OWNERS of petrol stations in Otukpo, Benue State, on Tuesday, shut down their facilities and refused to sell to the public thereby causing artificial fuel scarcity in the area.
This was as a result of a brawl between some men and officers of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps and fuel pump attendants in the town.
The petrol stations’ owners alleged that the NSCDC personnel were interfering with their trade by demanding for bribe.They added that any time the agency’s men solicited for gratification from the pump attendants or managers and they (workers) were turned down, the officers would begin to molest the workers.
A fuel station owner in Otukpo, Mr. Achi Shaibu, who spoke with our correspondent, said about 12 officers and men of the NSCDC came to his fuel station, demanding to see the manager.
He explained that having seen him, the officers directed him to close down the station for his refusal to come to their office to pay N10,000.
He alleged that the armed officers were moving from one fuel station to the other collecting N10, 000, adding that one of them engaged in a fight with a pump attendant in his fuel station and injured him.
He said, ‘’The NSCDC officers started chasing out drivers in the queue and other vehicles including motorcycles from the station. When the workers tried to question their action, the officers beat them up and dragged them to their office. This is how NSCDC personnel always harass owners of petrol stations and beat up their staff in this area just because of bribe’’.
Another fuel station owner who spoke on condition of anonymity alleged that the NSCDC usually compelled petrol dealers in Otukpo to pay between N10,000 and N15,000 daily once they discovered that such station was selling petroleum products to the public.
He added that those who refused to comply with the directive either had their station shutdown or get arrested.
He said, ‘’My worker was arrested and taken to their office and beaten up. When I came to bail him, I was asked to pay N100,000.
“It was as a result of this that we decided to shutdown our stations and came to see the area commander to ask why they are treating us this way?’’
When our correspondent contacted the NSCDC Benue State Command Public Relations Officer, Isaiah Manyam, he said he could not comment on the matter then but he promised to call back.
Manyam, as of the time of filling this report, did not return our correspondent’s call neither did he respond to other calls and text messages to his telephone line.