The Petroleum Equalization Fund (PEF) has suspended the electronic loading system after it accused petroleum marketers of frustrating the scheme.
Announcing the suspension of the e-loading system known as Project Aquila, management said marketers who felt the system was laying bare their alleged fraudulent activities and enthroned transparency, caused the failure of the system.
Executive Secretary of the Fund Management Board, Sharon Kasali said nonetheless plans were under way to upgrade the system.
Kasali said that since the e-loading system came on board years ago, the project has helped government to save about N14 billion in payments to marketers.
She explained that the new upgrade will improve on how the trucks were tagged.
Explaining how the system had been working since its inception, Kasali
said: “In 2012, when we first started Project Aquila I, we concentrated on Conoil which was our pilot organization but in April of 2012 we expanded it to other marketers. Then by January 2013 we went full blast and only about five facilities out of the almost 70 facilities did not have the infrastructure,” she said.
“By March we began to feel that something was wrong with the system and the first sign was that people were coming to us either telling us that their tag was been stolen or they were losing them for whatever reason. To check this we imposed a penalty which with hindsight was the wrong thing to do. But then we thought we should do something that would act as deterrent but indeed what it did was put value on the tag. So, people who were really not happy with the system, who were doing bridging by air before capitalized on that and leaked to the market that the tags contain mercury and that they had chips in them that you could use to make phone calls.”
She explained further that the stealing of the tags escalated.
“The drivers actually came to say people were stopping at gun point and taking away the tags. With this information we decided to scale back, not actually cancelling it, but we relaxed the rules to enable us put in place of a new strategy. The tag itself was not expensive. We bought one for about N1, 100, so it was not the problem. The challenge was the people who were still interested in creating a loop hole to defraud the government,” she said.