In a moment of supposed candour, the Director, Weight and Measures Department in the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr Muhammad Sidi, recently revealed how oil marketers rip Nigerians off through false measures, making N198,500 illegally from every 33, 000-litre truck of PMS. Mr. Sidi made this statement in Abuja during a surveillance activity of the department to some fuel stations. He said the action was to ensure that all commercial transactions involving the use of weights and measures were accurate, fair and legal.
Of course, his revelation did not come as a surprise. It was something most Nigerians had suspected all along and he merely gave it an official seal, confirming that his department had all along been largely dormant while hapless Nigerians were being daily taken to the cleaners by unscrupulous oil marketers. Most Nigerian motorists have a fair gauge of what is being sold to them at fuel stations and what they do is to determine which of the stations gives the fairest deal in their purchases. The ideal situation is what Mr Sidi painted in his official narrative, namely that all commercial transactions involving the use of weights and measures should be accurate, fair and legal and it is heartening to know that he harped on this fact. But then, how often does his department carry out the routine surveillance? After sealing off the premises of erring outlets, does the department ensure that they suffer further sanctions to deter other marketers from similar practices?
To be sure, most of the transactions in the oil industry are bedevilled by the legendary opacity which has characterised public activities in the land. To say the least, not a few of millionaires have been made from these shady deals for which the whole country suffers inexorably. The rip-off by the oil marketers is just a tip of the iceberg: there is monstrous grand larceny in the oil industry, and Mr Sidi merely scratched the surface of a cancer threatening to strangulate a life source to the Nigerian economy. Just as the individual fuel buyer is being ripped off, the whole country is also being ripped off in the international market where transactions sadly also involve the use of weights and measures that are neither accurate nor fair. Mr. Sidi should therefore not expect Nigerians to be impressed by his discovery and revelation on the oil industry when bigger theft and sleaze are being covered by a criminal syndicate in a conspiracy of silence.
In any event, Mr. Sidi’s revelation amounts to self-indictment since his department has failed to give the ordinary fuel buyer the needed protection from the predatory hawks in the oil industry that are ripping their customers off virtually in all transactions. If the department had been consistent in apprehending the erring outlets, the sharp practices would have been reduced significantly, if not totally eradicated. It is not hard to imagine that as soon as the brief surveillance that precipitated the statement issued in Abuja was completed, the affected stations’ technicians returned the fuel pumps to the cheating mode in order to continue the rip-off. It is even apposite to ask questions regarding the weigh bridges along the country’s major roads where these trucks were weighed in the past. Are they still in use? If yes, the rip-off must then be at the instance of conniving regulators, lax enforcement and carefree compliance.
One good thing about Mr. Sidi’s revelation however is the acknowledgement of the proper procedure often neglected by the establishment in the corruption conundrum in which the oil industry is submerged. Now that the lid covering the sharp practices of the oil marketers has been lifted, we can only hope that Nigerians will heave a sigh of relief, experiencing fairer deals from subsequent transactions.