Customs: Lawmakers Constitute Major Opposition To Ali’s Ban On The Supply Of Petroleum Products, To Filling Stations Near Border Communities

By Stephen Ubanna

 This is not the best of times for Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS,   over the ban of supply of Petroleum Products  to filling stations  20 Km to border Communities across the country.

This is because the National Assembly Comprising of the  Lawan Ahmad led Senate  and Femi Gbajabiamila, led House of Representative,  appear to have constituted themselves into major  opposition to the Customs Comptroller General  ban on the sale of Petroleum Products  near Border Communities  in order to force him to reverse the decision. It may be difficult for the Lawmakers to have their way  because  the ban   has the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari and members of the Economic Advisory Council, ECAC, who reports directly to the office of the President.

The Dealers who may have been affected by  Ali’s  hardline position  may have taken their  case to the National Assembly as to curry their favour  to use their Constitutional powers to force  the Customs Comptroller General  to restore normal supply of products to  the filling stations  20km to the Border Communities without further  delay  in order to ease the suffering of the people.

The All Progressive Congress, APC, controlled Senate , were said to have devoted much of Wednesday, November, 13, 2019, in their plenary session  to revisit the suspension   order placed  on the supply of Petroleum Products  20 Km  to border Communities  in the south-south, south west, north central and north west geo-political regions by the Customs Comptroller General on November 6, 2019.

The aggrieved Senators  were said to have called on the Customs helmsman to  restore normal supply  of products  through the identified suppliers  to the licensed filling stations which are located 20 Km to the Border Communities by the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR. The Senators may have known that it is a wasted effort as  they were said to have resolved  to engage  the Ali, the Customs Comptroller General  in a dialogue  in order to work out  a viable policy  framework  to mitigate the sufferings of the residents of the Border Communities  along the nation’s borders  due to the Customs Comptroller General directive suspending  supply of products to the areas.

Already  the Senate Committee on Customs  which has the likes of  Ade Fandahunsi, a retired Assistant Comptroller General  of Customs – Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation and who had worked under  the Ali led Customs Management before  venturing into the murky waters have been  given the mandate to summon  the Customs Comptroller  to appear before the Senators for questioning on the ban order.

Maritime analysts want the Senators to give Ali, the Customs boss, a breather and channel their demand to restore normal supply of the  filling stations  along the Borders across the country to  the EAC, who in turn will take it up with  the Katsina born Nigerian President in order  to carry weight.  This is because the Customs Comptroller General, according to security sources is acting on the instruction of the President based on the advice of the EAC. The EAC, were said to have made it clear to the President that the only way to restore the country on the part of Economic Growth and Development  would be  to close the Land Borders  with the Republic of Benin, Niger, Tchad and the Central African country of Cameroon, to checkmate the activities of smugglers who had turned the country  as a dumping ground for foreign  goods, particular foreign par boiled rice from the Asian country of Thailand.

Two months into the Border closure, the Council were said to have also advised the President  to close all the filling stations along the Border routes across the country to stop the diversion of Petroleum products  meant for local Consumption  to these  neighboring West African countries including Cameroon  that bordered Nigeria in the north east geo-political region. The President did not hesitate in buying the idea as he quickly gave the nod to the Customs Comptroller General to go ahead and do it.

Lawan Ahmad: Senate President Mobilises Committee On Customs To Summon Ali, the Customs CG

Given that the Customs Comptroller had  been waiting for such an opportunity to do so because of the repeated complaints about  diversion of premium Motor Spirit, PMAS, popular, Petrol, meant for filling stations along the nation’s border Communities  to service the neighbouring countries by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC and Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR.

 The Customs boss may have also  been encouraged to jump  at the Presidential order  to suspend the supply of Petroleum Products to the filling stations because of the frequent seizure of thousands of gallons of 25 litres Jerry Cans of  petrol   being smuggled through the Creeks and unapproved routes  in different  parts of the country by his anti-smuggling officers .

The Senators believe that  what the Customs Comptroller General  ought to have done  would have been to explore  the use  of ‘’modern and technological devices  in  tracking , management and scheduling  of Petroleum Product trucks  that undertake business  along the border Communities instead f  adopting the extreme measure of the  of Products to the Border filling stations.’’

.As a prelude to solving the problem,  the Senators were said to have suggested  a ‘’Comprehensive  audit of all Petroleum  stations  and their suppliers Along the border Communities across the country’’.

The House of Representatives under the close watch of Gbajabiamila, were said to have followed the foot step of the Ahmad led Senate to Condemn  the Customs Comptroller’s action.The House claims  that it  Contravenes  the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 204. This may have informed  why  it called on  the President to order the Customs Comptroller General to lift the ban to ease the suffering of the people in the Border Communities because they are Nigerians.  

The quantity of PMS, that had been saved  over the last two months that the Border  with the neighbouring  countries  were closed  speaks volume.  Ali revealed that  in two months alone of the Border closure, the country has saved over 10 million litres of PMS, an indication that the country was the major suppliers of PMS to these neighbouring countries, described as parasites in the Comity of nations.

This may have informed the reason why people believe that it may be very difficult for the Lawmakers to have  have their way in forcing the government to reverse the Ali’s order for now because it is  yielding result which clearly shows that that PMS from Nigeria are use used to service African countries in West and Central African sub-regions. For now, there are fears that the January 31,2020, deadline set by  the President  to re-open the closed border Communities may not be  realistic going by fillers from  the Presidency. This is because the neighbouring  countries appear not have learnt anything from the Border closure as they were  allowing the  smugglers to use their countries as base to carry out their nefarious activities because of the financial gains.

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