The Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali, has blamed the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) for the high rate of smuggling of fuel across the country’s land borders.
He said he had on many occasions proposed to the NNPC to establish petroleum retail outlets in neighbouring countries to curtail smuggling of fuel but that the state oil company repeatedly ignored the proposals.
Ali spoke on Monday during 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).
The committee said it would use the 10-day session to review the MTEF, which was submitted to the National Assembly in July.
While responding to concerns raised by a member of the committee, Abdulahi Saidu (APC, Niger) on the increasing daily consumption of PMS in the country, Ali specifically blamed the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) for giving licences to filling stations around the borders.
He argued that the establishment of the retail outlets would help to end the smuggling of PMS across Nigeria’s borders.
He said since the price differential was responsible for the smuggling, the NNPC could sell at similar prices to Nigeria, including transport cost.
“We have also proposed to NNPC, if the price differential is the problem, we have our banks, Zenith Bank, GT Bank, operating in the West coast. What stops us?
“NNPC or DPR should establish petrol stations in our neighbouring countries, and move these products at the cost that we sell, and sell to these people. We will make money. We have the market and by doing so we will completely diminish the anxiety or the penchant for smuggling. Because if a Beninoise will get the fuel at the price we are getting and the cost of transportation, which is the minimum, there is no way he will wait for people to import to him at twice the price. We have made this proposal, we have made noise about it, no one seems to listen,” he said.
Ali said there was nothing Customs could do to stop smuggling of fuel outside the country because of the method smugglers use in carrying out their activities.
According to him, “There is hardly anything we can do to stop the smuggling of fuel outside the country because they use the creeks, they use land borders, they use virtually everything possible. We cannot be everywhere; we must begin to think out of the box. We should extend our petrol stations into these countries. We should move these products there.
“If you recall, when we closed the border, NNPC recorded a drastic drop in fuel that is being released to the public and all of a sudden, we have opened four entrances on our land borders and yet we have seen historical increases in terms of the quantity being reported as being consumed or released.
“This, I must say, we have very porous borders — very lengthy borders and very porous. Secondly, we have—by the aid of the NNPC created so many filling stations right at the border. And Mr Chairman, these filling stations get daily supply, and when they get these supplies, they release the supply in the tank at night, and by the morning, it has been siphoned.”
Ali called for investigation into the figure being released by DPR, noting that the agency was unwilling to cooperate with Customs on illegal filling stations around the border.
“That is why we said, filling stations that are 20km of the border should not be given petroleum products. We must monitor DPR. Are these figures really what are being released? This thing keeps going up and down. We had a series of meetings with the DPR. They said most of those filling stations at the borders are illegal.
“So, we said, give us the names and list of those illegal fuelling stations, then we will take care of the legal ones. Three years after, we have not received one name. These are the problems.
“There is a law that says that no Nigerian fueling station should be established within 10km to the border. But the DPR will do their survey, they will issue licences to people to operate there. Our concern is the inflow and outflow,” the Customs chief said.
Responding to Ali’s claim, the chairman of the committee, James Faleke (APC, Lagos), asked the NCS to furnish it with all the petrol stations within the 20km of the border corridor.