By Adeola Yusuf, Saturday Telegraph
The unfortunate result of the Federal Government’s foot-dragging on end to importation of dirty fuel is a cut in lifespan of Nigerians and their automobiles. ADEOLA YUSUF in this report reveals why Nigerians and their automobile will still keep living shorter lifetime than their counterparts in Africa
Over 90 per cent of premium motor spirit (PMS) also known as petrol in circulation in Nigeria is venomous. The Federal Government is not only aware of the danger this dirty fuel –legally imported into the country, posed to citizens, it also keeps shifting deadline set to end import of this sulphur-concentrated fuel, into Africa’s biggest exporter of crude. However, Saturday Telegraph gathered that the acute shortage of fuel, which began to rock Nigeria during last Yuletide, hurt the December 1, 2017 target earlier set to end importation of the non-environment-friendly fuel. Despite its status in Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), Nigeria,a fuel-import dependent nation, could not afford to stop importation of fuel. Its refineries are in comatose; it could not but left its border wide open for dirty fuel notwithstanding the danger of this to the citizens and their automobiles.
Road plied by many
A communiqué jointly issued by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Economic Communities of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Commission, and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) noted that switching to low-sulphur diesel and use of cleaner vehicles would result in annual savings in health costs of about $6 billion in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the ministerial meeting on promoting low sulphur fuel held in Abuja in 2016, governments in the ECOWAS sub-region had agreed that all imported fuel should meet 50ppm max, in line with the African Refineries Association (ARA) -AFRI4 specification by July 1, 2017. Already, neighbouring countries like Ghana, which also signified interest in reversing the trend, has since raised its standards and begun importation of cleaner products. In late 2016, Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire agreed to ban importation of Europe’s dirty fuel, limiting sulphur from 3,000 parts per millions to 50ppm. But over a year after, Nigeria has continued to import the commodity to the detriment of its citizens-consumers, despite the release of new guidelines on petroleum products by the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).
Back and forth on deadline’s decision
Precisely on December 1, 2016, Nigeria, Ghana and other West African countries agreed to introduce strict standards to ensure cleaner, low sulphur diesel fuels and vehicle emission standards, effectively cutting off Europe’s West African market to export its dirty fuels. The Federal Ministry of Environment had initially set July 1, 2017, deadline to begin the enforcement of the ban, but the deadline was missed. “From July 1, 2017, we will commence the enforcement of the 50ppm sulphur in fuel. And the July deadline is on all fuels, diesel, petrol and kerosene. Everybody knows that this is going to take some efforts, which is why we gave the six months’ notice. What is more important is that we are working with the refineries on a long-term approach,” former Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed, said. “Some of the new refineries that are coming into position in Nigeria are coming in at 10ppm; South Africa is 15ppm. But for us, it is a West African problem and we hope that we can lead in West Africa by reducing it. So, there is no reason why we can’t do that,” Mohammed, who is now Deputy Secretary of United Nations, added. While such fuel has long been illegal in Western nations and is increasingly outlawed in the developing world, the deadlines for bans in the four West African countries kept being pushed back, Reuters once reported.
How Ghana left Nigeria behind
According to reports, Ghana is the only regional state that has delivered on a pledge, and codified rules preventing the import or transport of high sulphur gasoline or diesel. After missing the July 1 deadline, Nigeria, the region’s biggest fuel consumer, set up a task force to examine the issue. A Nigerian Environment Ministry official told reporters that the task force aimed to advise government on a new standard by late September with new rules possible by December 1, 2017. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), which has joined health campaigners pressing for change, said smaller nations – Togo and Benin were waiting for Nigeria to act, while Ivory Coast had not progressed at all. The five nations had promised cleaner fuel rules under pressure from campaign group ‘Public Eye,’ which criticised them and international trade houses for allowing cars, trucks and households to burn fuels banned around the world. Ghana followed up by slashing sulphur content to 50 parts per million (ppm) for imported petrol and diesel, from 1,000 ppm and 3,000 ppm. SON was said to have proposed 50 ppm for diesel and 150 ppm for petrol. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) included prices for them in the Direct Sales, Direct Purchase (DSDP) deals with oil traders – at an extra cost of at least $25 per tonne. But the country did not codify the standards in law, or issue new specifications to importers. “As it stands, the status quo remains,” one Nigerian fuels importer said, adding that “nothing at all” had come from government.
