While various scientific research results have linked annual deaths of more than 100,000 Nigerians to air pollution, partly caused by the dirty fuel imported into the country by commodity dealers, the various regulatory bodies saddled with the responsibility of ensuring quality fuel sales have continued to engage in buck-passing.
The different agencies responsible for regulation in the oil and gas sector, including the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON), and to some extent, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), have failed in their responsibility to ensure that regulatory rules and procedures are complied with by players in the sector.
A recent research, which was publicly presented in May, and conducted by an independent international watchdog organisation Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN) concluded that as dirty and unsafe for use as the fuels refined illegally by vandals in Nigeria's creeks may be, they are 'cleaner' than those officially imported and legally sold at filling stations across the country.
It is a confirmation of a report earlier released in 2018 by the Dutch government which revealed that fuels refined in the Netherlands and exported to West African countries including Nigeria are far below officially recommended standards and cannot be sold anywhere in Europe.
According to the SDN report, samples taken from official filling stations in Lagos, Nigeria's densely populated commercial centre, and those collected from artisanal refineries in the creeks of Bayelsa and Rivers States were subjected to laboratory tests to confirm their toxicity and their compliance with best quality standards.
The research, which is said to be partly funded by the UK Foreign Office's anti-corruption conflict, stability and security fund, is part of SDN's efforts to assist those affected by the extractive industry and weak governance by exposing irregularities and shady deals.
Test resultSDN said the sample of average diesel refined abroad and sold at approved filling stations in the country showed 2,044ppm (parts per million) for sulphur, indicating that they are 204 times more sulphuric than the limits the European Union (EU) sets as safe.
Meanwhile, the diesel refined at the illegal artisanal refineries in the creeks and jungles run by vandals showed 1,523ppm in the average, an indication that they contain 152 times higher concentration of sulphur than the EU's safe limit.
For gasoline, otherwise known as petrol, the report says official samples collected contain 43 times more than EU fuel sulphur standards, while the sulphur content of the unofficial petrol was not provided.
However, for the household kerosene, the report states that; "Official kerosene was found to be much better quality than unofficial samples, but is generally in short supply. The low quality of unofficial samples indicate artisanal camps face challenges achieving a pure kerosene product"
An SDN official, Florence Kayemba, said; "Our research suggests Nigeria is having dirty fuel dumped that can't be sold to other countries with higher and better-implemented standards. The situation is so bad that the average official diesels sampled are of an even lower quality than that produced by artisanal refining camps in the creeks of the Niger Delta."
A report by The Guardian (UK) noted that "international dealers export to Nigeria around 900,000 tonnes a year of this low-grade, 'dirty' fuel, made in Dutch, Belgian and other European refineries, and hundreds of small-scale artisanal refineries produce large quantities of illegal fuel from oil stolen from the network of oil pipelines that criss-cross the Niger Delta."
Dutch government findingsIn June 2018, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Dutch Government released the report of its research into the activities of the refineries in the Netherlands. The result of test conducted on the oil exported to West Africa revealed that dangerous products were being dumped on the sub-region.
The report states in part; "Gasoline for European vehicles may contain no more than 1 per cent of benzene. Streams from the chemical industry with more than 40 per cent of benzene had been intentionally added to the gasoline for West Africa that were investigated by the ILT to increase the octane number.
"The Inspectorate also found on-road fuels that contained 300 times more sulphur than is permitted in the EU. Basically all investigated gasoline blends contain manganese, a substance that is prohibited in Europe. West African diesels have high contents of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). This means that the product is carcinogenic to a higher degree and leads to more particulate matter emissions when combustion takes place in a diesel engine."
The research is also a reiteration of a similar investigation earlier conducted by the Swiss-based investigative team- Public Eye.
In the investigation entitled; "Dirty Diesel: How Swiss Traders Flood Africa with Toxic Fuels," Public Eye reports that; "Swiss commodity trading companies take advantage of weak fuel standards in Africa to produce, deliver and sell diesel and gasoline, which is damaging to people's health. Their business model relies on an illegitimate strategy of deliberately lowering the quality of fuels in order to increase their profits."