Sokoto/ZMF Command:  Compt. Omale Initiates Moves To Contain The Activities Of Smugglers   At The Illela Border Area

By Stephen Ubanna

For years,  illela,  a border community , between Nigeria and Republic of Niger, had remained a haven for smugglers and bandits , pretending to be cow rearers ,  because of the numerous  irregular routes that dotted the border Community that are   used by the Criminal elements  to bring in  light arms, foreign par boiled rice,  vegetable oil and second hand clothing  into the Nigerian market.

A retired senior Customs officer who spoke to the Value News on condition of anonymity disclosed that for Comptroller Omale to succeed in containing the activities of the smugglers operating at the Illela, border area, which has over 100, illegal routes used by the smugglers to bring in the banned items into the country, he has to collaborate with the Nigerien Customs Authorities.

There is no gain saying the fact that a  good percentage  of the bandits and smugglers , operating in the Illela border area  and  other border border areas scattered  in Zamfara, a neighboring state  to Katsina, President Muhammadu Buhari, home state  have entered the two  states from the illegal routes  that are scattered all over the Illela area and Zamfara state through these  illegal routes .

 The Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, had said that that there are over 1000  regular and illegal routes used by the smugglers and bandits  to bring contraband into the country, particular, in the north western states of Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, Sokoto  and Kebbi.    

President Muhammadu Buhari, had banned the importation of Foreign rice and vehicles, into the country, through the land border on January 1, 2017 but that may be on paper as the smuggling of the items into the Nigerian market have continued to thrive at illela area of Sokoto state and other illegal routes in Zamfara, Katsina and Kebbi states,

 A good percentage of the bandits that had entered the Caliphate state were said to have entered through the Illela area illegal routes through the forests, pretending to be cattle reaers.   Investigation shows that the bandits and unrepentant smugglers could still carry out their nefarious trade because they engage the services of the Okada riders, who knew virtually all the illegal routes that could be used to beat the Customs and other security agencies personnel, including Immigration officials on the road to enter into the state with banned items to sell.

The VIP, Illicit Transborder traders  are the ones  that the Illela  residents had said  mostly engage this Okada riders, by compromising  the Customs and Immigration officials at the Illela area  who usually  give them express passage  through the illegal  routes.

Comptroller Omale, may have known that there is no way he can succeed in containing the activities of Contraband smugglers in the Illela area alone, without collaborating with the Niger Republic, Customs Authorities.As a prelude to taking the battle to the smugglers camp and checkmating the activities of the bandits, he was said to have visited some Traditional Institutions at the Illela border and other areas within the Command Jurisdiction  of the Caliphate state.

 He may have taken opportunity of the visit to the Illela border outstation on Wednesday, February 15, 2023, to seek the support of the Traditional rulers along the border areas in the fight against smugglers and checkmating the activities of the bandits.

The Customs Comptroller may have sent a message to Col. Muhammed  Bashir, Commissaire  des  Douane in charge  of Birnin N’kwanni  border,  Mohamad Salifu Sarduna,the Paramount Ruler of N’ kwanni, and Sarki Birnin  Nikwanni,  at the Illela  to join  him for a meeting border station .The trio were said to have joined him and his Management Team for the crucial meeting on the way forward in tackling the activities of the contraband smugglers and bandits in the area.

presentation Of Plague To One Of The Traditional Rulers

I n his brief remarks, the Sokoto/ZMF, Command, Customs boss, had said that the meeting was initiated   ‘’to consolidate  on the existing relationship  between the, NCS, and its Nigerien Counterpart over the years.’’, stressing that ‘’there is need  for officials of the two countries Customs Commands ‘’ to collaborate  with each other  in trade facilitation  and intelligence sharing  so as to stem the tide of banditry  and arm smuggling that had  bedeviled the two  countries over the last couple of years’’.

In apparent response to  Comptroller Omale’s speech, Col. Bashir,the Commissaire Des ddouane of Birnin N’kwanni border,  was said to assured the Sokot/ZMF , Command, Arrea Controller  of the Nigerien Customs Authorities  ‘’unflinching support  towards trade facilitation  and a safe border’’.

On his part,  Sarduna,  the Paramount Ruler  of Birnin N’Kwani, had expressed his appreciation to Comptroller Omale and his Management Team, for  initiating the meeting  and the warm reception accorded him and his entourage  , assuring   him that he  will continue  ‘’to promote peaceful coexistence  between his subjects  and Nigerian citizens  across the  border area’’.

Besides meeting with the top officials of the Niger Republic Customs Authority and the Illela Traditional Institutions, the Sokoto/ZMF, Customs boss, was said to have also had an interactive session with Heads of other Nigerian security agencies operating at the Illela border, area. He was said to have solicited their cooperation and support  ‘’to enable the Command to discharge its mandate of revenue generation, trade facilitation and suppression of smuggling.

Abdullahi Abubakar, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs, and the Command spokesperson, disclosed that the familirisation tour to the Illela outstation also provided the Area Controller, an opportunity to visit the District heads of Sarkin Gobir Na Gwadabawa, Sarkin Rfin Illela, and Yamman Kware.

Appealing to the District Heads for support the Command in the war to contain the activities of smugglers, described as economic saboteurs in Customs circles, he noted that with such support, it will enable the Command ‘’to meet up with its monthly and yearly revenue targets  which will be paid into the Federation Account, which is used  for the country’s infrastructural development and payment of salary of Civil servants , at both the state and Federal levels, with the down turn in oil price in the international oil market.

He was said to have also pleaded with the district heads to educate their Youths on the dangers of smuggling to the economy. He was said to have further requested the District heads to warn the Youths to stop aiding and abetting the smugglers operating at the  Illea axis to avoid playing  into the hands of Customs personnel as the Command will not hesitate to prosecute anyone caught as a smuggler.

He may have extracted a promise of support from the District heads that may have gladdened his heart when he left the Illela   area  back to Sokoto  to continue to his official duties  .


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