Fuel smuggling lucrative in Bawku

General News of Friday, 19 April 2013

Source: New Crusading Guide

Smuggling of refined petroleum products from Ghana to Togo and Burkina Faso through the Bawku District is regarded as the most lucrative business in the municipality.

Investigations conducted by New Crusading Guide reporters on the north eastern boarders of Ghana reveal that smuggling of petroleum products across the borders to the neighboring countries is a thriving business that is putting bread and butter on the tables of a large number of families.

According to highly placed sources, Bawku takes stock of about ten trucks of tankers every week from the Buipe fuel storage facility. Interestingly, seven out of these supplies find their way into Togo and Burkina Faso through smuggling.

The smuggling of fuel has been cushioned by the growing number of fuel stations along the Ghana-Togo and Burkina Faso Borders, in the north eastern boarders of Ghana.

Between Pusiga, Ghana’s Border town and Sankasi in Togo, we counted as many as seven fuel stations in that sparsely populated area. These were filling stations that have been registered by the National Petroleum Authority (NPA).

According to our sources, previously, people were not allowed to construct filling stations in border towns. This was done to halt fuel smuggling but just after 2008, people started constructing fuel stations in these areas without resistance from the NPA and the other regulating authorities. Between Misiga in Ghana, and Sabong Gari Widana, Kulungungu towards Burkina Faso, there are as much as four filling stations receiving supplies from Ghana and about 90% of stocks are smuggled into Burkina Faso , our sources noted.

According to residents in the area, these filling stations are owned by a cartel made up of politicians in high political positions in the area and well connected business people who have been licensed by the National Petroleum Authority. Our sources told us that such smugglings take place in the night where the fuel is cut into huge Jeri-cans and hidden in 207, 204,208 Buses, Articulator, and Tipper trucks and pick ups to cross the border into neighboring Burkina Faso or Togo, where it is sold in foreign currencies.

It was also discovered that the operators of these fuel stations along the borders refuse to sell fuel to local drivers in Ghana cedis except in CFA. These are done to acquire more CFA notes to generate additional profits.

The smugglers tend to make huge profits on these products when smuggled outside the country due to the differences in exchange rates between the Ghana cedi and the CFA. It was discovered that the price of a gallon of fuel in Ghana and Burkina Faso is slightly higher than a gallon of fuel in Ghana. In Ghana, a gallon of fuel costsGhc90 while the same gallon of fuel is sold at about CFA3000, which is about Ghc 10, so these smugglers make at least GHC1 profit per gallon of fuel smuggled from Ghana and sold in Burkina Faso or Togo.

Our sources noted that the fuel smugglers operate only on the out-skirts of the Bawku Municipality where their illicit acts are difficult of curb. Sources noted that these acts are known by the security operatives in the town but much has not been done to halt it due to their political influence.

Our sources indicated that owners of these fuel stations along the boarders of Ghana, Togo, and Burkina Faso are either politicians holding various political offices for a political party or are related to politicians in high office making in difficult for the security services to handle.

Besides the fuel smuggling, highly subsidised fertilisers allocated by government for supply to poor rural farmers in the district are also smuggled across the borders and sold in the neighboring countries.

Some of the farmers interviewed by the investigators confirmed that they do not receive the fertilisers even though government claims it has made available subsidised fertilisers to help them trim their soil and grow their produce. The fertilisers are also smuggled cross the boarders in vehicles and trucks by these well connected political affiliates.

Our sources indicated that no ordinary person can engage in such a business since you would be instantly arrested and prosecuted. “We the vulnerable in society are law abiding and do not even have the courage to engage in such deals. Those who are engaging in these acts are the well connected in society and feared by the security. We have complained about these things since 2009 but nothing is being done about it so we have giving up otherwise we will be tagged as opponents and harassed,” the source said.

by Adu Koranteng and Seibik Bugri, Back from Bawku, U/East Region (Courtesy IFEJ & Star Ghana)/New Crusading Guide