Falling short of Standard
Investigation has shown that the old standard for Premium Motor Spirit (petrol), NIS 116: 2006, was replaced by NIS 116: 2017. The former NIS 149: 2006 standard for Gas Oil (diesel) was also replaced by NIS 948: 2017. The standard for Household Kerosene (HHK), NIS 141: 2006, was replaced by NIS 949: 2017. Tasking stakeholders to update their NIS collection through the organisation’s library and documentation centres in Abuja, Lagos and all nearest state offices, SON maintained that this was to ensure they use the current and correct editions for their products and services.
Campaigners’ voice is not heard
Campaigners are struggling to keep the issue on the public agenda. David Ugolor, who worked with Public Eye, reportedly said the cause lacked “someone with a strong political position” to implement the rules. He said the group was looking for ways to put pressure on suppliers. NNPC contracts showed 150 ppm gasoline would cost anywhere from $20-$30 per tonne more than fuel with higher sulphur, while lower sulphur diesel would add just $10-$15 a tonne, an analyst told Reuters. It is expected that the Federal Government will increase the price of petrol or bear the extra cost. Given the higher cost of cleaner gasoline, campaigners said Nigeria might only introduce stricter rules for diesel.
Pennywise, Pound foolish
While the government kept shifting deadline to end importation of dirty fuel into the country, the micro and macro economies pay dearly for it. As at the last count, automobiles of both the poor and the rich in the country are at grave risk. Have you ever, as a Nigerian, wondered why the manufacturer’s warranty on your new or relatively new car or automobile is a nullity? A Professor of Economics and Director, Centre for Petroleum, Energy, Economics and Law, University of Ibadan, Adeola Adenikinju, has an answer for you.
He said: “The fuel in your tanks does not only reduce the efficiency of the automobiles, it ‘kills’ the engines steadily. High sulphur fuel like the one in circulation in Nigeria, Adenikinju, told Saturday Telegraph, leads to revenue loss through frequent breakdown of vehicles. “The effects on the economy are enormous.
Users of cars and machines will have to spend more money on maintenance and replacement. This will result in wear and tear, and economic loss. High sulphur fuel will also lead to environmental pollution and endanger people’s health, leading to low productivity,” Adenikinju said.Death by instalment No matter how risky the sulphur-fuel is to lifespan of automobiles, the life of Nigerians, too, is on the cliff.
A study conducted by the Department of Physics at the University of Port Harcourt in 2012 linked rising cases of respiratory diseases to pollution mainly caused by combustion, especially of dirty fuel. The study analysed epidemiological data collected from the State Ministry of Health in relation to ambient air quality data of the state and National Ambient Air Quality Standard data and found that 30,435 disease cases were reported during 2003 to 2008, out of which 61 patients died.
The diseases found to be prevalent in the study area as a result of air pollution were pertussis, pulmonary tuberculosis, cerebrospinal meningitis (CSM), pneumonia, measles, chronic bronchitis, and upper respiratory tract infection (URT). This was in 2012 when the daily consumption volume was still at 35 million barrels per day. Now the NNPC says Nigeria consumes 45 – 50 million litres daily while over 90 per cent of this are sourced through importation. Unless removed, sulphur, a natural component of crude oil, is retained in Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and diesel, Consultant Public Health Physician/Epidemiologist and former Chief Medical Director, Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), Prof. Akin Osibogun, said. “Its presence in petroleum products impairs the effectiveness of emission control systems and contributes to air pollution.
The toxic substances in the fuel increase incidences of bronchitis, asthma and other respiratory tract problems,” he said in a document sighted by Saturday Telegraph. There are formations of oxides of sulphur from the combustion of sulphur, Osibogun declared.
