June 21, 2024

Fishermen lament stagnation over fuel stations sealing in A’Ibom

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Fishmen lament stagnation over fuel stations sealing in A’Ibom

Ini Billie, Uyo

Fishermen have lamented the stagnation of their business and means of livelihood over the sealing of fuel stations in Ibaka, Mbo Local Government Area, Akwa Ibom State.

It was gathered that a military joint task force at Ibaka code-named Operation Delta Safe on Friday, May 17 sealed up six fuel stations in the riverine community and impounded drums of PMS, drums of AGO and two trucks of PMS which had 45,000 litres each.

The fishermen under the aegis of Watch Out Multi-Purpose Co-operative Association of Nigeria in Ibaka, Mbo LGA urged Governor Umo Eno to intervene and unseal the affected fuel stations: Defamous station, Super King station, Godsflower station, Eyotech Oil, Owo station and Handicap station.

Spokesperson of the Association, Ade Johnbull told Daily Trust during the weekend that fishing activities have been grounded for almost one week due to artificial fuel scarcity caused by the incident.

“There is no activity ongoing here because our people cannot access the filling stations to buy fuel for our business.

“We don’t know what happened, we just woke up in the morning to see the Army seal up all the filling stations here. I approached one of them and he told me that the order was from above, so I don’t know what transpired.

“It started on Friday last week and it has been very difficult for us because some people will take a boat to as far as Ibaka to get fuel and come to sell at exorbitant prices like  N1,000 a litre, some N1,500, unlike when the filling stations were open, we were buying at N850 a litre.

“This has affected our business because you can’t go fishing unlike before even if you come back around 11 pm, you’ll just go to the filling stations and buy fuel with your drum or gallon. Why should somebody spend up to N400,000 on fuel just for fishing? We are pleading with Governor Umo Eno and the Federal Government to intervene in the matter immediately,’ he stated.

Reacting to the incident, the Chairman, Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), Oro chapter, Deacon Otuakak Emenyi described the closure and impoundment of members’ products as unlawful.

Emenyi called on the army to restore the seized products, and open up the fuel stations within one week of the press conference or it members in Oro nation would be mandated to stop the sale of petroleum products till the issue is resolved.

He explained that the victims were duly licensed by the Federal Government and were selling at N850 per litre of fuel, noting the Army’s allegation that the price was against government-approved fuel pump price holds no water as marketers sourced their products at exorbitant rates.

“Our members at Ibaka axis of Mbo L.G.A. said that troops of military personnel with Hilux and patrol trucks had invaded filling stations, impounded 44 drums of PMS, 2 drums of AGO and 2 trucks of PMS of which 45,000 litres each.

“As a riverine community, Ibaka has fishermen that use fuel (petrol) in their outboard engines to sail their boats as they embark on their fishing spree to make ends meet and to enable them cater for the need of their families. Same way those of us upland use fuel to power our motorcycles and vehicles to sustain our individual and collective businesses.

“It is, therefore, very worrisome and disheartening to note how uniform men see Petroleum marketers in Ibaka community as collaborators in the smuggling of Petroleum products to a nearby country.

“JTF operatives should have intervened as part of their core objectives to save innocent lives and deal with kidnappers in the Niger Delta areas but this didn’t happen. That the Royal father was kidnapped the same day that the JTF team came to Mbo LGA leaves a lot of questions on our minds.

“They didn’t only seize the products but also sealed off many petrol stations at Ibaka, Mbo Local Government. This singular action is unacceptable and strange to the regulation guidelines as it is the responsibility of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Regulatory Authority to seal erring operators.

“It is a display of misplaced priority which has thrown the people of Ibaka and its environs into a pool of abyss restlessness as businesses have collapsed within the few days fuel stations did not open to customers to procure fuel and power their businesses.

Reacting to the matter, Army Public Relations Officer, 2 Brigade, Nigeria Army, Ibawa, Abak LGA, Adejimi Adebowale, said he would make inquiry of what happened and get back as he was in Abuja for a programme. But as at the time of filing this report, he was yet to revert as promised.

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