The Value News

Customs:Petrol Shortage Hit Benin Republic, As Jibo And Other Interventionist Commands Comptrollers Cripple Smugglers Around The Land Border Areas

By Stephen Ubanna

 For years, Contonou, Capital of Benin Republic and its environs  including  other border Communities in the neighbouring Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon, have been surviving on smuggled petroleum products, particular, Premium Motor Spirit, popular, Petrol, from Nigeria, thus leaving many filling stations in most parts of the country empty and their staff idle.

The  situation was so bad that  past and present governments have been  concerned on how to stop the smuggling of petrol across the borders with the neighbouring countries in the country. The fallout was the ban on the closing of all  the filling stations  some 20Kms to the border Communities by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, a the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General.

A visit to  Seme, idiroko, Owode and Ilaro, shows that the Buhari  policy measure  which had been implemented to the latter by the Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, have begun to hit hard on the eneighbouring countries , though  petrol and diesel, particular, are still being smuggled into Benin Republic market but not enough to meet the demand of the motorists.

Long Queues Of Motorcycles A a Roadside To Buy Petrol In Bottles To Fill Their Tank

The Katsina born Nigerian President  may have made matters worse the neighbouring countries by clipping the wings of the across the border petroleum products smugglers by  increasing the price of a litre of petrol, twice,I the country between 2020 and now. With the increase in the pump price of petrol , the Nigerian President may have found an answer  the smuggling of  imported petroleum products  for local use to Benin, Niger and  Cameroon.

 The increase, according informed sources  had  actually  hit hard on the filling stations in the major cities and towns in these neighbouring countries. The situation was worse in Cotonou, the Benin Republic Capital of and its environs   where most of the modern filling stations built by  Patrice  Talon  government  are now empty and the staff idle.

The Value News visit  to Cotonou and Wait Cities in Benin Republic on Wednesday, February 24, 2021,  opened  The Magazines eye to what is happening in the country  with the tight security at  the seme Land    borders and other and border Communities across the country done. Take for instance,  what Mohammed Jibo, Comptroller, Seme Command , has done  in the last nine months.

Jibo: Tough On Petrol Smugglers

He was said to have blocked all the illegal routes used by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities of smuggling   tens of 50 litres of Jerry cans of petrol to Benin and its environs in the past.  Comptroller Jibo who  may have sent a message to the across the border petrol smugglers on assumption of office last July that it is no longer to be business as usual  was said to have put his feet down, to ensure that the right thing was done.

A Beninois who spoke to The Magazine  in Cotonou,  confirmed that since the pump price petrol was increased to N165.00 , in Nigeria and which had also reflected  in the unofficial  pump price in Benin Republic as it sells slightly more in the filling stations. 

He disclosed that   there had been a lingering  fuel shortage  in his home country, Benin,   since December 2020 and now  as the Talon  g the overnment had been  dragging  its feet  in in  authorizing Petroleum Products  price hike  sought by importers to take  account  of a rapid  rise in price in the international oil market.

Giving that most of the filling stations in Benin cities and towns are empty,  the Magazine which took time out to drive around  Seme –Krake joint border to Cotonou and Port Nuovo, the country’s  old Capital city to Idiroko, a joint border Community between Nigeria and Benin, but what was seen on the roadsides was very amazing : sell of petrol in Ragolis wters. 

The undercover  Reporter had  found  thousands of motor cycles or Mopeds as they are called  and motorists queuing  up  to fill  their tanks  with petrol  allegedly smuggled across  the border  from Nigeria at bursting  stalls around the roadside.  One of the dealers who call himself Jacques, who spoke to The Magazine  disclosed that he gets two Jjerry cans of 50 litre drums each  on a daily  basis  from his Nigerian supplier. He pointed that  when  the 50 litre drums of petrol or kpayo, as it is called in Benin , arrives Benin  his workers will transfer it  into  small, medium and big bottles while in some other places the roadside petrol dealers use Ragolis bottles to sell to motorists and Motorcyclists by the road side.

Given that the  petrol mostly  sold in bottles on the roadside are smuggled, The Magazine findings shows  that  it is 20 percent cheaper than the pump price of the product  at the filling stations which are currently dry. The illegal  trade is conducted openly as the Gendarmes are not doing nothing to stop it because they were said to also be filling  their vehicles from the roadside petrol seller. The open tolerance  of  petrol smuggling  from Nigeria , many believe reflects  what is happening  in the murky waters of Benin politics.

  Indeed, most of the Beninois car owners may have found a way of beating  the high cost of  filling their fuel tanks by  taking advantage of the reopened land borders with the  neighbouring West African  country   to make  a weekly run  to fill their bunker  tank at Seme, Badagry, Idiroko, Ajilette, Owode, Ilaro, Ilara and other border Communities in the south west.  The Magazine cited  some of the vehicles with Beninois numbers at Idiroko , late Afternoon, on Wednesday February 24, 2021.  

Many Business analysts believe that  the current   petrol shortage in different parts of  Benin Repulic, was akin to what to what  happened in the country  in 2005  during the regime of Matthew Kerekou.

In spite of the fact that Petrol shortage  had hit the three neighbouring Countries of Benin, Niger and Cameroon, Ali, the Customs boss , may have have a heaved a sigh of relief  that the Area Comptrollers of  Seme, Ogun 1, Idiroko, Oyo and Osun , and Federal Operations Units , FOUs, across the country as well as  other Interventionist Commands and adhoc Teams, are doing what is expected of them by ensuring that akk  the across the border  petrol smugglers were crippled and thrown out of the illegal business.  

Stephen Ubanna

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