The Nigeria Customs Service (NSC) has accused the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) of shielding illegal petrol stations at the border areas as well as aiding smuggling activities.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ali disclosed this to the House of Representatives joint committees mandated to look into the suspension of petroleum products supplies to filling stations 20 kilometres from the border on Thursday, while insisting that there was no going back in the decision.
Ali told the committee that before the order, several entreaties were made for the DPR to release the lists of approved and illegal filling stations at the border areas, but the agency consistently refused.
The CG said that after the security meeting, the National Security Adviser (NSA), had no option than to order that supplies be cut off from those stations.
He noted that since the ban, there had been great stability in the sector as subsidy had dropped by 30 percent, likewise consumption rate.
He stressed that the ban, although painful, had been fruitful as smugglers could not steal petrol sold for N145 to resell elsewhere at over N300 to the detriment of the country’s economy.
The Customs boss assured that the action was not to punish Nigerians, and pleaded for understanding to get things corrected in the sector.
He pointed out that over 40 percent of fuel subsidy was channeled to those border areas which never consumed up to ten percent, indicating that they were only being used as routes to siphon the products.
According to him “We have asked the DPR since last year to give us the list of approved and illegal petrol stations but they refused. The filling stations are used to smuggle fuel out of Nigeria.
“The decision to suspend supply was taken to contain our own consumption,” the CG stated, stressing that it was better to save the money to develop the border communities than lose it to smugglers.
He disclosed that upon the ban, about 25 trucks conveying over 60,000 litres each were arrested in a single day.
Adding that the number of filling stations at the border was unprecedented, assuring that as soon as the DPR releases their status, the illegal ones would go down.
While some of the committee members were of the opinion that the Customs rescind its decision, others favoured a review of the policy.
Consequently, the Customs boss said the service had deployed a team to take a census of credible filling stations and recommend three in each town, which shall have the right to take supply and distribute to consumers at the strict supervision of Customs and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Representatives of the DPR at the meeting could not deny refusing to oblige the Customs the requested lists, but claimed that the DPR had no powers to prevent their existence but only to stop their operations.
They disclosed that currently, about 40 filling stations around border towns were operating illegally.
In its ruling, the joint committee ordered the DPR to submit the actual lists as demanded to the Nigeria Customs and asked the Customs to liaise with the NNPC to give supplies to the number of filling stations earmarked for supplies and ensure accountability for the supplies.