By Stephen Ubanna
Ahead of the 2021 Yuletide, security has been tighten up at Seme and Owode axis, in anticipation of the Yuletide, to ensure that the land , and sea smugglers , did not have their way to sell their Contraband in the Nigerian Market .
Informed sources to The Value News that Mohammed Bello Jibo, Comptroller Seme Command and who is incidentally the Chairman of the Joint Security Committee, Comprising of all the security agencies Chiefs, at the land border including the Department of the State Security Services DSS, has mobilised his Operations and Patrol Team Leaders including those at the Agbara, Gbaji and Owode, checkpoints to do the needful: to ensure that Foreign Parboiled rice, Vehicles and other Prohibited Commodities will not enters into the country from the neighbouring West African country of Republic of Benin through unapproved routes from the Badagry or Cocoanut beaches and Creeks that are scattered all over the Seme border Jurisdictions and Badaagry axis
A visitor to Seme border in the recent time would be surprised that the usual large number of Hawkers and other categories of itinerant traders from the Republic of Benin trooping to sell their wares, mostly textiles, second hand clothing shoes, clothing and bags, have gradually disappeared on the road. This is because the Seme Command Operations Officers Patrol the bushes around the J5, Community and other porous routes, around the Banks location at the Border Community.
There is a sign board boldly written: One Border, One People , one Region, at the Seme Border Community, which should have guaranteed free movement of people from the two West African countries butthis is not the case. The Nigerian secutives, particular, the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Seme Command and the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, and the Force are on the red alert to ensure that the right thing is done . This is also the situation at the Beniniois sisde of the Joint Border, where the Gendarmes, are quizzing Nigerians entering the country as if they were Common Criminals. Perharps, this may have informed why Comptroller Jibo, and his Immigration ,Counterpart and other security agencies have tightened up security at the Seme Community , in anticipation of the coming the yuletide, to ensure that nothing enters or leaves the country illegally.
A visitor to the Economic Community Of West African States, ECOWAS building, for one transaction or the other at the Joint Border, problem begins from the exit gate where there are Customs and NIS, personnel . The NIS personnel, are to know their mission and who you are going to visit before allowing the person in. the Customs Personnel attentions are centred on the Person’s Luggage to know its contents, particular, now that PPetrol is smuggled in sachets into Benin.
The Customs Police’ with their branded vehicle could also be seen at the ECOWAS premises trying to control the crowd from the Seme Side of Benin Republic, trying to force way into the Nigerian side of the Border to sell their wares on a daily bsis.
The Value News online Magazine witnessed an incident at the Border Community on Wednesday, December 8, 2021, where some Hawkers from Benin had tried to be smart,to enter into Nigeria side of the Joint Border Community to sell but were turned back. A resident at the land Border had told the Magazine that Comptroller Jibo and his Officers have made things so difficult that even those of them who were used to hustling by involving in cross border activities, like crossing over to the Benin side border to buy Foreign par boiled rice or Vegetable Oil, for their Nigerian Customers have stopped for fear of playing into Jibo’s officers’ hand. He urged the Magazine to look round if there is any economic activities going at the International Border Community. ‘’Seme is dead’’, he said.
Even a big time clearing agent and a one time power broker at the Border Community and who now shuttles between Cotonou, in Benin and Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center, to take delivery of his importer’s goods at the Apapa and Tincan Island ports , corroborated what the Seme resident had said.
Investigations by the Magazine shows that One Abubakar, an Assistant Comptroller and Head of the Command , Operations, and his boy, had .made all the various illegal routes and beaches that are scattered all over Seme and Badagry to smuggle a no go area as they have continued to make seizure of Contraband, ranging from Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, Petrol , Foreign rice, Vegetable Oil to Textile and manufactured goods, including the West African country of Ghana , grown, Indian Hemp.
. The recent display of 1,050, Jerry cans of Petrol of 25 Litres each, worth about N6 million seized around the Badagry water sides and Coanut Beaches , around the Seme Jurisdiction , is a tip of the icebag, Compared to what is deposited in the Government Warehouse at the Border Community.
