OrderPaperToday– Members of the joint House Committee on Custom and Excise, Petroleum (Downstream)and Interior have accused men of the Nigeria Custom Service (NCS) of conniving with smugglers to move contraband into the country.
Recall that the federal government, through the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), had directed that petroleum products should not be supplied to fuel stations within 20 kilometres of the borders.
Hameed Ali, Customs Comptroller General (CG), issued the directive in a memo dated November 6, 2019.
Mr. Sada Soli (APC, Katsina) while addressing the Comptroller General (CG) of NCS, Mr. Hameed Ali, who appeared before the committee on Thursday, accused NCS of worsening the situation they are supposed to be addressing, as the policy was rather increasing illegal activities around border areas.
He, therefore, urged the federal government to take a second look at the policy.
“Mr CG, you are a very very honest person and some of your men are also honest and I want to tell you that this policy would push people into illegal activities the more.
“You need to sit down and look at this policy because I believe some of your men pushed you to carry out this policy and a lot of them are benefiting from it the more.
“Sir, you might not agree with me because they are your men but they are making more money now. We live on these borders and I am telling you the reality. There is need to take intelligence and get this done once and for all because your men are extorting our people because of this policy.
“I must say I like this policy but your men are not doing their job, rather, it is an open window for corruption. My people from Katsina travel forty five minutes from the border to buy petroleum products but they would not be allowed to bring it home and use and this is my concern.
“Another issue is Mr. CG, how do define 20 kilometres from that trunck A road from Katsina to the border? So, my question, therefore, is what is the definition of 20 kilometres from the road to the border?”
Responding, the CG explained that borders were not completely closed as imagined as only routes where illegal activities are carried out have been closed.
He also disclosed that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has refused to furnish the service with data on the approved and illegal filling stations along the borders, making the NCS to use a blanket approach.
“I appreciate the passion at which you have spoken as regards this issue of my yardstick of measuring. 20 kilometres is we move from border to 20 kilometres on the map of Nigeria. We have this notion that since they have closed borders, everywhere would be closed but it is not so.
“Meanwhile, if not for lack of cooperation by the DPR, approved filling stations would have been isolated from the illegal ones. NCS waited on the DPR to provide the details for over one year to no avail, until the federal government now decided to shut the borders and bar petrol sales around the border communities.
On his part, Mr. Ahmeh Shakur, a director in the DPR, said about 400 illegal fuel stations were operating along Nigeria’s border communities, with about 923 others licenced to operate there.
The joint committee was chaired by Mohammed Gaya (APC, Kano). The chairman of the committee on Petroleum (Downstream) directed DPR to provide details of the fuel stations in the border communities to the Customs boss by Friday, blaming DPR for the decision taken by the NCS.