HUMAN rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), and the Chairman, Lagos Satellite Depot, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Market (IPMAN), Akin Akinrinade, are not impressed by the 48 hour ultimatum handed down to stakeholders by the Department of State Services (DSS) on Thursday to end the current fuel scarcity in the country.
Falana, responding yesterday to the DSS order, dismissed it as an empty threat while Akinrinade wondered how the security organisation expected “us to give what we don’t have.”
But the Executive Secretary ,Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Clement Isong, saw some merit in the ultimatum.
He said the DSS was only “offering to help us anywhere we have security challenge.”
Falana ,fielding questions on Channels Television, declared: “The ultimatum will not work because there is no sanction for impunity in Nigeria.”
Continuing, he said: “The State Security Service (SSS) does not operate under the law in Nigeria. It does its own thing.
“There is nobody to call the agency to order. They will know that it’s just an empty threat because nobody is going to be arrested and prosecuted to teach a lesson.
“The other day, toxic fuel was brought to Nigeria. The government promised, ‘We’re going to deal with them, it will never happen again.’ Was anybody arrested? Was anybody prosecuted? It’s the same thing because they know the people behind it. It’s like oil theft. They know them.”
Falana said while the DSS was right to feel concerned about the “serious security problems” caused by endless queues at filling stations, it is the Police who are saddled with the responsibility of maintaining internal security in the country.
He said where the Police could not maintain adequate internal security, the president is empowered to call in the military.
He said:“So, this agency is a secret agency required to submit reports: ‘We fear that there will be a threat to the security in Nigeria.’ And the president will then take appropriate action. We must run this country in line with the provisions of the law.
“That (enactment establishing the DSS) is a decree made by the military. But now, we have the Constitution. Section 215 has imposed a duty on the Police to maintain the internal security of the country.
“But what the SSS – not DSS; it is not a department of state security. It is not a department of the Presidency. It’s the State Security Service for all of us.
“That body is required to submit reports to the government: ‘This problem may lead to insecurity. What can we do very quickly?’ The internal security of our country is the role of the police.”
IPMAN:DSS order is an action in vain
Akinrinade argued that only the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) could be given that kind of ultimatum.
Contacted by The Nation yesterday,he said:“The ultimatum by DSS, I think, was wrongly issued. The main supplier of petrol in this country is NNPC and if they (NNPC) give us the product we will sell to customers.
“As I am having this conversation with you, there is no special arrangement made for IPMAN to dispense. So when ultimatum is issued like this and there is nothing to back it up, it’s an action in vain.
“So, until they talk to NNPC to make fuel available to us as IPMAN, that ultimatum cannot apply to us, that’s our position.
“ From our end, we are asking that they give us fuel and we will dispense because we cannot give what we don’t have; so if they give us we will dispense otherwise our stations will still be the way they are at the moment.”
DSS’ directive misunderstood -MOMAN
However,the Executive Secretary, Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Clement Isong, saw the DSS order in a different light.
”I think you have misunderstood the DSS,” he told The Nation by phone yesterday.
He said: “What we have agreed is to improve the quality of distribution; let nobody create an impression that anybody was sabotaging anything- no.
“Rather, DSS was offering to help us anywhere we have security challenge-filling stations, depots, we can call them and they will help us. The DSS has been very supportive but anybody that is sabotaging will see their bad side.
“Essentially, what we MOMAN agreed to is that we want to improve our operational efficiency; we coordinate better with NNPC and already there is improvement in the distribution.
“We are not waiting for 48 hours.As you can see in Lagos, queues are disappearing.
“We are just improving coordination and there is nothing sinister. There is product but the challenge is getting the product from where it is into the tanks of Nigerians and that is what we are working on.”
In handing down the ultimatum on Thursday,the DSS said the fuel scarcity had assumed a dimension that was detrimental to the security of the country.
The DSS spokesman, Dr. Peter Afunnaya,told reporters at the end of a meeting with stakeholders in Abuja that the Service could not fold its arms and allow some individuals or group to destabilise the country.
Afunnaya quoted the NNPC as saying it had about 1.9 billion litres of petrol in stock that could last beyond the Christmas.
He said that after the expiration of the ultimatum, the Department would commence a nationwide operation to ensure that the products are made available.
Afunnaya said: “It is the mandate of the Service to detect and prevent threat to national security. This is why the Service has to summon the stakeholders’ meeting in the oil and gas sector to find a lasting solution to the problem before it snowballs into crisis.
“The stakeholders at the meeting included the NNPCL, Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), IPMAN, MOMAN, Depot Operators and National Association of Transport Owners (NATO) among others.
“There is an agreement that marketers will be operating for 24 hours on daily basis and that tankers owners said all hands will be on deck to ensure lifting of the products.
“IPMAN has also committed itself to ensure that the product is available for 24 hours daily. The NNPC Limited disclosed that it has over 1.9 billion litres of PMS in stock and also agreed to sell the products at official ex-depot price to all oil marketers nationwide.”