Customs Battles Fuel Smugglers Over N1.53trn Loss

…Eight states have become the hubs of fuel smuggling in the country

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Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has decided to curtail daily smuggling of 15.65 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) to neighbouring countries.

The fuel is being smuggled to Benin Republic, Chad and Cameroon through creeks and porous borders, leading to a loss of 2.34 billion litres valued at N1.53 billion in the first five months of 2024.

Findings revealed that borders at Ogun, Kwara, Kebbi, Sokoto, Kano, Borno, Adamawa and Cross River states are mostly used by smugglers as seizures are being made frequently by NCS in the areas.

Last year, more than 5.71 billion litres of PMS were lost to smugglers through Bakasi and Badagry creeks as well as land bothers in about eight states.

It was learnt that despite the volume of smuggling in the first three months of 2024, only N2.75 billion worth of PMS were intercepted by Customs between January and March, 2024.

Last week, Seme Command of NCS impounded 373,440 litres laden in 12,448 Jerry cans of 30 liters each, which is equivalent to eight tanker loads.

Also, between April 19 and May 19 2024, the Federal Operations Unit, Zone D of the service intercepted 17,580 litres of PMS, valued at N12.7 million , 2024 in Maiduguri.

Also, the Adamawa/Taraba Command of Customs seized 12,355 litres of PMS as Federal Operation Unit (FOU), Zone A, seized 109,575 litres of PMS between March and April this year.

The service explained that 41, 950 litres of the fuel were seized in April and 67, 625 litres laden in 2,705 kegs in March.

In 2023 alone, FOU, Zone A intercepted 342, 650 litres concealed in 13,706 kegs by 25 litres.

Meanwhile, data by Chapel Hill Denham estimated that 15.64 million litres of petrol were smuggled out of Nigeria daily as the petroleum products retail on average 3.7 times cheaper than those of her neighbours daily petrol supply stands at 68 million litres.

Recalled that last week the Comptroller-General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi, inaugurated a workshop in Abuja at the Nigeria Customs Command and Staff College (NCCSC), for a newly formed tactical team, Operation Whirlwind, aimed at combating the smuggling of petroleum products to the neighbouring countries.

Adeniyi emphasised the crucial role the team would play in protecting the nation’s economy from the adverse effects of smuggling petroleum products, noting thqt economic saboteurs must be brought to justice.

He explained: “Over the years, we have rebuilt the service to an enviable height, our revenue is increasing, and our targets have also increased. However, if we are not significantly impacting the Nigerian economy, then we must do better.”

The workshop was designed to equip the Operation Whirlwind team with the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively curb smuggling, particularly of petroleum products diverted to neighbouring countries.

Adeniyi noted: “This is not a task force or the setting up of checkpoints. This is an intelligence-driven operation that will support the political will at the highest level.

“Our dedication and loyalty must not be compromised. There will be serious consequences against whoever acts against this mission. There is zero tolerance for sabotage.

“You were selected because you can do the job. Your coordinator’s record is impeccable, and your assignment can’t succeed without you working as a team. You are to complement the existing structure. You are not going as competitors; you are going to fight people sabotaging our efforts.”

The inauguration of Operation Whirlwind marks a significant step in Nigeria’s fight against smuggling and economic sabotage.

As the team prepares to embark on their mission, the Comptroller General of Customs asserts that the expectation is clear: to protect Nigeria’s economic interests with unwavering dedication and integrity.

New Telegraph

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