The Customs Assistant Comptroller and his boys,who are feared by the smugglers, and t other Patrol Team Leaders, were said to have used their Contraband seizures to decorate the Seme Government Warehouse. This may have informed why an agent at the Land Border border had said that Nigerians would be shocked at the quantities of foreign Par boiled rice and other Contraband that filled the warehouse like never before.
Informed sources told The Magazine that the Seme Command, Officer-in-charge, of Operations, who is hardly in the office to atattend to critical official matters, has made the hot spot watersides and beaches, used by the VIP smugglers as his office, forcing many who have issues to resolve with him to create the impression that he has no time for people.
Steve Okonma, a Deputy Comptroller, in-charge of Owode outstation, who was initially used by the Seme Customs Comptroller to wrestle out control of Agbara checkpoint from the dominance of the officers of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, is doing reenacting what he did at Agbara at the out station.
The Customs Deputy Comptroller and his Officer were said tos have succeeded in chasing out the smugglers, who are used to the beaches to smuggle Contraband out from the area, as many of them have relocated to Ogun state, where there are over 140 illegal borders, thus giving Dera Nnadi, the Ogun 1, Comptroller , who has fully deployed the 10 Operational vehicles , allocated to the Command by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel , from the 46 , procured from Elizade Motors, much job to do . Okonma, according to informed sources, may be acting out a script of the Seme Area Comptroller, to deal decisively with the smugglers, in order to minimize the illegal trade.
A ‘’Keke Marwa’’, rider plying between Badagry and Owode, had said that he has been forced to quit his smuggling business because the Seme Operations Officers and Patrol Teams,along the Owode Akpa road are very deadly. He disclosed that customs Patrol Teams had seized his Jerry can cans of Petrol of 25 litres each and Bags of Foreign rice, of 50Kg, each, several times, that it was not longer profitable to continue in the business but to face his Keke business before he expose his family to abject poverty.
With the tight security at the Seme axis and the Owode out station, where Deputy Comptroller Okonma, has taken full, control, may have left the officers along the Owode road, and those at the Gbaji check point, with little or no job to do in the day time but waiting for the smugglers that book to come for the usual talks .
This may have informed why Gbaji check point is always very busy at night. Note that the smugglers who escape the eagle eyes of the Command Operations or Owode outstation officers with their Contraband and still find their way on the road with the intention to bribe their way , mot have been Lucky as they were said to have either played into the hands of Assistant Comptroller Abubakar, officers, on the road.
Recall that Deputy Comptroller Kehinde Hussaini Ejibunu, had beamed their searchlight at the Seme Jurisdictions with the intention to make spectacular Contraband seizures, particular, petrol and Foreign rice, to show that he has fully taken over control of the south west geopolitical region anti-smuggling Operations, but has not been lucky to make spectacular seizures. Seizures. He got it wrong as there was no Jerry Cans of Petrol or Bags of foreign rice to seize in Large quantities to prove that he is a thorough bred Enforcement Officer who knows the job.
Many believe that the VIP smugglers may have deserted the Lagos – Seme, International route, because, Comptroller Jibo, had made it clear , from the onset, that that he will not ‘’tolerate any fraudulent or illegal business at the Land border and he has’’ kept to his words’’.
The good news about the Seme Joint Border is that the Customs Licensed International Bonded Terminal established at the Border Community has been opened for business and it is actually serving the needs of the genuine transit cargo importers.
The Magazine, peeped into the terminal, and found some Containers, loaded with cargoes that had been delivered by the Beninois Customs Authority to their Nigerian Counterpart at the border, with the Seal intact. There were also trucks, laden goods at the premises, awaiting to be cleared by the importer’s agent.
Comptroller Jibo, an agent said, had sanitized the clearing business at the Land border, which had forced many of them out of business. The agent disclosed that ‘’there is nothing like’‘bad job or the Comptroller showing any interest on any job’’ as he has made it to those that care to listen and do their clearing business at the Land border to ensure that their importers make the ‘’the correct declarations, avoid under payment, Concealment and wrong Classification of their goods, or be prepared to pay a Debit Note, DN, which may be very discouraging or possibly lose their transit cargo imports to the Nigeriangovernment. It is not surprising why there are less visitors to the Comptroller’s office, on a daily basis, except officers and other security agencies Chiefs coming for enquiry or the other from him or to resolve an issue or for their regular meetings.