Residents of some border communities in Ogun, Lagos, Adamawa, Katsina and Sokoto states are lamenting the Federal Government’s suspension of fuel supply to areas within 20 kilometres of the nation’s borders.
Recall that the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali, had directed that no petroleum products should be supplied to any filling station within 20 kilometres to the borders.
According to reports, the government’s order had triggered fuel scarcity and hike in the prices of petroleum products in the border communities, with long queues seen at Seme border in Lagos.
The Punch reports that many filling stations within 20 kilometres to the border town in Ipokia local government, Ogun State, had been shut by the Federal Government’s task force on border closure.
One of the residents of Ipokia, Elijah Akinola, accused the security agencies in the area of sabotaging the economy of the country.
He said: “Can you imagine buying a litre of fuel at the rate of N600? Before we can get fuel for N145 in Ipokia, we will need to go to Owode, which is 28 kilometres away. We don’t know what we can do to survive.
“Before the Federal Government’s order, they (security agents) used to take bribes from marketers before allowing them to export fuel to Benin Republic. Now that the Federal Government has stopped supply of fuel supply to border communities, we are the ones suffering. Artisans, even medical personnel, are the ones suffering.”
Akinola disclosed that one person died following the inability of a hospital to get fuel to power a generator to perform a surgery on the deceased.
“As I am talking to you, to power generators in hospitals at Idiroko is difficult. Ihunbo, Ilase, Ajegunle, Idiroko, Agosasa and other towns in the Ipokia local government area of Ogun State are affected. There was a patient that died on Monday afternoon just because there was no electricity to power machines for medical examinations.”
He alleged that security operatives are harrassing people.
“The security agents are harassing people. We cannot go out of this local government. If we are coming from Owode with five litres of fuel, they will harass us
“Some filling stations that have fuel in their underground tanks have closed. They (security agents) did not allow them to sell it before they started implementing the policy,” he said.
Another resident, Ajibade Idowu, said the task force, which comprised soldiers, immigration officers and other security operatives, commenced the implementation of the policy in the area on Sunday. But he accused some members of the task force of highhandedness.
Idowu said: The joint task force men, comprising soldiers and others sealed many filing stations. They brutalised people they met at the filling stations. Fuel is now sold for N600 per litre in Idiroko and Ipokia. They sealed many filling stations at Idiroko, Ipokia, Ajegunle, Ilase and Oko Eye.
“Everywhere was deserted as if the Federal Government had declared a curfew. Fuel is even not available at the black market. People are lamenting and complaining of the situation.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas(NUPENG) workers has said it will establish a task force and redesign its stickers so as to effectively enforce the recent order by the Federal Government banning the supply of petrol to border communities.
NUPENG stated that those who were still supplying petrol to border towns despite the order were smugglers and not members of the union.
NUPENG’s General Secretary, Olawale Afolabi, said the union was aware of the Federal Government order stopping the supply of petrol to filling stations located 20 kilometres to border towns.
His words: “We are aware of the directive but smugglers are the ones taking products to these communities. It takes a lot of effort to stop criminals. In fact, we have also set up a task force to ensure compliance.
“Most times you see th diversion of products that are supposed to go to the hinterlands. These products are taken to the border areas through diversion by armed smugglers.
“They are smugglers and not our members. But when you see their trucks, for them to escape easily, they will put our stickers.
“So right now, we are trying to redesign our stickers and again we are setting up a task force to ensure compliance. The union is handling this. However, I want you to know that these smugglers carry arms and we cannot confront them.
“Therefore, our task force will mainly educate our members at the depots and try to halt the sale of products to illegal marketers who may divert these products. So, only law enforcement agents have the capacity to confront these smugglers.”