By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged how officials of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, lay the foundation for Bunkering and smuggling of petroleum Products across the country’s Land Borders with the neighbouring West African countries of Benin, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon.
This is because of the indiscriminate issuance of operating License by DPR, without carrying out diligent studies to find out where the station would be sited, across the country. It is not surprising why there are so many filling stations along the major routes leading to the Borders with the neighbouring countries.
Only recently , The Value News , had published an undercover story , on Pashi Community, in Badagry West Local government Area, of Lagos state. Pashi, which could be accessed on the road to Owode –Akpa , headquarters of the Badagry West Local government Area, according to an official of the National Population Commision, NOC, is less than 5,000 people. The Magazine had found about 20 functional filling stations in the Community , which , it was learnt operates between 1 am and 4 am and then close for business. It was gathered that the Premium Motor Spirit, popular , Petrol , at most of the fillings are sold in 25 litres Jerry Can for re-export to Benin Republic through the Creeks.
The Magazine had challenged Temipre Silyva, a former governor of Bayelsa state and minister of state, Petroleum Resource and the NNPC, to intervene, to stop the mess.
Many had expected that the closure of the filling stations 26kms to the Border Communities across the country last month by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, would put a stop to the construction and opening of new filling stations at the Border Areas.
The Magazine findings show that instead of reducing, particular, at the Badagry West Local government Area, it was increasing. This is evident going by the recent findings of the no nonsense Muhammed Uba Garba, fComptroller , Seme Command Comptroller. Acting on information, Muhammed wathe s said to have led a team of officers from the Enforcement Unit under the close watch of Rashid Adahunse, a Deputy Comptroller, , to the Bad on Friday, December 5, 2019 to Owode axis.
Eye witness account disclosed that the Customs Comptroller had invaded the owode, where it has an out station, unannounced where they were said to have caught the petroleum product smugglers in the act at one of the village Creeks. Insiders informed the Magazine that the Creek was the only thing that separates the Nigerian village from the Benin Republic village. The source disclosed that 25 litres Jeerry Can of petrol are moved regularly using the local boats to the Benin Republic Village waterside , where it was evacuated to the buyer’s site.
From the time, The Magazine published its report on Pashi Community as a haven for Petroleum Products Bunkerers and Smugglers to the time that the Seme Comptroller and his men invaded the Badagry West, two new filling stations , were discovered to have been constructed in in the Area, thus bringing the number of the filling stations in the area alone, to 110.
According to an insider account, in some of the filling stations visited by the Seme Customs Team, they had between 17 and 26 pumps, which had never been seen in any filling station in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center or any other major City in the country. it was gathered that seven fuel pumps, was the least the could be found in a filling station.
The Seme Customs Comptroller, a source informed The Magazine , was insaid to have been furiated with the number of Surface tanks also found in the area which were said to have been spread into the bush for easy access to the Creek in order to move it to the neighboring Benin Republic.
At the last count , there were about 12 of such surface Tanks, which according to sources , could not have been opened for business without the approval of the DPR. There is no gain saying the fact that most of the filling stations and the surface tanks found around the Owode axis are’’ catalyst for Bunkering and smuggling activities in the area as there are no human beings or motorists patronizing the filling stations to justify their existence’’, an officer remarked.
There is an adage that says” seing is believeing”. Muhammed and his men, were said to braved the odd, by leading the Operation to one of the village Creeks around the Owode axis, where they were said to have found some local boats awaiting or sailing into the country to carry products. They were said to have found their way to the village through a foot bridge that may have been Constructed either by the Benin Republic government or the Nigerian government, perhaps during the Colonial era.
Insider account revealed that there was a filling station at the edge of the bridge leading to the village where petroleum Products tankers from Nigeria usually discharge their products and subsequently smuggled through the Creeks to Benin Republic.
The Cusoms Comptroller led team were said to have come into contact with one of the local boat owners in the Community, who specializes in crossing over ‘’25’’ litre Jerry Cans of petrol from the Nigerian village through the Creek to the Benin village.
Unknown the boat owner, who had been making good business from the village Creek, the game was up. Indeed, he never suspected there was trouble until he saw the large number of Customs personnel surrounded him but without displaying their guns.
The officers may not have displayed their guns as information had filtered out to the entire Community and Owode that Seme Customs personnel have invaded the Area to avoid a break- down of Law and Order that may result to loss of lives. This is because the security Operatives were ready to kill. It could not be ascertained the final outcome of the Seme Command operations whether arrests were made or Jerry Cans of Petrol impounded. Efforts to speak to Abdullahi Onwa, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs and the Command spokesperson provrf abortive.
Security watchers , who were conversant with the area , had described the Owode and its environs as being very notorious area , as the Youths are ready to attack Customs personnel and any other security agency operatives found around the Creeks at any time. But Muhammed, who may have put on the garb of a trained security officer was said to have handled the situation with caution as the villager found Cooperated with the team. Having succeeded in getting him to the side of the team ,he was said to have answered all the questions asked without fear of being arrested.
Seme: What is your name?
Response: My name is Abraham James.
Seme: What of your House?
Response: My House dey There, pointing at the Creek.
Seme: In the Water?.
.Seme: Na so?.
Response:Na so, Sir.
Seme: You dey try?.
Response: Wetin we go do, no job.
Seme: Where is the boundary?
Response : Is this water, sha .
The Seme Customs Comptroller, according to a source, was curious to find out from David, whether the people had gone to carry out the Jerry cans of petrol to be loaded into the boat, but he answered in the affirmative. One of the Enforcement officers was said to have entered one of the boats stationed at the Creek to receive the Jerry Cans of petrol in readiness to move. The local boat Captain may have been on the red alert in readiness to start the engine going by the way he was looking at all directions.. A There was already, a jerry can of petrol in the boat to confirm the type of business going on in the area: smuggling of petroleum products.
Recall that Muhammadu Sanusi , a former governor of Central Bank of Bank, CBN, and now the Emir of Kano , had appealed to the Katsina state born Nigerian President when he visited Kano state to close all the land Borders with the neighbouring Niger and the other neighbouring countries to stop the smuggling of the Petroleeum Products.
He had said that Petroleum Products , particular, are being smuggled from Nigeria to the neighbouring countries illegally through the land Borders and the Creeks because of the fuel subsidy regime in country.
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