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Boraka. Gasoline Traffickers

Antonio Aragón Renuncio

“This gasoline is known as 'boudè' or 'dirty gasoline' because it has not passed through the usual gas station filters and is transported in different types of barrels.”

Thousands of illegal gasoline smugglers cross the border between Benin and Togo every day. This is often permitted by the law enforcement agencies of both countries after payment of a pre-set bribe. Local inhabitants on the Benin border depend almost exclusively on "what comes from the sea" and the trade of contraband fuel has now become the second largest economic activity in the area after the motorcycle taxi.  Each year more than 200 million litres of gasoline enters Beninese territory illegally. 
 
It is estimated that every day around 150,000 barrels of oil are looted in Nigeria before being illicitly trafficked to Togo and Benin to meet the growing demand for low-cost fuel. Hidden behind the huge network of small dealers, brokers and roadside vendors lie the smugglers that work on a large scale. The true beneficiaries of this trade are undoubtedly the Government Officials, politicians and the army who fail to combat the operation and in turn profit from this growing economy that endangers lives and the environment.

In the local language, this gasoline is known as "boudè” or “dirty gasoline” because it has not been passed through the usual gas station filters and is transported in different types of barrels. Over time, this damages the engines of cars and motorcycles but, more significantly, it increases the pollution that each of these vehicles produces. The authorities try in vain to stop this illegal trade. Instead, it keeps getting stronger and brings devastating consequences – roadside accidents, fires, deaths, corruption of the law enforcement agencies and environmental pollution. 

As this happens, a mere 30 kilometres away in Lomé, security forces impose a ‘curfew’ to restrict the mobility of people and control the area during the celebration of the African Union Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security and Safety and Development in Africa. During this Summit, as part of a larger agenda, they search for solutions to trafficking illegal goods in the region.