filing this report, high-level consultations were ongoing between the Tribology Society of Nigeria (TSN) and Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) on the final draft of a joint statement on the issue.

Nigeria’s regulatory authority for the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry, the Department of Petroleum Resource (DPR), had stirred the hornet’s nest by unfolding the plan to place a blanket ban on imported lubricants and sales of lubricants from bulk tanks as from Jan. 1, 2010, at a national lubrication workshop organized by TSN in collaboration with SON, last month in Lagos.

Olumide Adeleke, DPR’s assistant director of pipeline, plants and installation, while disclosing the plan of the agency, said the proposed ban, among other measures being taken, was to ensure that the sale of fake and counterfeit lubricants, which has become a blight to the industry in the country, is reduced to the barest minimum.

While suspicion is rife that imported base oils are being sold to unsuspecting end-users in the country as blended lubricants by dubious marketers through the bulk tanks and plastic bottles, stakeholders have faulted the proposed blanket ban, saying effective monitoring by the regulatory agency is key to ending the menace.

John Erinne, coordinator of the workshop and managing director of Matrix Petro-Chem Ltd. agreed that the Minimum Quality Lubricant Standard (MQLS) is not being respected by the importers. However, he told Lube Report in Lagos last week, the planned blanket ban on imported lubricants was bound to fail.

“The blanket ban is a fiasco right from inception and is bound to fail. There is no country that is self-sufficient. There are some specialized and synthetic lubricants that cannot be produced locally and have to be imported. The authorities know where the problems lie. There should be a mechanism to check the influx of fake and cheap oils,” he said.

Erinne noted that the plan to ban sales of lubricants in bulk tanks was also wrong. “There are many companies that have invested heavily in the construction of bulk tanks for their retail outlets. Why do you want to stop them? The authorities want them to start selling in branded drums, whereas most advanced economies are moving away from drums because of environmental factors,” he said.

An official of a lubricant blending company with more than 100 bulk tanks in various locations in the country also told Lube Report that the government’s plan “cannot see the light of the day,” describing the proposal as “another joke taken too far.” DPR officials would not entertain any question on the matter for now, preferring to keep mum as reactions to the agency’s plan unfold.

Attempts made in the past to fight fake and counterfeit oils in Nigeria have been futile. Though the determination of the various stakeholders to give the fight the necessary nudge cannot be said to be in doubt, observers say the DPRs approach to the issue might just be the problem.

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