The Rivers State chapter of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN) has accused some officials of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps of extorting its members in the state.
The extortion is ongoing despite the disbandment of the anti-vandal unit of the Rivers State Command of the Corps.
The state governor, Nyesom Wike, had accused personnel of the Corps of aiding and abetting vandals and oil thieves to carry out illegal activities in the state, leading to the subsequent suspension of the leader of the anti-vandal team and the disbandment of the unit.
However, SaharaReporters gathered that NSCDC officials randomly accuse marketers of selling illegal petroleum products, thereby forcing them to pay thousands of naira.
Some of the oil marketers who spoke with SaharaReporters accused Mr. Maduka and Mr Okafor, who were both former members of the defunct anti-vandal team, of leading the extortion ring.
Narrating their ordeal, one of the oil marketers who has been extorted said he recently paid about one million naira (N1 million) and that two million naira (N2 million) was initially demanded by the extortion ring.
“They are always led by Mr. Maduka and one of their superiors, Mr. Okafor. They are from the anti-vandal department of NSCDC Command at Olu Obasanjo Road, Port Harcourt,” one of the victims told SaharaReporters.
“They carry out this extortion with so much threat and at gunpoint. They go to different filling stations, especially along East-West Road claiming that our diesel and gasoline were not got from the right marketers but from illegal refineries that had been destroyed.
”The victim continued, “When they came to my office, they accused me of selling illegal petrol and demanded two million naira (N2 million) without checking or testing the product.
“After they were forced to carry out integrity tests on the products and they discovered that it was not from illegal refineries, they then reduced their demand from two million naira. I ended up paying about one million naira.”
In a video obtained by SaharaReporters, two operatives of the NSCDC are seen counting bulks of money in the office of one of their victims.
The video shows two armed officers negotiating and demanding money from a female oil marketer.In what looked like a tense mood, the female oil marketer brought out a huge amount of money from the drawer and a handbag and handed some money over to the two NSCDC officers, who from time to time checked the door for possible intruders.
The officers thereafter tucked the cash in a big brown envelope before leaving the office.
The oil marketers, therefore, lamented that efforts to curb the extortion have not been successful as the NSCDC officials seem to enjoy the backing from their bosses and authorities.