The Federal Government is now deploying operatives of the Department of State Services on tankers transporting Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, to filling stations in order to halt the diversion and smuggling of the product.
Already, over 120 DSS officers had been deployed to follow fuel tankers to their various retail outlets in Abuja, as more security agencies were being drafted into the exercise for nationwide coverage.
This came as the government revealed, on Thursday, that it had shut down over 270 filling stations for being involved in diverse infractions such as hoarding, selling above approved price, among others.
The Chief Executive, Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority, Farouk Ahmed, and the Group Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, Mele Kyari, disclosed this in Abuja during a live television programme monitored by our correspondent.
Speaking on efforts being put in place to halt the diversion and cross-border smuggling of PMS, Kyari said, “So much is going on, there are government security interventions.
“I know the kind of work that we do with the security agencies, for instance, in Abuja alone, we have over 120 DSS officers following every truck to fuel stations and we are activating this across the country.
“We are ensuring that we get other government security agencies to follow these trucks to their locations, in order to be very sure that these trucks actually get to the fuel stations and there are not sold on the way and they don’t cross the borders.”
Kyari had earlier explained at a stakeholders meeting in Abuja that Nigeria’s fuel was smuggled to other countries, as he insisted that the current PMS scarcity was not due to the forth-coming general elections.
“There’s no dispute about this that our fuel gets to other countries, including in marine containers. We have evidence now that some of our customers are actually taking investors to other countries and we will get to the root of this.
“The appropriate government security agencies will deal with this. But this is the reality that we are dealing with. You do have cross-border smuggling, either in form of round-tripping or whatever name we call it.
“So the 66 or 67 million litres that you have always seen include all these, the cross-border smuggling volumes. And it means that anytime we don’t satisfy those markets, it will affect your domestic market. This is the reality that we are dealing with,” he stated.
The NMDPRA boss, while speaking on sanctions taken against downstream operators who flouted the approved regulations, stated that over 270 fillings stations and seven depots had been closed
Ahmed said, “Because of control that we have in most of the major cities, whether it is Port Harcourt, Lagos, Ibadan, Abuja, etc, the marketers tend to go to the rural areas where you can buy petrol at a high price.
“And, of course, it our responsibility as a regulator to ensure strict monitoring and enforcement. What we did was that a couple of weeks ago we had to shut about seven depots because of the inflation of their ex-depot price.”
He stressed that aside from shutting the depots, hundreds of filling stations were also closed by the government for defaulting.
“On top of shutting the depots, we also shut down over 270 retail outlets. We are doing our work and this brought some respite in some areas,” he stated.
Ahmed added, “But again, Nigeria is a huge country and there are lots of challenges. So if we continue to shut down outlets, we are going to create another flashback because the more you shut down, the lesser number of petrol available to service the country.