Friday, 16 September 2016

Swiss Firms Accused of Shipping Toxic Fuel to Nigeria

A Nigeria-based civil society organisation, CSO, known as Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), yesterday accused two Switzerland companies, Vitol and Trafigura of engaging in nefarious activities by importing dirty fuel into Nigeria.

The group in conjunction with Public Eye, raised the alarm following the shipping of some toxic fuel commodities by the companies to the country and other West African countries.

Speaking with journalists in Abuja, the Executive Director, ANEEJ, Mr. David Ugolor, tasked the federal government to pay serious attention to the dangers posed to the health of citizens by these Swiss commodity trading companies, Vitol and Trafigura.

He argued that due to poor regulatory activities, foreign companies like Vitol and Trafigura “take undue advantage of weak fuel standards in Africa to produce, deliver and sell diesel, petrol and gasoline, which damage the health of the people.”

According to Ugolor, the Swiss companies’ “business model relies on an illegitimate strategy of deliberately lowering the quality of fuels for gain.

“Using a common industry practice called blending, Vitol and Trafigura and their conglomerates mix cheap and toxic intermediate petroleum products to produce what the industry calls African Quality fuels.
“These products contain higher levels of Sulphur and other harmful poisons that can never be found in Europe and the United States.”

The ANEEL Executive Director contended that by “selling such fuel and diesel at the pump in Africa, the traders increase external air pollution, causing respiratory disease and premature deaths.

“We all know that poor air quality poses serious risks to public health. As air quality declines, the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic and acute respiratory diseases increases for residents of cities where the people rely on diesel to power their means of production.”

Ugolor maintained that the dirty fuel shipped to West Africa by Vitol and Trafigura are known to burn very fast, equally leading to huge economic losses to vehicle owners in the African sub region.

“It is impossible to continue to remain silent about this problem, especially for the short and long term repercussions on the health and economy of our people.

“Therefore, the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice (ANEEJ), an NGO strong in the areas of anti-corruption, environment, poverty alleviation and good governance, in collaboration with a Swiss NGO, the Public Eye, formerly the Berne Declaration, have carried out this campaign against Dirty Fuels in the West African sub-region with the intention to address it.”

The NGO also tasked the federal, states governments and other stakeholders to, among others, “work closely with the National Assembly and help to activate all environmental laws that would check the illegitimate business activities of Vitol and Trafigura, and increase the oversight functions of all regulatory bodies like the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), and participate in setting up a task force in the sub-region to carry out a massive enlightenment on dirty fuel.”

The group further observed that given the increasing shipping of dirty fuel to the country, “there was need to bring to an end importation of dirty fuel whose risk is associated with diseases like stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic and acute respiratory diseases and other health challenges.”

However, Vitol has denied the allegations saying that it was inaccurate and misinformed.
In a statement signed by Andrea Schlaepfer, the company said it

does not control the supply chain, in which product from various suppliers, including major oil companies, is comingled, and that it therefore unable to determine the quality of fuel sold at the pump.
The stated that in Africa, governments control and manage the import of fuels and only they are able to determine local fuel standards.

“Vitol takes its HSE responsibilities seriously wherever it works and is investing extensively in upgrading Africa’s energy infrastructure, from EU standard terminals to a large gas to power project in Ghana which will provide 15 years of thermal power to their economy.

“As the recent World Bank report highlights, pollution is a problem worldwide and measures to address it are welcome.

It is a government’s prerogative to define the country specification and local refining capability may be a key influencing factor.

“Vitol does not control the supply chain, in which product from various suppliers, including major oil companies, is comingled, and Vitol therefore is unable to determine the quality of fuel sold at the pump.

“Vitol takes its HSE responsibilities seriously and where it is in a position to have an impact, it seeks to do so. Extensive investment is required in Africa’s energy infrastructure, particularly if it is to handle segregated supply and Vitol, through its terminal subsidiary VTTI has/ is building oil terminals in Kenya and South Africa and an LPG terminal in Nigeria. All are built to EU safety standards.

“Also, in sub-Saharan Africa household air pollution (largely from using solid fuels, such as wood, dung, charcoal and coal, for cooking) causes over twice as many deaths as ambient pollution (464k vs 196k – source World Bank) and Vitol is a longstanding supporter of projects to distribute clean cook stoves.”

Culled from: ThisDay Newspaper