Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja

President Muhamamdu Buhari has urged members of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN), to join forces with the Federal government and fish out oil smugglers.

This came as he described the activities of oil smugglers as a threat to the nation’s economy and security, hence they must be stopped from stealing the nation’s petroleum products and taking them to neighbouring countries.

Buhari who also described the smugglers as economic saboteurs, gave the charge when he received the National Executive Committee of, IPMAN, led by the National President, Chinedu Okoronkwo, on a courtesy call, at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

The president said: “We all know this illegal smuggling of products out of Nigeria is a threat to our national economy and security and must be stopped.

“I therefore want to urge all IPMAN members to remain committed to complying with the laws and regulations that govern the Nigerian oil and gas sector,” he said.

Buhari commended members of the association for their contributions towards ensuring that Nigerians have adequate supply of petroleum products throughout last year

He assured IPMAN of his administration’s support for their quest to establish a refinery in the country.

 “I am also very pleased to hear that your members are planning to invest in refinery and petrochemical facilities. This clearly shows that IPMAN, like the APC, also has plans to move to the ‘Next Level’,” he said.

Earlier, Okoronkwo, announced that the organisation had at its meeting prior to the journey, agreed to endorse President Buhari for a second term.

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He noted that IPMAN controls about 80 percent of investments in the downstream sector of the oil industry, has over 50,000 members across  the country with more than N2 trillion investment in the oil industry

“Mr. President, let me assure you that we are ready to work more closely with you to surmount other hurdles in the industry as we have great confidence in your inspirational leadership.

“By virtue of this, I want to assure you our dear president that all members of our great association are solidly behind you – 100 percent and are unshaken in our resolve to ensure your re-election bid

The IPMAN boss commended the Buhari’s administration’s support to the oil industry which had led to the elimination of fuel scarcity that dogged previous administrations.

“This is indeed an indication of your managerial capability, sagacity and experience.

“In the same vein, we are committed to ensuring that this good work continues as we pledge our own contributions to ensure continuous free flow and distribution of petroleum products across the country without any hitches.

“It is on record that before your emergence, petroleum products distribution was a big racket, riddled with high-wire scam and decadent corruption. The perennial fuel scarcity was the noticeable symptom of this malaise.

“But when you came on board, that evil network of graft in the sector was dismantled and the nation is better for it as there is unhindered products availability all year round.

“This new working environment is inspiring more investment by IPMAN members and we are further emboldened to establish a refinery in the near future with your support,” he said.