30 December 2011, Sweetcrude, LAGOS – Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, has said that petrol importers have continued to milk the nation of millions of dollars annually by pretending to import products from abroad.
Akpobolokemi who spoke in an exclusive interview in Lagos said most of the importers actually get their products from local refineries and when they get to Lagos waters, they discharge same into another vessel.
The NIMASA boss further explained that the vessel laden with the product is then taken outside the nation’s territorial waters and returned into the country with the claim that they have imported the product.
“We so much talk about subsidy removal in Nigeria. People carry product from Nigeria precisely from Port Harcourt for instance, maybe the point of destination is also Port Harcourt. Some of these ships are found in Lagos discharging into another ship from where it is moved outside Nigerian waters and then brought back into the country as import.
“It is then recorded that they have supplied petroleum product, asking for subsidy. In actual fact, what is the true subsidy? You should not be arguing with the President on the removal of the subsidy, it is because this illegality is so much. When it is removed, let’s see how somebody can parade various port asking for subsidy,” Akpobolokemi said.
Akpobolokemi further explained that the level of illegal bunkering and other illegal activities along the nation’s waterways had gone unchecked for years and a lot of industry operators, including the press have been complaining that the agency has not done enough to arrest the situation.
He pointed out that since his appointment, he and the management team had worked hard to ensure that they brought sanity to marine business along the nation’s waterways.
He said people have been saying that “we are suppose to confront illegal bunkering, that it is within our jurisdiction, that we are responsible for whatever cargoes we bring to the ports. We must know whether it is in accordance with the safety standard of the country.”
“We must be interested because we have to collect our three per cent revenue. So you must declare what you are carrying in your stock and where you are taking it to. Before now, these things were not done. We have been arresting and detaining (vessels involved in illegal operations) and if we go on with it, the economic sabotage is going to stop,” he concluded.