These oxides combine with moisture in the air to form sulphuric acid, a known carcinogenic agent and a respiratory tract irritant. The presence of high levels of sulphur in fuel reduces their efficient combustion and results in high levels of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxides emissions, thus affecting air quality, Osibogun explained. “Acid rain formed from various oxides of sulphur, nitrogen and carbon; contribute to rapid deterioration of housing infrastructure, for instance, roofs and paints, in addition to increased health costs and premature deaths. Reducing the level of sulphur in fuel attracts additional costs and that makes lower sulphur content fuel to appear more expensive.
“In the long run, however, if we consider the health and environmental effects, lower sulphur content fuel may be cheaper. National economists, environmentalists and health experts have to conduct cost-benefit analyses to arrive at acceptable national standards,” he said.
Life expectancy of African giant’s citizens
The people in many other sub-Sahara African countries still live longer and healthier lives, than Nigerians, the Annual Global Burden of Disease Study, published in the international medical journal, The Lancet, has revealed.
The study, which shows that a Nigerian man born in 2016 can expect to live 63.7 years, was, though, an increase in life expectancy of seven years over the past decade, while a woman has a life expectancy of 66.4 years, up 8.1 years from 2006. But the study was quick to stress that illnesses – mostly those related to respiratory infections likely to be cause by toxic fuel; and injuries can take away years of healthy life. It added that a Nigerian male born in 2016 will live approximately 55.5 years in good health, while a female will live a healthy life of approximately 57.2 years. Nigeria lags behind Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, and Ethiopia even though it has a higher life expectancy than South Africa, Niger, and Cameroon.
Director, Centre for Healthy Start Initiative, Jacob Olusanya, while lending his voice to the study, said: “Life expectancy in Nigeria is growing, but people in many other sub-Sahara African countries are living longer, healthier lives. Communicable diseases like malaria, diarrhea, lower respiratory diseases, and HIV are still taking the lives of far too many Nigerians. Infants and children are at particular risk from these diseases, and neonatal ailments like sepsis and encephalopathy kill thousands of infants. We have much more work to do,” he said.
He said the top five causes of premature deaths in Nigeria are malaria, diarrheal diseases, HIV, neonatal encephalopathy, and lower respiratory infection, noting that the ailments that cause illnesses can be very different, with irondeficiency anemia, back pain, and migraines topping the causes of years that people live with disability in Nigeria.
“Deaths of children under five are a persistent health challenge. For every 1,000 live births, 46.6 Nigerian children under the age of five die. That far exceeds the global figure of 38.4, and the regional average of countries in western sub-Sahara Africa, which is 40.7.
Passing the bulk
Head of SON’s public relations, Bola Fashina, told Saturday Telegraph that his agency is not in an hurry to effect end to importation of dirty fuel. “There is need to give importers time to strategise on how to adopt the new standards.
A lot of things need to change with the new standards, and this cannot be done overnight. “First and foremost, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) is not statutorily required to set standards on petroleum products in Nigeria.
That responsibility is the function of SON,” he said. Trust agencies of government; their mastery in bulk passing is second to none. The DPR expressed the belief that SON should be blamed for setting or falling short of standard. DPR head of public affairs, Paul Osu, who corroborated Fashina’s view, however, absolved his agency in any wrong doing. “The DPR only enforces standards issued by SON in our regulatory oversight of the oil and gas industry.
Consequently, any new operable standard that has been issued by SON for implementation will be adopted by DPR,” Osu said. Asked what the NNPC is doing to adopt the new standard, Group General Manager, Group Public Affairs Division, Ndu Ughamadu, also said: “We are working towards meeting the specifications to ensure only quality fuel is produced in the country.” Nigeria, Africa’s biggest crude exporter, had, together with West African neigbours – Togo, Ivory Coast and Benin Republic – set a target to implement rules banning imports of petrol and other products with high sulphur content from December 1, 2017, after missing earlier deadlines.