In the wake of reports last September that Swiss trading firms, Trafigura and Vitol, were exploiting weak regulations in Africa to import “dirty fuels” into Africa, including Nigeria, West African countries, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire have all agreed on an import ban on all such fuels.
In September, Public Eye, a watchdog group in Switzerland had claimed that the two companies were blending and dumping dirty fuel in Nigeria and other West African countries with more than 100 per cent toxic (sulphur) levels allowed in Europe, thereby causing health and environmental hazards.
However, the Department of Petroleum Resources had adamantly argued in September that there was no such ‘dirty fuel’ in the country. Deputy Director, Public Affairs in DPR, Dorothy Bassey, had said ‘all petroleum products are tested before entering the shores of the country’ and ‘any product or products that fail the specification test are sent back to the country of origin.’
She however added that ‘if by error of omission or commission any product(s) that fall short of the required specification find their way into the country, the importer of such products will be severely sanctioned’.
In a counter-statement, the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohamed, said: “For 20 years, Nigeria has not been able to address the vehicle pollution crisis due to the poor fuels we have been importing.”
The recent ban on the importation of the fuels as well as the refusal to take concrete action against the Swiss company are proving that the Minister of Environment, rather than the DPR, is more correct in her analysis.
How the country was unable to notice the discrepancy for several months, despite the several tests and approvals the importers received, until the Public Eye found out remains anyone’s guess.