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 Over 1,800 fuel stations shut in northeast over smuggling allegation as 26,792 litres of petrol is intercepted in Badagry

Over 2,000 petrol outlets were shut in Nigeria’s northeast to protest against an anti-smuggling operation by the Nigerian Customs Service that targeted some operators, the local head of the petroleum marketers association said on Monday, forcing motorists to buy from the black market just as The Nigeria Customs Service, Zone A Team of Operation Whirlwind Task Force, intercepted over 26,792 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), known as petroleum, in Badagry. Comptroller Huseein Ejibunu, the head, Operation Whirlwind, said this at a news briefing on Monday in Seme, Lagos.

Dahiru Buba, the chairman of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) for Adamawa and Taraba states, said petrol stations stopped operations after the Nigeria Customs Service impounded tanker trucks and shut some fuel outlets on suspicion they were smuggling petrol to neighbouring Cameroon. Black market fuel vendors in Cameroon, Benin and Togo have for years relied on cheap gasoline smuggled from Nigeria.

When Nigeria scrapped a petrol subsidy last year, that black market trade collapsed, but the product has become cheaper again after Nigeria capped the price since June 2023 despite its currency sharply weakening. Under “Operation Whirlwind”, Customs initially impounded some tanker trucks belonging to IPMAN members and released them after the association protested. But more trucks were seized and several fuel stations were shut, forcing fuel station operators to close outlets en-masse in protest, said Buba. “We wrote to them (Nigeria Customs) again but there were no responses that is why we decided to go on strike,” he said, adding that over 1,800 outlets had ceased to operate.

“This is our business and we cannot be quiet when our members are treated this way.” Mangsi Lazarus, Customs spokesperson for Adamawa and Taraba said tanker trucks were seized because they were being used to smuggle petrol. In Adamawa capital Yola, black market traders quickly took advantage of the shortages to sell petrol for N1,400 a litre, compared to between N650 and N750 at the pump. Comptroller Huseein Ejibunu said “our team, acting on credible intelligence reports, intercepted 43 kegs of petrol 30 litres each, equivalent of 1,290 litres. One Mark tanker truck with chassis no: IMIAD3840TWO03697 containing 15, 200 litres of petrol was also intercepted at Jubau filling station along Seme Badagry road. On June 14, one Suzuki saloon car with registration number SMK 83 Bk, used as a means of conveyance was seized. One Pathfinder Jeep with Reg no: ABJ 591 DC and one Toyota Avensis with Reg no: 1973 with both specially built Bunkers were loaded with petrol at Muse filling station were also intercepted. Though, we are yet to ascertain the litres in each of the vehicles.

“Another 124 kegs of petrol 30 litres each equivalent to 3,720 litres and 65 kegs of petrol of 40 litres each equivalent to 2,600 litres,” he said. He said that another 189 kegs of petrol were intercepted at Timi Boy Global Venture on June 19. “The total petrol intercepted is over 26, 792 litres of petrol,” he said. He said that since formation, Operation Whirlwind team had made tremendous impact in all the zones based on statistically verified records and value of PMS intercepted.

“For clarity and record purposes, the team had intercepted 26, 950 litres of PMS worth NI9 million in our maiden edition news conference held at Customs Command Abeokuta barely two weeks after inauguration. In a similar development, the teams’ efforts geared toward curtailing the menace of illegal smuggling of PMS product in zone ‘A’ axis, all resulted in the interception of 21, 810 Litres of PMS product. The devastating effects of smuggling are numerous as it causes distortion in supply chain of petroleum products to designated states and filling stations revealed based on credible intelligence.

“In most instances, petroleum products were diverted to neighbouring countries. However, this unwholesome practice contributes tremendously to insecurity as diverted petroleum products were to be used by bandits and other notorious groups undermining the integrity of our nation,” he said. Operation Whirlwind was conceived by Comptroller General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi, in collaboration with the National Security Adviser in May 2024, to put an end to incessant smuggling of petrol.

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