Adedayo Akinwale ín Abuja
The House of Representatives has called on the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) to review its ban on the supply of petroleum products to border communities, saying it contravenes the provisions of the Customs and Exercise Act, as amended.
The Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), had last week directed that no petroleum products should be supplied to any filling station within 20 kilometres to the borders.
This has, however, triggered scarcity and hike in the price of petroleum products in border communities in Ogun, Lagos, Adamawa, Katsina and Sokoto states. At the plenary yesterday, which was presided over by the Deputy Speaker, Hon.Idris Wase, a member of the House, Hon. Sada Soli, moved a motion of urgent national importance on the need to review the directive by the Customs, which was adopted by the House.
He stated that the directive would increase the suffering of Nigerians living in over 2,000 communities sharing borders with Niger, Chad and Benin Republics, who are already feeling the impact of the border closure more than the rest of the country.
Soli also expressed concern that no alternative provision had been made to cater for the needs of the border communities, despite the fact that Nigerian economy depends solely on petroleum products.
He noted that being from Jibia in Katsina State, which is also a border community, he has witnessed first-hand the adverse effects of the ban as fuel price has skyrocketed beyond the reach of the common man.
The lawmaker also lamented that the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), whose statutory duty is to close petrol stations and regulate supply, was yet to make any clarification on the issue.
Soli added that inadequate public enlightenment on such a far-reaching ‘sudden directive’ of an agency of government would inflict untold hardship on the people.
He also expressed worry about the loss of lives, jobs, transportation challenges and general inconveniences that would arise as a result of such directive which would affect hospitals, businesses and livelihoods of Nigerians as the poor power supply is well known, hence, the reliance on petroleum products.
“The operation is said to have been aimed at discouraging the smuggling of petroleum products outside Nigerian borders. The inhabitants of these border towns are already feeling the brunt of the border closure; to now deny them petroleum products , which will adversely affect hospitals, businesses, the supplementing of the source of epileptic power, without due consultation and enlightenment, is most insensitive to the plight of these Nigerians,” he added.
In his submission, Hon. Abdulahi Hassan Abdulkadir, said the Customs should have consulted relevant stakeholders before halting the supply of pertrol to border communities, adding that the directive is draconian.
“It is a very draconian step taken by the Customs. Many Nigerians are suffering from this directive and it is very absurd that an agency of government can add to the difficulty of Nigerians after shutting the border,” he stated.
Abdulkadir noted that the Customs and those involved in halting supply of petrol to boader communities should suspend the directive forthwith.
In his contribution, Hon. Fatuhu Mohammed, said the people in his constituency in Daura, Katsina State, were suffering immeasurably, adding that the Customs should be sensitive to them as Nigerians and reverse the policy.
Hon. Mohammed Umar, in his contribution, decried the uncontrollable increase of petroleum products prices and called on the House to come to the aid of Nigerians who are suffering.
At the end of deliberations, the House urged “ the Nigeria Customs Service to review its ban on the supply of petroleum products to border communities as it contravenes the provisions of the Customs and Exercise Act as amended.”
It also directed the Committees on Interior, Customs and Excise and Petroleum Resources (Downstream) to engage the Minister of Interior, Minister of State for Petroleum, the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service and the Group Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with a view to reviewing the situation and ameliorating the suffering of Nigerians living in the border towns.
The committees are to report back to the House within two weeks for further legislative action.