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Nigeria battles fuel smugglers as scarcity bites

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As Nigerians groan from the effects of the current fuel scarcity, the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) has wielded the big stick against erring fuel marketers who diverted the products to neighbouring countries.

Mohammed Saidu Public Relations Officer for the agency who revealed this at a press conference in Abuja also stated that the DPR had been unaware of the diversions, because they were intervention products by the NNPC.

These products being smuggled are meant for intervention in areas with poor supply.

One marketer, A.Y. Maikifi diverted between 115 trucks between December 2017 and January 2018. In response to this, the agency fined the company N1.2 billion. There was, however, no word on if the company is currently operating.

Porous borders and the price disparity between pump prices in the country and her neighbours, make smuggling a lucrative affair. While Nigeria currently sells petrol officially at $0.48 per litre, Togo sells at $0.94 per litre. The Republic of Benin also sells at $0.96. Chad currently sells petrol at $1.07 per dollar

Fines levied against the marketers are not punitive enough, as the problem continues to be a persistent one. A. Y. Maikifi is yet to pay the mega fine. The DPR needs to go beyond fines to shutting down the operations of such rogue firms.

In response to the crisis, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has increased the amount of petrol it imports into the country. Yet, the scarcity, especially in the Northern hinterlands, has intensified. The large illegitimate income the smugglers earn also make them a security risk.

While some analysts have advocated for an increase in pump prices to lower the smuggling, the Nigerian government may be unwilling to do with elections nearby. A memorandum of understanding was signed with the Nigerien government for the construction of a refinery at a border town between both countries.

Nigeria also needs to strengthen her border security. If petrol can be so easily smuggled out of the country, contraband items are easily coming in.

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