Irrigation activities at border towns may suffer serious setback due to the ban on the supply of petroleum products to areas located 20 kilometer to international land borders, Daily Trust has gathered.
Our reporter, who visited some of the areas, observed many filling stations locked down, with the few still in business selling far above the government approved pump prices.
At Illela, a Local Government Area in Sokoto State, a litre of petroleum being sold at either N250 or N300, thus making it unaffordable for most irrigation farmers in the area.
Ibrahim Abdullahi, a seasoned irrigation farmer fondly called Captain in Illela town, said the ban may force many of them out of the farming business, because it was no longer profitable. “Here, out of every five men, two are irrigation farmers. But we are now buying fuel at N300 per litre, how can we continue like this, when there is no benefit?” he said.
He noted that “the earlier government reviewed this policy, the better, if it is truly serious about promoting agricultural activities in the country.” Illela is home to some of the major producers of carrots and garlic and second largest producer of onion in Sokoto State.
The town also used to have the largest international markets for cattle, but for the closure of the Illela-Konni (Niger Republic) border. Another farmer, Mustapha Muhammad, said carrot seeds that hitherto sold at N6000 have now gone up to N8000 because of the hike in transport fares occasioned by the border closure.
“Our people now prefer going to Sokoto which is an hour’s drive from here to get fuel at government approved price and the unlucky ones get theirs seized by Customs and other security operatives along the way,” he lamented.
Similarly, a commercial driver in the town, Muhammad Boyi Gatti, while justifying their decision to increase transport fare, said there was a significant decline in the number of people travelling out of the town since the ban took effect.
“This is my second day without getting passengers as people are complaining that the fare is too much. Before, from here to Sokoto was N500, but now we charge N700, which some of the passengers cannot afford.
“In fact, some of my colleagues are thinking of changing business unless the decision is reversed because what you will get at the end of the day will not be enough for you to buy fuel for the next day and at the same time cater for your family,” he said
We are suffering
Zubairu Garba, a resident of Illela town, said this is a very hard time for residents of the town adding, “we are treated as foreigners in our own country.” Garba said they were “trying to contend with the effect of border closure and now the ban on fuel supply is compounding our situation.”
According to him, many heads of households now find it difficult to fend for their families, not to talk of providing them with other necessities and fees.
“We want government to do something about our plight. We are not saying what they are doing is wrong in its entirety, but at least, they should be considerate,” he said.
He added that, the ban on fuel supply was akin to depriving them of their fundamental human rights as bona fide citizens of the country. Corroborating this position, the Manager of Kwando Petroleum Ltd filling station, Mika’il Abdurrahman, said the ban would only worsen the situation, rather than solve the problem.
According to him, majority of the people were farmers who routinely need petrol to water their farms. He expressed fear that the decision would render many of them jobless.
He advised that rather than ban fuel supply, government should effectively secure its borders and draft at least one policeman at every filling station located close to the border. Our reporter also learnt that it was the same lamentation in parts of Gada, Sabon Birni and Tangaza local governments that are close to the border areas.
Speaking on the development, state chairman of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Murtala Gagado, appealed to the federal government to reverse the decision in the interest of farming activities in the state.