By Raji Rasaki
Badagry (Lagos State), Aug.6, 2022 Some stakeholders in Badagry on Saturday said better monitoring of the country’s borders as well as provision of jobs for citizens would reduce smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries.
The stakeholders told NAN in Badagry that smuggling of petroleum products thrive on youth unemployment and unpatriotic activities of some citizens, and some security personnel at the country’s borders.
Mr Abiodun Hundeyin, a retired Deputy Comptroller General of the Immigration,said many young people chose the unpatriotic path of smuggling owing to unemployment .
According to him ,if jobs are provided for unemployed youths and security personnel manning the border posts discharge their duties diligently ,smuggling of petroleum products to Togo ,Benin Republic and others ,will reduce drastically.
Hundeyin also urged Nigeria and other West African countries to muster the political will to enforce trade and bilateral agreements in the sub-region ,to address smuggling.
He ,however ,described smugglers of petroleum products as saboteurs ,saying the Federal Government should take the necessary steps to keep them out of business.
Mr Ovie Edomi, Publisher of South-South International Magazine ,said that the ECOWAS treaty that Nigeria was signatory to,allowed for free movement and trade liberalisation among West African countries.
“However, in ensuring adherence to the treaty,each individual country must protect her territorial boundaries with other nations.
“It is most unfortunate that despite measures put in place to secure our borders, Nigeria and Benin Republic borders, beginning from Seme in Lagos to Owode in Ogun states respectively, have remained haven for the smuggling of petroleum products.”,he said.
He said the smuggling of petroleum products was thriving because of the hundreds of illegal routes through which smugglers could either enter or leave Nigeria from the Benin Republic and other countries.
“Also most of the illegal routes are not being monitored by men of the Customs and even the major illegal routes monitored by Customs, the smugglers have devised different ways to outsmart the Customs and other security agencies.
“For instance, some commercial vehicle operators will fill their fuel tanks at any filling stations in the country only to arrive at the border and park at a spot and empty almost everything into jerry cans.
“They will in turn sell them to people waiting to buy the same for onward transfer of the product to the hinterlands of Benin Republic where they are sold for three times the amount they bought.”,he said.
Edomi urged security agencies ,especially Customs, to police the borders properly ,while calling on the government to make the necessary interventions to tackle smuggling of petroleum products.
Chief Mautin Ofade, a community leader in Badagry, also urged security agencies to discharge their responsibilities well to effectively check the smuggling of petroleum products to neighbouring countries.
He said Customs and other agencies working around the borders should consider the interest of the nation at all times in the discharge of their duties.
Ofade said it was economic sabotage for custom officials to aid smuggling of petroleum products ,adding appropriate sanctions should be meted to any officer caught.
The community leader also urged the government to enlist the support of residents in border areas in the fight against smuggling so that they would be partners in securing the country’s borders.
Also, speaking on the issue, Mr Podo Sunday, a journalist residing in Badagry described smuggling as a threat to free trade in the ECOWAS region.
“Africa Trade Liberalisation Treaty and the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) allows legitimate trans-border trades and free movement of goods and persons within the sub-region.
“The greatest challenge facing trade liberalisation in the ECOWAS corridor is smuggling and other economic sharp practices that are inhibiting economic growth and integration across the region.
“Republics of Benin and Togo are European and Asian dumping grounds for items that are on the prohibitive lists in Nigeria and through the nefarious activities of the smuggling rings in those countries and with connivance of their Nigerian counterparts.
“About 85 per cent of those items find their way into Nigeria markets and homes illegally, this is a development that has defied solution in spite of the presence of security agencies at the border posts”,he said.
He noted that the smuggling of petroleum products from Nigeria to Benin, Togo and Ghana, had also continued unabated for decades because of the huge difference in price as a result of subsidised prices in Nigeria.
“Even with the 20km ban on operations of all filling stations before all our border posts, fuel smuggling has continued to thrive in places like Badagry in Lagos State, Idiroko in Ogun State, Shaki in Oyo State, Ikot – Ekpene in Cross Rivers State, Michika in Adamawa State, Daura in Kasina State, Sokoto and Maiduguri among others.
“Our borders are porous and our security agencies like Customs, Army, Immigration and Police are not very effective to man our border posts and highways and therefore incapable of arresting the situation over time.
“The situation requires the rejigging of our security architecture in all our frontiers and highways, arrest and prosecute violators and probably send them to jail to serve as deterrents to others.
“It may also interest you to know here that, our legal framework in Nigeria, especially the prosecution powers of Customs to arrest and send smugglers to jail, is not being put to test.
“All they do is to impound such goods and most times release their vehicles and allow the smugglers to walk free after buying their freedom,” he said.
A smuggler, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said a 25 litre jerry can of 2 petrol in Seme is sold for N7, 200 and sometimes N7, 300.
“We normally buy 25litres of petrol in Badagry filling stations between N4, 800 to N5, 000, so the difference is N2, 200 or N2, 300.
“Some of us with in-built tanks can buy N100, 000 petrol inside the vehicles and empty the product at Seme.
“The business is lucrative depending on the number of trips one can make a day.
“The buyers are on standby immediately one gets to Seme.”,he said.
Mr Abdullahi Hussain, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) Seme Area Command of Nigeria Customs Service, said the command had the responsibilities of revenue collection, suppression of smuggling and facilitation of legitimate trade.
“Seme Area Command,like every other command has the mandate of enforcing the above-mentioned core mandate of the service.
“No country in the world is said to have stopped smuggling completely, but it can be suppressed to the barest minimum and that is what my command is doing about the smuggling of petrol.
“From January to June 2022, the command has intercepted 375, 950 litres of PMS equivalent to 11 tanker loads of 33, 000 litres.
“These were achieved as a result of patriotism, dedication and effective supervision demonstrated by the officers and men of the command, under the able leadership of ourCustoms Area Controller, Comptroller,” he said.