The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have been at loggerheads over reported cases of petrol smuggling and possible solutions in recent weeks.
NNPC, last week confirmed the claim by the Customs Service that Nigeria’s subsidized petrol was being smuggled out of Nigeria in large quantities. It, however, rejected the proposal put forth by the Customs on how to stop the illegal business.
The Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Melee Kyari, while noting that smuggling of petroleum products is almost impossible to stop, disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered involvement of security and anti-graft agencies in the war against economic sabotage.
Kyari said these in Abuja at the public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Finance on the 2022-2024 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper.
The Controller-General of the NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), while appearing before the same committee on August 16, 2021, said petrol was being smuggled out of Nigeria in large quantities after it had been subsidized by the Federal Government.
Chairman of the committee, James Faleke, on Wednesday asked the GMD to confirm if the NNPC monitored the volume of product imported, distributed and consumed on a daily basis in the country.
Kyari said, “Yes. There is a single point of import, which is the NNPC. And the evacuation data is coming from the records that we receive from the PPPRA.
“I can confirm to you that anytime we supply less than 60 million litres per day – average – consecutively for two weeks, we will see shortages coming on the streets. Sometimes, it is not visible to the public but we see the constraint and we take necessary actions to close those gaps.
“Much as I believe personally that our national consumption may not be 60 million litres per day, I am convinced that anytime you supply less than 60 million litres per day, you will have a challenge here. A number of things are happening.
“Without any contradiction, the oil that we import into this country gets everywhere. It is found in many West African countries. It goes as far as Sudan; we have records to show this. It is found in many countries that are close to us but as far as the Central African Republic. This is very true. In addition to this, once you have a situation of price arbitrage, everything can happen. And I can confirm that it is very difficult to contain it.”
He added that President Buhari has personally directed him to take every step possible to make sure that the nation curbs the issues around cross-border smuggling; issues around early pilferages in the depots and any involvement of anyone to get this resolved.
As NNPC claims to have taken several steps, including the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Department of State Services, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), among others, it is high time the apex oil agency eschews conflicts and collaborates with the Customs Service and everybody that has a stake in the bid to address the menace of petrol smuggling.