Hundreds of legitimate workers, including drivers and fuel station attendants, are now idling away following the ban on the supply of petroleum products to filling stations in Nigeria’s land border communities
However, the border closure has paved way for fuel racketeers and smugglers to make fortune by selling the products at exorbitant prices for Nigerians living at the edge of the borders and much higher in the neighbouring countries.
The federal government had on November 6 directed that no petroleum products should be sold in any filling station within 20 kilometres to the country’s land borders.
With an area of 923,768 sq.km, Nigeria is bordered by Benin, Cameroon, Chad, and Niger republics, and also shares maritime borders with Equatorial Guinea, Ghana and São Tomé and Príncipe. Almost all the countries that share land borders rely on Nigeria’s subsidized petroleum products for their domestic consumption with black marketers making a lot of money from deals.
Our correspondents, who visited many of the affected communities, report that while people residing in border communities in Ogun, Adamawa, Cross River, Kebbi, Katsina and Borno states, were grumbling over the suspension of fuel supply, hundreds of workers at filling stations located within the affected areas have been rendered jobless. Black marketers are said to have taken undue advantage of the situation while some dealers have devised new ways of smuggling the product to neighbouring countries.
There are no fewer than 161 filling stations within the restricted border communities in Ogun State with more than 600 workers. Some of the communities affected are Idiroko, Agosasa, Ihunbo, Ajegunle, Iwoye – Ketu, Ilara, Oja – Odan and Imeko – Afon. Our correspondent who visited Idiroko, Agosasa axis of Ipokia Local Government Area observed that about 40 filling stations along the area had closed shop, a development that rendered many attendants idle. A petrol attendant in Iwoye-Ketu, Matthew Gabriel, told our correspondent that each of the affected stations had at least four employees. By implication, about 644 workers were affected following the closure of operations at the affected filling stations. “We are now idle and an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We are doing nothing for now, but we are hoping that government would have mercy on us,” he said. “Our employers are not paying salaries because if the business is not running, how would they pay salaries?” Gabriel asked. Daily Trust findings showed that black marketers have taken over petrol business in the affected communities, selling at between N450 and N500 per litre instead of the official rate of N145. A trader in Idiroko, Mrs. Elizabeth Lawal, told Daily Trust that the fuel restriction has compounded the woes of the border communities who were hitherto battling with border closure that banned importation of goods like rice, vegetable oil and other commodities. “We were suffering from the border closure, and now they have restricted the supply of fuel to this place. No filling station is selling fuel in Ipokia LGA. How do they expect us to survive? “Prices of almost everything have increased. Transport fare from Idiroko to Oshodi in Lagos used to be N800 but now it is N1,200,” she lamented. The Chairman of the Community Development Association (CDA) in Iwoye-Ketu, Ahmed Ismaila, said the government was treating them like aliens in their home country. “Is it an offence for us to reside in the border communities? We are being denied our rights,” he said.