Dan-Hako is a border community tucked between Jibia, Katsina state and Maradi state in Niger Republic. The town is accessed through several untarred roads and thorny trees.
It is a small townwith predominantly French speaking people, but with many well versed in Hausa dialect. Accessing the town from Magama Jibia, the border post is less than 2km after one must have stepped off the tarred road and headed to the sandy thorny untarred road passing behind BayanBariki village.
This town is notorious for the illegal sale and hoarding of petroleum motor spirit (PMS) and marketers and dealers come from as far as Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to buy. This fuel is smuggled from petrol stations acrossJibia town, and sometimes a whole trailer drives along the roads to dispose therein at the illegal depot.
Travelling to Dan Hako
As early as 7am I went to Jibia were I met my contact who had already finalised our arrangement by hiring a motorcycle which we used to get to the town. As earlier warned I was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt in order to blend and avoid suspicion. We took off passing through the sandy roads and meeting people on bikes stocked with petroleum products, for delivery to a collection point.
Each bike was seen carrying between 8 to 10 jerry cans of petrol speeding along the sandy roads to avoid being stuck or to beat time ,and earn more from the delivery. An average bike carries about 250 litres of petrol. Another interesting and amazing thing was that illegal check points have been raised by both Nigerian and Niger security operatives.
At each point a motorcyclist was made to part with a token, for easy and continuous access. For us, it was a smooth ride for the fact that we were not carrying anything, but disguising as marketers arriving at business depots. We just waved hands at officials and the thread line used as barricade is lifted and off we proceed to another.
Arriving the Depot
Approaching the illegal depot, carefully hidden amidst trees, one sees trailers loaded ready for departure, while others were being loaded with the smuggled products.
Pumping machines were seen all over used in sending the commodity to the trailers being loaded. About 15 trailers were on ground during this visit. Most of the workers are youths aged between 18-40 moving up and down, trying to upload fuel from any arriving motorcycle to a waiting truck.
There was a Peugeot J5 van filled with jerry cansbeing uploaded to another truck. A mini market has sprung up where food vendors provide food and water to workers and prospective business men on ground.
Transactions are done in both Naira and francs at the depot. Investigations further revealed that the major petrol marketers are the perpetrators who hired these motorcyclists to ferry the commodity across the border, to reduce suspicion, and the motorcyclists are paid depending on the number of jerry cans they are able to deliver to the depot.
I was made to understand that during the night, trailers from Nigeria take the commodity direct to the depot for supply. Magama, a town of less than 100,000 inhabitants has over 50 petrol stations, and new ones are springing up and are at various stages of completion. A close look at many of the petrol stations reveals a number of these motorcyclists filling and loading the commodity on their bikes ahead of delivery.
DPR, Customs speak
In Katsina, the sufficiency level of petrol was estimated at about 1.3m litres per day or the equivalent of 20 trucks daily.
At times Katsina gets up to 26 trucks per day of about 1.7m ltres of petrol. But the amazing thing was the sudden disappearance of such commodity especially during the last few months of the biting fuel scarcity.
Only recently, the Katsina office of the Department of Petroleum Resources DPR closed about ten petrol stations over diversion and missing commodity.
It’s field operations officer Mohammed Sani during inspection of erring stations and marketers, said penalties of between 100,000 to N3m depending on the level of diversion, are being meted to perpetrators and offenders.
During such outings a filling station along Jibia road was sealed over some missing 45,000 litres of petrol. Another could not account for close to 25,000 and many more of such cases were recorded.
When asked what the department is doing about such people being spotted crossing with the commodity, Sani said the department is saddled with the responsibility of seeing that commodities are taken to where they should be and sold at the appropriate price, noting that we have fined many and are still doing so.According to him, inter agency collaboration is what was desirous because smuggling is the purview of another government agency, adding that the department has observed that most of the diversions being uncovered are from inactivestations.
“The sanctions may even lead to suspension from lifting fuel, if the erring fuel stations fail to comply with our directives,” he added. For the customs, no petrol product will ever pass through the allowed authorised route, and the Federal government is strictly against it. He said, the force and government will enforce the regulation.
The smuggling can only be suppressed not eliminated, and the command is doing its possible best to ensure such things will not happen within the area of jurisdiction.
(Culled from Daily Trust)