By Emmanuel Afonne
The Federal Government says it has facilitated the use of a tracking device to track every truck loading petroleum product from any of its depots as part of efforts to nip smuggling in the bud and arrest culprits.
Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, said this at a forum organised by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) to gauge the achievements recorded in the oil and gas sector in the last two years.
Sylva noted that a lot had been achieved in the industry but that the activities of smugglers had continued to overshadow the successes especially as it concerned fuel subsidy and the quantity of petroleum products consumed in the country.
“This is one big question that we try to answer ourselves because when we look at the number of load-outs from our depots every day, we know that we don’t have that level of consumption of petroleum products in Nigeria,” he said.
According to Sylva, time has come for the government to track products that go out from its depots to ensure they deliver straight to designated filling stations in the country.
He said the era of smuggling products across the country’s borders was over as it negatively contributed to the high number of litres of petroleum products said to be consumed in the country on a daily basis.
“We have been able to put a tracking system to track the trucks that load from the depots, so that we are sure that when they load products from the depots, they take it straight to the filling stations.
”When you say that Nigerians are consuming 60 million litres, and you look at the number of cars on the Nigerian roads, you will know that those 60 million litres cannot be possibly consumed in Nigeria.
“But we have a situation where our price for products here are cheaper than the price across the border; sometimes the price across the border is double or even more than double our own price here.
“So, it’s an opportunity for profit, and some people will want to take our product and sell it across the border to make extra money.
“That is what has been happening and it’s really distorting our own system here because if you say you are going to be subsidising the product, the subsidy is meant to be subsidising for Nigerians not those outside Nigeria.
“But the way it is now, we seem to be subsidising the whole of Africa, and how can we sustain such a move; that is why the subsidy amount is going up every day,” Sylva said.
He also said that security agents, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) would swing into action to ensure the smugglers were apprehended and brought to justice.
“We know that our consumption data is inflated, not by us but because of the leakages which we are trying to control.
“If you have a structure as it is today, and the incentive the smugglers get is too high, it makes them not to stop unless the government is ruthless, and that is why we are involving security agencies.
“This month maybe they will smuggle to Niger Republic and next month somebody will discover a route to Chad and another person is smuggling to Cameroon and Benin Republic, while some could go as far as Togo or Ghana.
“And this is why our perceived consumption figure is going up every day and if we continue to do that and keep our petrol price low, it will be difficult for us to progress.
“In some communities, we have a situation where someone’s farmland is in Cameroon and their home is in Nigeria, so how do you stop that person from not crossing the border,” Sylva added.
The petroleum minister further said that apart from tracking device systems, other technological solutions would be applied to get the problem solved in the shortest time possible. (NAN)