By Tola Adenubi – Lagos
Petroleum marketers under the aegis of the Idiroko/Ipokia Petroleum Dealers & Marketers Association of Nigeria have called for the arrest of the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd) over the Service decision to auction 24 petroleum tankers, including petroleum products valued at over N1.5bn, despite a court order asking the NCS to return the 24 seized fully laden petroleum tankers.
Recall that Justice Shittu Abubakar of the Federal High Court sitting in Abeokuta, had on the 9th of August, 2022, ordered the NCS to return the 24 petroleum tanker trucks illegally impounded from the various premises of the petroleum marketers by Customs officers backed by officials of the Nigerian Army. But, rather than obey the judgement and return the trucks to the owners, the NCS auctioned the trucks with all it’s content valued at over N1.5bn.
Speaking on Tuesday during a press briefing organised by the Petroleum Marketers at their Secretariat in Idiroko, Ogun State, the Legal Representative of the Idiroko-Ipokia Petroleum Dealers & Marketers Association, Barrister George Oyeniyi said that the content of the 24 petroleum tankers as well as the trucks were auctioned by Customs as scraps.
According to Barrister George Oyeniyi, “Sometimes in 2019, that was around 9th of November, petroleum dealers and marketers woke up to the news that the Nigeria Customs Service has issued a circular suspending the supply of petroleum products from within 20 kilometers to the border
“However, most of this petroleum marketers already had petroleum products that had been booked days before the day of the Customs circular, in their various petroleum stations. Some of these marketers already had petroleum products in their various tankers right inside their filling stations, about to be discharged into their underground storage facilities in the filling stations.
“So due to this confusing situation occasioned by the circular, the Customs Area Controller of Idiroko Customs Command as at that time, Controller Agbara called petroleum marketers to a meeting, where he gave them a four days grace period to dispose off all the petroleum products in their various filling stations before enforcement of that circular will begin.
“However, two days after that circular, officials of the Nigeria Customs Service from Ikeja, backed by military men, raided all the filling stations from Owode to Idiroko in the dead of the night, towing away fully laden petroleum tankers to the Military baracks in Owode.
“The total number of fully laden petroleum tankers moved away to the Military baracks in Owode was 19 while another five fully laden petroleum tankers were towed to the Customs formation here in Idiroko.
“The Customs officials led by one ACG Amajan started looking for buyers for the petroleum products. It was after the petroleum marketers discovered that the Customs were about selling off the petroleum products and auctioning off the trucks that they contacted me and a case was instituted in court.
“An application for injunction, stopping Customs from tampering with the petroleum tankers and their content was then filed in court, and the Judge granted an interrocutory injunction, that was in July 2020.
“While the case was still in Court, the trucks detained inside the Military baracks in Owode were moved to Ikorodu were they were all auctioned.
“The Judge presiding over the case had given a judgement that all the 24 petroleum tankers should be returned to the owners. The Judge also granted the marketers a N20m damages against Customs and N2m as cost of prosecuting the case. This judgement was delivered on the 9th of August, 2022.
“However, despite the Court judgement, the Customs did not appeal within 90 days and have not complied with the order of the Court. We have filed form 48 notifying the CG of Customs of the Court judgement and will be filing form 49 on the NCS soon, notifying the CG why he shouldn’t be arrested for flouting Court judgement.”
Also speaking during the briefing, the leader of the petroleum marketers, Alhaji Lukman Jamiu lamented that some of the auctioned petroleum tankers were seen in Shagamu in Ogun State where they were being salvaged by unknown person’s.
“Some of the seized petroleum tankers were seen in Shagamu where they were being salvaged by unknown person’s. When we asked them where they got the petroleum Tankers, they told us that they bought it as scraps from Customs for N15m.
“This is how Customs auctioned off our investment despite a Court injunction stopping them from doing so. Some of this trucks were even arrested outside the 20 kilometers to the border directive that the Customs circular stated,” Alhaji Lukman Jamiu, MD of Mayuf Oil & Gas lamented.