Concerns Over Smuggling Of Fuel In Nigeria | Independent Newspapers Nigeria

Lagos – There are heightened concerns over the spate of smuggling of petroleum products outside the shores of Nigeria, just as the nation continues to experience scarcity of fuel.

Stakeholders are of the opinion that the porosity of Nigerian borders and insufficient coordinated response by the concerned authority are amply responsible for the frequency of illegal movement of the products out the country.

Besides, they said the relatively cheaper cost of Nigerian fuel to others in the neighbouring countries as a result of the increase in the price of crude oil at the international market, may have provided a lucrative market for the smugglers to play fast one on Nigeria’s economy.

While there’s no known number of times the smugglers have moved the products across the borders, their nefarious activities are death kneel on the nation’s economy.

Last week, the Niger State Command of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)  said  arrested eight trucks laden with a total of 469,000 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) and their drivers in Mokwa, Niger State, on their way to Babana, a border town between Nigeria and Republic of Benin.

The Niger State Commandant of NSCDC, Mr. Yakubu Ayuba,said  six of the trucks belong to one marketer, adding that two of the trucks contained 66,000 litres, twice the quantity contained in a normal truck.

Comptroller of Operations, Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Engr. Abdillahi Isa, said only one truck out of the eight had a genuine waybill to a recognized station in Babana.

He added that the owners of the other trucks would have to explain their mission and destinations, stressing that if it was established that they were involved in products diversion, they would pay a fine of N200 per litre to the government.

Similarly, the  Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Seme Border Command, intercepted 2,200 jerry cans of smuggled of petrol with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) worth over N10 mi llion between Dec. 1, 2017 and date.

The total volume of PMS intercepted was 55,000 litres (2,200 x 25 litres).

The Area Controller, Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu, d said that most of the seizures were made at Pashi-Yekeme Community in Owode and the creeks.

Aliyu said that the command was determined to combat the smuggling of petroleum products usually done by the smugglers using jerry cans and passing through the creeks and illegal routes.

He said that they were not banning the use of trucks to transport the products to the communities along the border where they were legitimately meant to serve as was being wrongly and widely speculated by some people.

The controller explained that smuggling of petrol in jerry cans had been a recurring decimal which operatives of the NCS had always tried to suppress.

“This has been our modest contribution toward ameliorating the sufferings of Nigerians caused by the current shortage of the product,’’ he said.

Aliyu said that the command had always and would continue to enforce her statutory mandate of revenue generation, suppression of smuggling and facilitation of legitimate trade.

He said the command would also continue to protect the international land border against illicit smuggling and trafficking of small and light weapons across the border along the West African sub-region.

Aliyu said that the NCS operational norms did not allow trucks of petroleum products to cross the Nigerian territory either through the Seme main border or its Owode-Apa Outstation.

He said that the Owode-Apa Outstation was synonymous to every approved border post manned by all relevant government security agencies (NCS, Police, Immigration, Air Force, Navy, DSS, SON, NAFDAC, Quarantine, Civil Defence, among others).

“This is because all loaded trucks with petroleum products meant for Seme axis are strictly monitored and documents provided are carefully scrutinised in order to avoid diversion.

“It is also to equally ensure that the products meant for the axis are actually discharged strictly at the approved filling stations along Seme main border or Owode-Apa border communities,’’ the controller said.

Aliyu said that officers of the anti-bunkering unit were always assigned to escort all loaded incoming trucks to ensure strict compliance in discharging the products to the approved filling stations in the border communities.

“The surveillance becomes inevitable because Nigerians who reside along the borders have the right to be served with the product for their local economic activities,’’ he said.

The controller said that officers of the command would continue to patrol every nook and cranny of the border to ensure that the products were discharged to where they were legitimately meant for.

He said that officers of the command would continue to apprehend individuals who might attempt to smuggle the product out through the creeks or the illegal routes at night and seize the products.

The controller said that the present leadership of the NCS led by Retired Col. Hameed Ali “is ready to bring all erring officers who circumvent government’s efforts, to face the consequences of their actions’’.

