NSA Fingered In Rogue Filling Stations Brisk Businesses
…As Court Rattles Customs CG Over Auctioned Trucks
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) led Joint Borders Patrol Team (JBPT) Sector 2, South West Zone, has said that sealing and unsealing of petroleum filling stations within the zone over activities of illegal fuel bunkering is always in line with the directive and approval of the Office of the National Security Adviser(ONSA).
In response to Pinnacle Time inquire regarding activities of rogues filling stations located within border townships, officers of the JBPT said revenues generated from penalties for affected filling stations are also domiciled with the ONSA.
In a related development, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) has been commanded by the Federal High Court Abeokuta Division to release 9 trucks impounded by the service from petroleum products marketers on or before June 19.
The trucks were part of the 24 tankers said to have been illegally impounded by the service since 2019, which the court had earlier ordered the service to return to their owners, an ordered believed to have been disobeyed.
Sources informed that 15 of the impounded trucks had already been auctioned, while others were at the Idiroko Border Post of the service. Since no seized item can be auctioned with court judgment, it is unclear the provision of the law the High Court Judge relied upon in reaching its pronouncements.
Speaking on closed petrol stations and the settlements or fines purportedly paid by the owners, officials of the JBPT also known as Border Drill, averred that no station is sealed or re-opened without the approval of the ONSA; hinting that all information including fines and payments are domiciled with the NSA.
While the border drill operatives have washed their hands off the illegal brisk business, there are reports that sanctioned fuel stations always return to the lucrative business after reported settlements of between N3million to N7million per station. It is however unclear whether the alleged settlements pass for official penalty or just administrative fine, or both.
According to the Officer-in-Charge of Gbaji Axis, “No filling station is sealed without the knowledge of the National Security Adviser, because we operate under the NSA.
“All the records are with them, we don’t also reopen sealed filling stations without approval, so the NSA Office has all the reports.”
The Sector Staff Officer, Assistant Controller Adamu said only the Sector Coordinator can speak on the matter when our reporter sought to get team’s reaction. He promised to inform the coordinator and to relay his position, which was however not done more two weeks until filing this report.
Findings indicate that two of filling stations which were shut down recently at different times by men of the border drill, and were reportedly unsealed less than 24 hours after reported settlements by their respective owners.
According to finding, one of the two stations was believed to have been sealed and unsealed twice, in the last couple of months, even as there are indications that a number of other rogues fillings stations within the Badagry, Owode, Idiroko, Ilaro, Papalanto, Ohumbe axis involved in the deal usually sort out and return to the illegal brisk business.
Four petrol stations and the Registered Trustees of Ipokia/Idiroko Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria had dragged the NCS before the Federal High Court over alleged illegal seizures and confiscation of 24 tankers belonging to their members in 2019.
Justice A.A Demi-Ajayi of the Abeokuta High Court had on May 15, 2023, upheld an earlier judgment of the court on August 9, 2022 in a Suit number FHC/AB/CS/8/2020, and ordered the NCS to release the impounded tankers before the next adjourned date June 5.
At the resumption of the case today, Justice Ajayi expressed dismay about the customs reported disobedience to her court orders, and declared that the order of the court must be obeyed without being subjected to bureaucratic approval.
She said the CGC risks contempt of court should he fail to release the said tankers, even as she further adjourned to June 19, 2023, ostensibly pending compliance with the court order.
NCS Legal Adviser, Smart Akande, while pleading for time to allow the service tidy up its end, reportedly assured that the 9 trucks would be released to their owners on or before the next adjourned date.
This is as counsel to the plaintiffs, George Oyeniyi, expressed satisfaction with the judgment, explaining that should the NCS refuse to abide by the court ruling; the contempt to court committal process can be activated.
Oyeniyi said he expects that the NCS will respect the agreement in term of the judgment debts relating to the 15 auctioned trucks and value of the contents of all the 24 trucks.