Smuggling in Nigeria has become a nightmare that gives the Federal Government major concerns to initiate plans that would hopefully nip the challenge in the bud.
One central area that has taken a heavy toll on the nation’s economy’s Gross Domestic Products, GDP, is the illicit smuggling of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, across various parts of Nigeria’s porous borders.
Part of the main plans revealed by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, is to create a collaboration among relevant Government Agencies to tackle illegal transport of PMS within and outside terrains of the Country.
Just recently in Abuja, the Minister spoke at a meeting organised by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, with the theme focused on “How to Stop Smuggling in the country.”
Chief Sylva noted that the only solution to ending the criminality surrounding the smuggling of PMS, is to establish synergy. The partnership would include NNPC, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF, Petroleum Product Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, among other stakeholders.
According to the Minister, another part of the solutions to addressing PMS theft is to track all the means of transportations loading the products to various parts of Nigeria and other neighbouring countries.
He further pointed to the fact that an earlier tactic named ‘Operation White’ installed in 2020 to tackle illicit fuel dealings had not been effective till EFCC joined in the movement against smugglers.
Speaking elaborately, Sylva said, “I believe that with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, I believe the programme would function with EFCC in the picture. The system will work better, and we know that Petroleum Equalisation Fund, PEF, is also working on a product tracking arrangement,” he added that the inclusion of EFCC to the key stakeholders is a welcomed development and would eventually guarantee the movement toward deregulation.
Smuggling in Nigeria
Contributing his quota, Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, defined the role of the anti-corruption agency in the whole ‘Operation White’ concept, which is ensuring closure of financial crimes in the sector.
He recalled that the anti-graft agency was once faced with the fuel subsidy scandal, a fraudulent case that needed the intervention of EFCC in 2012. “From volume falsification to alteration of a bill of laden, to the non-payment of over recovery and to what I call single importation and double subsidy payment,” Bawa stated.
The EFCC Boss shared information on a pending case regarding the recovery of Fifty Billion Naira identified in an illegal transaction.
Noting it’s essential that NNPC accepted the responsibility for importing products to the Country, Bawa emphasized the need for all parties to put all hands on deck to tackle smuggling thoroughly.
“We are assuring Nigerians that anything we have to do to stop smuggling, we will do to ensure that perpetrators are brought to book and justice is met for the benefits of Nigerians,” the EFCC Boss assured.
Also, present at the meeting to give his thoughts on the issue, NNPC’s Group Managing Director, GMD, Mele Kyari, underlined facts that the economy is bleeding due to damages from smuggling activities.
The order of President Muhammadu Buhari asking industry operators to brainstorm and come up with practical solutions that will eradicate the challenges as mentioned earlier influenced the reason for stakeholders assemblage to chart a way forward.
At the meeting, while noting some of the steps government has taken to control the incessant cases of criminal activities at the borders, the NNPC GMD mentioned deploying exceptional help from the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, the Department of Security Services, DSS, the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.
Kyari announced that the government could no longer sustain the subsidy payment, seeing the volume of crude oil lost to unsanctioned sales.
He argued that the volume of PMS consumed daily in Nigeria is immeasurably on the high side, adding that the government can no longer service the subsidy payment.