SECURITY agencies working around the country’s borders have been urged to collaborate and put an end to fuel smuggling.
Some stakeholders who spoke with Prime Business Africa noted that with proper coordination, security personnel at the borders could checkmate illegalities such as smuggling.
The Nigeria Customs Service(NSC) was recently accused of being complicit in fuel smuggling through the borders.
The Controller General of NSC, Hameed Ali, at an interactive session with members of the House of Representatives Committee on Finance on the 2022-2024 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and the Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), blamed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) and the Department of Petroleum Resources(DPR) for the problem of fuel smuggling across the borders.
Public Affairs Analyst, Bala Zakka, said Customs needed to do more to expose any connivance, collaboration or sabotage on the side government through the NNPC or the DPR.
Zakka said, “There is a given distance of 20km where there should be no filling station at the borders. So any meter away from that 20km is 100% under the control of the Customs, they have that power. So for anything to be hurled across that distance into another country, it will definitely be the fault of Customs and if for any reason there is an internal collaboration of some sort to frustrate their activities then they should expose it.
“The only way Customs can come clean is to justify or show how there has been collaboration to frustrate them. The DPR does not have the power to go through that distance with refined products without being noticed. Same with the NNPC person or any other government agency.”
Zakka queried why the Customs asked for a list of filling stations along the border route.
He said, “Filling stations are not hidden structures. You only require a list when something is hidden and you have to trace it. Again, Customs do not need any cooperation from the NNPC to arrest illegal smugglers of refined products along the border.
“The only way this kind of atrocity has continued to gain momentum is with the connivance of the Customs. Nobody can wrestle the power to curb illegalities at the borders from the Customs.”
According to Zakka, the Customs need to work with other security agencies to put an end to the problem of fuel smuggling.
The Chairman of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) Lagos Chapter, Tayo Aboyeji, said security personnel around the borders should also be blamed for any form of smuggling going on within those areas.
“They should not blame the NNPC and DPR, what are those security personnel doing there? They are there to checkmate illegalities like smuggling,” he said.
According to Aboyeji, there was a time it was agreed that there should be no filling stations located 20km to the border and any filling station located within the stipulated distance should not be supplied with petroleum product.
“But the people residing around those areas protested to the government and permission was given for those filling stations to be serviced,” he said.
Efforts to get the reaction of the NCS in Lagos proved abortive.