A variety of fake car engine oil is being sold in shops and garages across the country, according to investigation done by oil companies.
The most affected products are Lubia Oil 6200 manufactured by Total, and lubricants from Shell Uganda and Kobil.
According to investigators, the fake oil is produced from waste lubricants and machine oil, which are bought cheaply from various fuel stations in Kampala and it is recycled and repackaged for sale as clean lubricants. Early this week, the Police and Uganda National Bureau of Standards officials impounded fake motor engine oil worth millions of shillings from shops in Kampala and Bulenga in Wakiso District.
According to Total Uganda’s Lawyer Robert Mugerwa, Total approached the firm after a public outcry over the heavy vehicle engine Lubia Oil 6200. It was alleged that the oil was not performing as expected hence loss of finances and consumers.
“They are really producing on an extensive scale. They supply the entire country and even export it,” said Mr Robert Kagoro, a lawyer working on behalf of Total.
“It is upon this that we launched the operation under our intellectual property division, along with Police. The oil was first discovered in shops on Nabugabo Road in the city and in Ndeeba, a suburb. These operators then led us to the manufacturing plant in Bulenga, a few kilometres outside Kampala, where the alleged counterfeit oil is packaged,” he added.
The Shell Uganda Country Manager, Mr Ivan Kyayonka, confirmed that the industry has been heavily affected. “Counterfeit oil is obviously affecting our genuine products, although for now we can not equate by how much we have lost out.”
He said motor engine oil being the most highly purchased product, is more prone to being faked. Total Uganda Managing Director Ada Eze said the most affected products are Total lubricants, particularly Total Lubia Oil 6200 for which the packaging has been copied and used by fake manufacturers.
The facility where the oils are faked is located inside a building in Bulenga and is owned by a one Shafik Lukyamuzi, who is on the run. The company buys used oil from petrol stations in large quantities, sieves it and then adds chemicals and sells it as fresh motor engine oil.
There are three distiller machines at the facility and hundreds of drums scattered around the ground. The recycled oil is a condensed, black liquid. However, some are mixed with some unknown chemicals to turn the colour to match those that they are faking.
It is these fake products that have been circulated across the country and even exported to DR Congo and South Sudan according to Mr Kagoro. The suspects, Lukyamuzi, his sister and a one Delouse, the major alleged supplier of these substandard products in Ndeeba, were arrested but given police bond and will be produced in Court on Monday.
According to the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics (UNBS) officials, since machine oil is cheap, traders opt for it, repackage it as motor engine oil, and put it on the market at a high price.
“Such machine oil comes in drums and is so cheap compared to engine oil. It is unfortunate that this is what is majorly put on the market and repackaged as motor engine oil.”
Mr Deus Mubanginzi, the UNBS manager of testing laboratory, said the first major step in faking oil is implanting fake labels. Quality oil usually is certified by the American Petroleum Institute (AIP) and comes with the AIP label.
“This AIP classification is a pointer to quality diesel and petrol engine oil. However, such labels that have proper specifications are implanted on the fake oil.”
The label is often inclusive of details of the make of oil. For petrol engine oil, its label is letter E, combined with any other alphabet number. While for diesel engine oil, it is represented by C followed by any alphabet, Mr Mubanginzi said.
He explains that motor engine oil is made depending on classifications of engines. In Uganda diesel CA, CB, CC are outdated and not acceptable on the market for they are dubbed substandard. Those acceptable on the market are CD and CE”
And for petrol, the versions acceptable on the market are EE, EF, EG while those below EE are considered counterfeits. “Some of the types of oil are outdated for it was designed for old engines. We do not accept it on the market because it may affect the modern engines,” he said.
Victim narrates ordeal
Mr Peterson Kayongo, who owns a heavy duty truck, said: “I bought this oil from Kisekka Market which I hardly cared to cross check because I was sure it was Total Lubia Oil. But unfortunately, I later discovered that it was oil for industry machines, not motor vehicle engine.”
He spent more than Shs3 million to replace the engine of his truck. He also owns a Lexus that was also affected by the fake engine oil. Mr Kayongo was caught unware, and represents a bigger fraction of Ugandans who have been caught up in the mix of counterfeited motor engine oil.