Reps to end petrol ban on border communities
By Abdullahi Mahmud Gaya
As its in the public domain, Nigerian Customs Service issues directives that no petroleum products, no matter the tank size, is permitted to be discharged in any filling station within 20 kilometers to the border.
As result a of these directives inhabitants of these border towns are already feeling the brunt of the border closure.
This is due to the fact that the policy has now denied them the usual opportunities to enjoy petroleum products and this would adversely affect their livelihood, as the directive was most insensitive to the plight of these Nigerians.
Concerning the banning of petroleum supply, the House of Representatives has reiterated its commitment toward ending the suffering of Nigerians border communities before the year runs out.
The resolutions were reached at plenary sequel to a motion of urgent public importance moved by Hon Sada Soli in the House.
While leading the debate, he said the inhabitants of these border towns are already feeling the brunt of the border closure and to now deny them petroleum products which would adversely affect hospitals, businesses adding that the decision which encourage the source of epileptic power without due consultation and enlightenment, was most insensitive to the plight of these Nigerians.
According to him, as an indigene of Jibia in Katsina State which is also a border community, he has seen first-hand the adverse effects of this operation as the price of petroleum had skyrocketed beyond the reach of the common man as he called on the House to call the Customs Service to order as the action is unconstitutional.
Base on this, the motion was adopted and referred to the committee for investigation as the speaker of the House mandated the Joint Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream), to engage the Minister of Interior, the Minister of State for Petroleum, the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs and the Group Managing Director of National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) ,Petroleum Resources (DPR) Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the stakeholders.
This was aimed at encouraging a reviewing the situation to ameliorating the suffering of Nigerians living in the border towns and to report back within two weeks for further legislative action .
As a follow-up of speaker’s directive on Thursday 28 of last month, the Joint Committee convened public hearing by the House with stakeholders and other concerns agencies as part of the efforts toward finding lasting solutions to the suffering of borders communities.
Responding to the questions before the committee on why the suspension of Petroleum Products supply to Filling Stations within 20 Kilometers to the Nation’s Borders retired Col. Hameed Ali said directive, though temporary, had started yielding positive results as Nigeria no longer subsidise fuel for the neighboring countries.
He further stated that NCS had discovered how owners of filling stations used their licenses to get products which they divert to other countries to sell at higher prices, saying decision was taken after a security meeting with relevant agencies on the need to curb the activities of economic saboteurs smuggling petroleum products across the border.
He stated that the Department of Petroleum Resources had refused to furnish the service with data on the approved and illegal filling stations along the borders, saying this lack of cooperation by the DPR, has not helped the situation because according to him, with adequate information, NSC would have known the approved filling stations and these would have been isolated from the illegal ones.
Ali queried the high number of fuel points in the border communities where the population was less than the volume of petrol supplied.
The custom’s boss argued by saying that large numbers of fuel stations were built along the boundaries for smuggling out of the country.
He stated that there is a policy in this country that prohibits establishment of petrol station 10km to the borders adding that It is now left for the custom to work with the DPR and ensure that this policy is implemented.
In its responds, Department of Petroleum Resources said about 400 illegal fuel stations were operating in Nigeria’s border communities, in addition to about 923 others licensed to operate there.
While stakeholders agreed with the committee that the policy should be reviewed to end the sufferings of the people living in border communities, a resolution was reached agencies and stakeholders to form a powerful joint committee whose responsibility will be to tour the affected areas with views to ending the country petroleum supply to the neighboring countries.
This will also aid in identifying stations operating legally from those which are established for the sole purposed of smuggling the product.
Hon Gaya wrote in from House of Representatives Abuja can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org