Oil marketers, Customs trade words over alleged extortion

Oil marketers, who import petrol into the country under the Petroleum Support Fund (PSF) scheme have accused operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) of collecting Temporary Importation Permit (TIP) of N2 million and additional unofficial fee of $30,000 for any foreign-flagged vessel laden with petroleum products, according to report published by local media yesterday.

The marketers alleged the existence of a flourishing regime of extortion estimated at N3 billion annually, being run by men and officers of the NCS through coercion of oil importers with illegal monetary demands to facilitate the release of foreign vessels laden with petroleum products.

But spokesman of the Nigeria Customs Service, Deputy Comptroller Wale Adeniyi said at the weekend that the marketers “do not pay a dime as import duties for petrol,” adding also that payment of TIP is paid only on goods meant for re-export and not for imported petrol.

However, marketers, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of victimisation, according to report by a national daily yesterday, spoke of the existence of an extortion scheme that was allegedly sanctioned by the top echelon of the Nigerian Customs.

“The scheme involves the extortion of $30,000 from agents by customs officials each time a foreign vessel bearing petroleum products berths at the ports. Averagely, 40 of such vessels arrive the nation’s shores every month, bringing the total amount raked in by the scheme to about N3 billion per annum. These payments are not receipted,” said one of the oil importers.

Another marketer, according to the report, also alleged the existence of a cartel, which demands parallel payments from oil importers in addition to the official amount stipulated for Temporary Importation Permit (TIP).

“The TIP is an official document required by importers to facilitate the berthing of non-Nigerian vessels in the nation’s territorial waters. Vessels without the permit are required to obtain it at the official sum of N2 million,” he said.

“The normal practice is for importers to pay N2 million for obtaining TIP for the foreign vessels. However, after the payment is made, the importer is asked to pay the undocumented amount before the vessel will be allowed to depart from the nation’s shores. Refusal to pay usually leads to an additional $10, 000 penalty charge while the vessel remains grounded. This practice has been on for some time now and the apparently well-organised scheme needs to be exposed and terminated,” the marketer was quoted as saying.

But Adeniyi said oil marketers do not pay official and unofficial duties for importing petrol into the country.

“TIP is paid for things you import into Nigeria and re-export. TIP cannot be for fuel. For example, if you are coming into Nigeria for exhibition, you pay TIP in case you divert the materials to Nigeria,” he explained.

Adeniyi described the allegation as false, stressing that marketers do not pay any official import duties, let alone unofficial as alleged.

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