Smuggled Nigerian petrol is being sold in West African markets at N1,700/litre
7 mins read

Smuggled Nigerian petrol is being sold in West African markets at N1,700/litre

The federal government has raised the alarm over the renewed smuggling of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), also known as gasoline or fuel, following a massive increase in prices of the commodity at gas stations in neighboring countries.

The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Adewale Adeniyi, raised the alarm at a press conference in Yola, Adamawa State on Monday, June 10.

According to the head of the customs office, due to the situation, the NCS had to join forces with the Office of the National Security Advisor to face the threat.

He said: “Today we are here to inform the public of the strategic efforts of the Nigerian Customs Service in addressing the critical issue of fuel smuggling under the recently launched Operation Whirlwind, under the auspices of the Office of the National Security Adviser.

“About a year ago, the federal government made a bold, strategic decision to eliminate fuel subsidies. This key step was intended to free up significant resources that could be redirected to other productive sectors of the economy, reduce pressure on our foreign exchange reserves and diversify economic growth.

“The immediate impact was an upward revision in fuel prices to reflect current realities. Despite inflationary pressures and the financial burden on households, especially those on lower incomes, comparative studies continue to show that fuel prices in Nigeria remain the lowest compared to other countries in the West and Central African region,” he said.

“While PMS sells for an average of N701.99 in Nigeria, it sells for an average of N1,672.05 in Benin Republic and N2,061.55 in Cameroon.

“In other countries in the region, the price of PMS ranges from N1,427.68 in Liberia to N2,128.20 in Mali, with an average of N1,787.57, according to open source fuel price data.”

The customs chief said this comparative price advantage, while beneficial to Nigerian citizens, unfortunately created a lucrative incentive for smuggling PMS from Nigeria, where prices were two to three times higher.

He said this was corroborated by a report on the average daily evacuation of PMS to various states in Nigeria obtained from the Nigerian National Regulatory Authority for the Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Industry.

In his speech, which was made available to our correspondent in Abuja, he said: “The (NMDPRA) report shows significant changes in evacuation patterns that are not justified by corresponding economic and demographic changes, especially in border states that directly border our neighbors.

“Between April and May 2024, Borno and Kebbi states recorded a 76-59% increase in evacuations, ranking among the top three states. On a year-over-year basis (May 2023 and May 2024), Sokoto and Taraba states recorded the most significant increases in evacuations, by 247 and 234 percent, respectively.

“Border states such as Katsina and Kebbi have also seen an over 50 percent increase in evacuations. “These discrepancies, together with price discrepancies between domestic PMS (N701.99) and neighboring countries (N1,787.57), raise concerns over the actual supply of PMS and potential smuggling.”

Adeniyi said credible intelligence on activities in the border areas confirmed these suspicions.

“In response to the alarming increase in fuel smuggling, the NCS, in close cooperation with the NSA, initiated Operation Whirlwind. This nationwide campaign aims to: a. Ensure that Nigerians receive the full benefits of fuel price deregulation in line with the vision of President Bola Tinubu.

“B. Defend the national currency and reduce the pressure attributable to the activities of smugglers. C. Identify, dismantle and disrupt the smuggling cartels operating in the ecosystem. D. Raise the awareness of local communities and enlist their support to achieve these goals,” he said.

He said the operations, conducted on the basis of credible intelligence and strengthened by the New Customs Act of 2023, are aimed at illegal exports, particularly of petroleum products, ensuring their availability within the country and saving government resources.

“The operation, coordinated by the Customs Controller, covers all NCS (AD) zones and involves selected officers trained and equipped to carry out the task with strict professionalism.

“The collaboration with ONSA and NMDPRA supports this operation, leveraging internal and external sources. This operation was initiated about two weeks ago,” Adeniyi stated.

According to him, the NCS has made some significant progress in the ongoing Operation Whirlwind, which was aimed at curbing the smuggling of Premium Motor Spirit out of the country.

“Over the past two weeks, we have received credible information on the relative stability of PMS prices in border states, which can easily be attributed to disruptions in smugglers’ activities. A total of 150,950 liters of PMS worth N105,965,391 was seized during seven days of intensive operations at various locations across the country.

“The seizures include: a. On Friday, May 31, 2024, a total of 45,000 liters of PMS in a tanker was seized at Mova, Adamawa. B. On Saturday, June 1, 2024, a total of 45,000 liters of PMS in a tanker was seized at Mubi, Adamawa. c. On Monday, June 3, 2024, a total of 2,375 liters of PMS in 95 25-liter jerrycans was seized in Mubi, Adamawa State.

“D. On Wednesday, June 5, 2024, a total of 4,450 liters of PMS in 178 25-liter canisters were seized at three different locations, including Song-Wuroboki, Mubi-Sahuda Road and Gidan Madara

– Sahuda Road all in Adamawa. to me. On Thursday, June 6, 2024, a total of 20,030 liters of PMS in 25 and 30 liter canisters were sorted at various locations throughout the country.

country comprising Maiha, Adamawa State, Illela, Sokoto and Agbaragba Creek on the Mfum border of Cross River State.

“F. On Friday, June 7, 2024, a total of 32,900 liters of PMS was confiscated at the border points on the north-east and south-west axis of the country. A total of 17,500 liters were registered in Mubi, Adamawa State, while 15,400 liters were recorded in 616 25- liters jerrycans around Imeko Obada Road. G. A total of 8,525 liters of PMS was seized on Saturday, June 8, 2024 at two different locations in Owode (Owode-Ilaro and Owode-Atan roads) in Ogun State.”

Adeniyi stated that in addition to ongoing Operation Whirlwind operations, the Customs Area Commands remained vigilant against illegal activities. smugglers target PMS.

He said the service had recorded numerous seizures of PMS from unpatriotic individuals attempting to deprive Nigerians of access to fuel and cause unnecessary hardship.

“During the course of the operation, our federal operational units and Marine Command captured a total of 129,185 liters of fuel worth 90,558,685 pounds. It is worth noting that 54.48 percent of these seizures occurred in the North-West region, including states such as Katsina, Kebbi and Sokoto, while 23.87 percent of the seizures were recorded in the North-East of the country, particularly in states such as Taraba and Adamawa.

“It is worth noting that according to NMDPRA, these states have also seen a significant increase in fuel removal. It is now clear that the recent increase in the distribution of PMS to border states is fueled by the activities of smugglers.

“The total diversion of 280,135 liters of PMS worth N196,524,075.50 raises serious economic concerns with wider national security implications. The magnitude of this diversion is equivalent to over 84 percent of the daily PMS evacuation to states such as Ekiti and Jigawa.

“This also equates to about 32.57 percent of daily evacuations to the border states of Borno and Katsina, as per the average daily evacuation data obtained from NMDPRA,” Adeniyi said.