By Stephen Ubanna
Comptroleer Musa Omale, who prior to his deployment to Sokoto /Zamfara Command , by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, and former Comptroller General , Nigeria Customs Service, NCS., appears to have turned the –one time smugglers haven into a revenue generating Command.
Past Area Controllers of the Command may have found it difficult to control the activities because of the over 100 illegal border routes around the Illela border Community between Nigeria and Republic of Nigeria and its environs used by the criminal elements to bring in Contraband, particucular, foreign rice, fairly used vehicles and other prohibited transit cargoes imported through the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou , Benin Republic.
But the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, under the close watch of Adepoju Carol Wura-Ola, may have worsened matters when it said that there are over 1000 regular routes used by the unrepentant smugglers to bring Contraband prhited by the past Nigerian government from being exported into the country, noting most of the inappropriate routes are scattered in the northern western states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Katsina, former President Muhammadu Buhari home state.
The former Katsina state born Nigerian President had banned the importation of foreign rice and fairly used vehicles into the country through the country’s Land borders on January I, 2017, but the items were freely smuggled into the country from the porous border routes between Nigeria and Niger in these northern states, with the Customs anti-smuggling officers making effort to stop them but to no avail.
The Soko/Zamfara , Customs Area Controller may have known that there is no way he can contain the activities of the smugglers in the two states without blocking the illegal routes, he has no option but to carry the along with him, including the Border Communities Leaders by telling them about the dangers of smuggling to the economy and the need to embrace genuine trade and pay the relevant duties to avoid playing into Customs personnel’s hand and lose such smuggled cargoes and to government . The message may have gotten to the people when he declared that any person caught in the art would be prosecuted and if found guilty would go to jail.
Aware that the Nigerian smugglers are working closely with the Nigerien Collaborators may have informed why the Customs Comptroller had gone a step further to reach out to one Col,. Muhammed Bshir, overseeing the country’s Customs Birnin Akwanni Border, near to the Illela Border Community on the side of Nigeria.
The duo and some Paramount Rulers from the Nigerien Border were said to have met last February where they were said to have agreed to chart a way forward in tackling the activities of the smugglers operating between the two countries. They were said to also agreed at the February meeting on the need for Customs personnel from the two neighbouring West African countries ‘’collaborate with each other in trade facilitation and sharing of intelligence to be able to contain the activities of smugglers and ensure a safe Border trade.
Giving the promise made by the Nigerien Customs Chief at the Birnin Akwanni Border, and the Paramount Rulers around the Community and other villages around the Border Communities to support Compt. Omale and his men by giving out information that help them in carrying out their anti-smuggling operations appears to be doing the trick. This is evident going by the continued increase of the Command’s revenue generation over the last five months. Abdullahi Tsafe Abubakar, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and the Command spokesperson may have hit the nail on the head when he disclosed that ‘’since is assumption of duties early this year, the Customs Comptroller has continued to bring up strategies in line with World Customs best practices that has aided ease of doing business, trade facilitation and reduction of clearing cargo time at the Illela Border and increase in the Command revenue generation.
The Sokoto/Zamfara , Customs Command, spokesperson, who could not his feelings had said that his ‘’strategic and concerted efforts have yielded a remarkable and unprecented increase in the revenue profile of the Coommand’’, which many believe is basically an interventionist unit.
DSC. Abubakar, had said that between January and June, 2023, Compt. Omale, in spite of all the challenges of the Bandits Group attacks in the two north western states that share boundary with Niger, has succeeded in pushing up its revenue profile . He had said that the Command generated N2,418,477.44 with the first half the year as against N1,926,265,749.00, within the same trading period in 2022, showing an increased performance of 25.%.
Many believe that Compt. Omale , could generate much in six months in a basically an anti-smuggling Command as he had blocked all areas of revenue Leakage and encouragement of the people to embrace genuine trade and endeavor to pay the appropriate duty to take delivery of their Consignment as well as export their cargoes to other trading partners with the Economic Community of West States , ECOWAS , sub-region.
They noted that that the Soko/Zamfara state Area Controller, Commitment to promoting ease of doing business and trade facilitation at the border Areas in the two states may have sent a message to the stakeholders and even the smugglers to turn a new leaf and do the right thing, which had reflected in the Command’s revenue generation over the last six months.