By Edith Ike-Eboh &Yetunde Bada
The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) on Thursday arrested eight trucks with a total volume of 469,000 liters of petrol, allegedly meant to be diverted to Benin Republic.
Addressing newsmen in Minna, the NSCDC Commandant in Niger State, Mr Phillip Ayuba, explained that some of the trucks had waybills reading Ilorin, Kebbi and had no business in Mokwa where they were caught.
”The command made an arrest of vehicles carrying petroleum products varying from 36,000 to 66,000 litres at Mokwa going to Babana, a border town between Nigeria and Benin Republic.
”Some of the drivers say they don’t know the owners of these products. Prices have skyrocketed because of activities of these saboteurs.
”The NSCDC Commandant-General, Abdullahi Gana, has directed that we hand over the products to the NNPC and DPR. They know where the products are headed,” Ayuba said.
According to him, the arrest is a clarion call to all saboteurs to desist, be patriotic and stop suffering fellow Nigerians.
”Nobody is happy with what is happening. We urge the public to please notify us on illegal activities because this scarcity affects goods and services and everybody.
”They stayed two days in Mokwa during this time of scarcity and there were many trucks there, why were they the only ones picked,” he said.
The DPR Niger State Operations Controller in Minna, Mr Abdullahi Isah, confirmed the confiscation to newsmen, saying ”some of the drivers did not present the waybill immediately they were arrested.
”The waybill they later presented showed that the products were not meant for Niger state though one of the trucks is detailed to Babana in Niger State and will be accompanied there”.
”Upon conviction, they will pay N200 per litre to government coffers as penalty.”
Also, Mr Fatai Atanda, one of the drivers arrested, said ”we stopped at Mokwa tired, hoping to rest but we were arrested.
”We were on the right route. We notified our union, they spoke with the civil defence but we were still brought here. We have also notified the marketers.”
Another driver, Fatai Atanda, told newsmen ”we loaded at NIPCO in Lagos. Our waybill is genuine. We did not steal”.
Meanwhile, the NNPC also raised an alarm over the sustained nefarious activities of some cross-border fuel smuggling syndicates and hoarders which have so far impeded its efforts to sanitize the fuel supply and distribution matrix across the country.
Addressing the Joint National Assembly Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Group Managing Director of the NNPC, Mr. Maikanti Baru, stated that if the activities of the fuel truck diverters and smugglers were left unchecked, it would be absolutely difficult to guarantee round-the-clock availability of petrol throughout the country.
This he said was due to the massive leakages wrought on the fuel supply and distribution network by the smugglers.
Baru noted that the sudden and unnatural shock in fuel consumption to record levels has over-stretched the Direct-Sale-Direct-Supply (DSDP) crude for product supply arrangement which was originally based on 35 million per day petrol consumption pattern.
He lamented that with the current unprecedented average daily fuel evacuation of 55 million litres since 1st December 2017 to date, it was imperative for the security agencies to close-in on the smuggling syndicates who were cashing in on the obvious petrol price differentials between Nigeria and neighboring countries to make illicit profit.
Baru explained that apart from straining the ability of NNPC to sustain the prevailing 100 percent PMS importation in the face of increasing cost, the current situation was impacting negatively on NNPC’s resources for servicing Joint Venture Cash-Call and other obligations.
He said to sustain adequate supply of petroleum products and national energy security, there was the need for the Federal Government to provide flush volumes in January & March, 2018, as well as create enabling environment for other oil marketing companies to participate in the importation of petroleum products.
He also noted the need to double supply in order to raise the fuel sufficiency template back to the 30 days threshold from the current 15 days by bringing in at least two vessels per day for 20 days.
He, however, explained that the NNPC would require additional funding outside the DSDP regime to achieve this.
Baru listed the measures put in place to tackle the prevailing challenges to include: Engagement of the Nigerian Navy, Federal Road Safety Corps and Civil Defence to improve truck movement; engagement of the Nigerian Army Engineers to remove failed trucks on the Jebbba/Mokwa Road.
This, he added had hitherto slowed down truck movement to the northern part of the country; repairs of about 10km stretch of bad roads and sustained assistance to tankers among others.
He noted that the NNPC had deployed several tug boats to help pull out the grounded DPK vessel at Escravos bar which had made it difficult for PMS laden vessels to access the strategic Oghara products reception facilities and jetty among other palliatives.
He said in addition to the regular DSDP monthly programmed deliveries, the Corporation had imported 12 cargoes (nine in December, 2017, and three in January, 2018).
In his response, Chairman of the National Assembly Joint Committee, Senator Kabiru Marafa, charged NNPC to resolve the situation within the next seven days.(NAN)