Aliyu warned all smugglers and perpetrators of the illicit act to desist from it, adding that they would be made to face the full wrath of the law if they were caught, saying others caught were being prosecuted

Perhaps, the increased smuggling was manifested in a recent statistics released by the Petroleum Resources, which revealed the daily supply of petrol rose from 24.15 million litres in September 2017 to 27.06 million litres in October, then 31.27 million litres in November before increasing to 36.7 million litres in December.

The NNPC said the country was hit by another shortage of petrol that lasted through December and early in January this year which later excalated to huge scarcity of the product in the country

Little wonder, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) recently raised alarm over the sustained nefarious activities of some cross-border fuel smuggling syndicates and hoarders which have so far impeded efforts by the Corporation to sanitize the fuel supply and distribution matrix across the country.

Dr. Maikanti Baru, Group Managing Director of the Corporation, told the Joint National Assembly Committee on Petroleum Downstream that if the activities of the fuel truck diverters and smugglers were left unchecked, it would be absolutely difficult to guarantee round-the-clock availability of petrol throughout the country due to the massive leakages wrought on the fuel supply and distribution network by the smugglers.

In a detailed presentation to the Joint Committee, the NNPC GMD informed that the sudden and unnatural shock in fuel consumption to record levels has over-stretched the Direct-Sale-Direct-Supply (DSDP) crude for product supply arrangement which was originally based on 35 million per day petrol consumption pattern.

He lamented that with the current unprecedented average daily fuel evacuation of 55 million litres since 1st December 2017 to date, it was imperative for the security agencies to close-in on the smuggling syndicates who were cashing in on the obvious petrol price differentials between Nigeria and neighboring countries to make illicit profit.

Dr. Baru explained that apart from straining the ability of NNPC to sustain the prevailing 100 percent PMS importation in the face of increasing cost, the current situation was impacting negatively on NNPC’s resources for servicing Joint Venture Cash-Call and other obligations.

He said to sustain adequate supply of petroleum products and national energy security, there was the need for the Federal Government to provide flush volumes in January & March, 2018, as well as create enabling environment for other oil marketing companies to participate in the importation of petroleum products.

He also noted the need to double supply in order to raise the fuel sufficiency template back to the 30 days threshold from the current 15 days by bringing in at least two vessels per day for 20 days.

The GMD listed the measures put in place to tackle the prevailing challenges to include: Engagement of the Nigerian Navy, Federal Road Safety Corps and Civil Defence to improve truck movement; engagement of the Nigerian Army Engineers to remove failed trucks on the Jebbba/Mokwa Road which had hitherto slowed down truck movement to the northern part of the country; repairs of about 10km stretch of bad roads and sustained assistance to tankers among others.

Stakeholders in the industry said smuggling fuel out of the country is a disincentive to the nation’s oil industry and implored the Federal government to nip the act with a view to strengthening Nigeria’s economy.

An Oil and gas expert, Albert Adesanya, emphasised the need for the government to take wholesome action  against  the  threat of trans-border smuggling of petrol from Nigeria into the Republic of Benin and other neighbouring countries by asking the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to establish filling stations there.

A retired Assistant Comptroller General of Immigration and homeland security expert, Mrs Funmilayo Odubela-Aduroja, advised the Federal Government to identify all entry points into the country by erecting walls at the borders.

She said: ”The porous nature of Nigerian borders calls for serious concern and all kinds of foreigners are cashing in on that to move into the country to carry out their nefarious activities unchecked. Yet, the Nigerian authorities are not doing enough to checkmate the unpleasant situation at our borders.

“Apart from trans-border petrol smuggling, as we speak, Nigeria’s cash crops such as cocoa and groundnut are being smuggled to neighbouring countries like Benin Republic and Niger. These countries in turn export the crops and make a lot of money from our collective sweat. The only measure to stop this is to properly fence our borders like the US did to prevent people from her neighbouring countries such as Mexico from coming into her territory through borders’’.

Above all,stakeholders are of the opinion that there is need for an articulated approach to kill the blight of smuggling and diversion of fuel with a view to  strengthen the nation’s economy in the face of ongoing increase in the international price of crude oil.

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