Smuggled Nigerian Petrol Floods West African Markets, Sells for N1,700/Litre

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The Federal Government raised concerns on Monday about the increased smuggling of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), commonly known as petrol, driven by significant price hikes in neighboring countries. While the average price of petrol in Nigeria is about N701 per litre, in neighboring countries it averages N1,787 per litre, escalating PMS smuggling out of Nigeria over the past two weeks.

Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Adewale Adeniyi, revealed at a press conference in Yola that the NCS is collaborating with the Office of the National Security Adviser to address this issue.

Adeniyi said, “We are here to update the public on the strategic efforts of the Nigeria Customs Service in addressing the critical issue of fuel smuggling through Operation Whirlwind, under the auspices of the National Security Adviser.”

He highlighted that the removal of fuel subsidies by the Federal Government about a year ago led to an increase in fuel prices, aiming to free up funds for other economic sectors, reduce pressure on foreign exchange reserves, and diversify economic growth. Despite inflationary pressures, Nigeria’s fuel prices remain the lowest compared to West and Central African countries.

Adeniyi detailed, “While PMS is sold at an average of N701.99 in Nigeria, it sells for N1,672.05 in Benin and N2,061.55 in Cameroon. This price advantage, beneficial to Nigerians, unfortunately incentivizes smuggling PMS out of Nigeria, where prices are much higher.”

He cited significant changes in PMS evacuation patterns, particularly in border states, suggesting an increase in smuggling activities. For instance, between April and May 2024, Borno and Kebbi states recorded 76% and 59% increases in evacuations. Year-on-year, Sokoto and Taraba states saw 247% and 234% increases, respectively.

Operation Whirlwind aims to disrupt smuggling operations, ensure Nigerians benefit from fuel price deregulation, defend the national currency, and dismantle smuggling cartels. The operation, coordinated by a Comptroller of Customs, covers all NCS zones and involves trained officers adhering to professionalism.

Adeniyi reported significant strides in the operation, including intercepting 150,950 litres of PMS valued at N105,965,391 in the past two weeks. Various seizures included tankers and jerrycans of PMS in multiple locations.

In addition to ongoing operations, NCS Area Commands have remained vigilant, recording significant seizures of PMS from smugglers. The recent rise in PMS distribution to border states is attributed to smuggling activities, which, if unchecked, could worsen Nigeria’s economic situation and foreign exchange challenges.

The customs chief emphasized the need for cooperation among government agencies to resolve gaps in data sharing, monitoring PMS movement, and managing the proliferation of fuel stations in border areas. These measures aim to ensure the strict adherence to government expectations while avoiding obstruction to legitimate activities in border communities.

The Federal Government removed the petrol subsidy on May 29, 2023, after previously shutting down 270 filling stations to combat smuggling. The NMDPRA and NNPC had earlier deployed security operatives to monitor fuel tanker deliveries and address the issue of cross-border smuggling, which inflated Nigeria’s daily petrol consumption.

The ongoing efforts reflect the government’s commitment to curbing the smuggling of PMS, ensuring domestic availability, and maintaining national security.

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