By Stephen Ubanna
Customs: Ever since since Sheldi Wada, a Deputy Comptroller, was deployed to Katsina Command, which is in the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, he knew that he is under a close watch and cannot afford to fail the Authorities, in containing the activities of the smugglers operating between Niger Republic and Nigeria.
Until his deployment to the state, the unrepentant smugglers and their sponsors may have taken advantage of the numerous illegal routes between Katsina and Niger to turn it into a dumping group for foreign manufactured products, foreign par boiled rice and vehicles, imported through the Autonomous port of Benin Republic and Bollore port , also located in the neighbouring West African country meant for the local market but developed wings on transit between the two countries.
The unlawful transactions was more pronounced in the Magama Jibia, Kongolom in Maidua, Baba-Mtum area in BaBaure and Dankama local government areas but needed to be minimized at all costs. Informed sources told The Magazine that he had reached out to the people by engaging them in talks on the need to go into Legitimate trade because of the danger inherent in smuggling . He was said to have repeatedly made it clear to the people that his office is opened for inquiries on how to go about into legitimate without contravening the government fiscal policy that would attract sanction, ranging from seizure of their smuggled goods, arrest and prosecution.
Only recently, the Customs Area Controller was said to have held an enlarged Customs /Community Consultative Forum that was said to have been attend by prominent people in the state including top government functioneries. Among those that were said to have attended the meeting to hear from the Customs Comptroller on how to improve the relation between the people and Customs personnel in the state was Mustafa Inuwa, Secretary to the state government, who was said to have represented Aminu Masari, a former Speaker of House of Representatives and now governor of the stat and,Lawal Idris Bagiwa, Sarkin Fulani Katsina and who incidentally was a retired Assistant Comptroller General of Customs.
Given the importance attached to the Forum and the publicity, Ahmed Ahmed, the district head of Maidua was said to have represented the Emir of Daura, Emirate Council.Usman Kankara Bello, popular, UK.Bello, the Kanwan Katsina, and a retired Comptroller of Customs , who have have always identified with the activities of the service in the state and who was recently inaugurated as the Grand Patron, of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, nuj, Katsina Television, KTTV, Chapter, was also at the event.
An appreciative Acting Wada, who was very happy over the large turnout of dignitaries at the meeting had appealed to the people to assist the Customs personnel to do their job by giving out credible information that would help track the economic saboteurs, believed to be hiding under the cover of the Bandits Group in the state to engage in such nefarious activities.
The District Heads and other Concerned Citizens of the state, who were at the all important Forum , were said to given their words to take the message to the people to drum into their ears about the dangers of smuggling and the need to see Customs personnel as their friends and not as enemies that must be attacked to inject fear into them.
While Deputy Comptroller is doing all that is within his powers to minimize smuggling in Buhari home state, he has taken advantage of the briefing he had with Journalists in the state on Friday, February 4, to expose the dangerous weapons that were used by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities in the state. This may have informed why he had said that they have to wake up to be able to puncture all tactictics that may be employed by the criminal elements who have remained unrepentant.
In spite of the dangerous weapons used by the smugglers to carry out their Operations, the Customs Area Comptroller, who could not hide his feeling disclosed that his Patrol Teams, which are deployed to the nooks and crannies of the state , did not disappoint the Management . He noted that the large quantities of intercepted Contraband transferred to the Government Warehouse, in the month of January , 2022, bear eloquent testimony that they are not relenting in their anti-smuggling efforts until the economic saboteurs turn a new leaf.
The Contraband seizures, may not be as much as those of the interventionist units in the south west geopolical region, but it is telling on the people because of the poor economy of the state. According to him, the Command had made a seizure of ten fairly used vehicles from the smugglers. Given a break- down of the seized vehicles, from different locations in the state, the Customs boss had said that ranges from Mercedez Benz, 2015 , model, , valued at about N12.6 million, Volkswagen, Volkswaden Golf 3, Volkswagen Passat, Mitsubishi Canter to Honda Civic.
The Value News Correspondent reported that much of the vehicles intercepted the Command Patrol Teams , were mostly Volkswageen veicles, meaning that they were the means of Conveyance of the smuggled Contraband products seized. Valuation experts had put the cost of the total cost of the vehiclles at about N24.2 million.
The most hard hit were thegeneral cargo smugglers. The January report by the Katsina Area Comptroller, showed that the Command also gave a good account of its operations with the support of the anti-smuggling Operational vehicles , described as very rugged as it could the difficult terrains in the state to pursue the smugglers and dispossess them of the goods with shooting of gun.
He had said that that the Command intercepted 629 bags of foreign par boiled rice , valued at about N16 million, 826 cartons of foreign Spaghetti, 16 cartons of foreign Tomato, 79 cartons of foreign Coscous, 110 kegs of 25 litres each of vegetable oil, and 338 kegs of Premium Motor Spirit, popular, Petrol.
This is in addition to 96 cartons of foreign milk, 46 cartons of foreign Ginny, 50 bales of second hand clothing, eight bales of new blanket, 79 cartons of foreign Macaroni and 15 pieces of of Cachats Super Cereal plus, Corn/Soya blend for instants of 1.5 Kg each , Wraps of second hand clothing and pieces of foreign Jack Knife, the type , used by military personnel, the world over. The value of the general goods seized was put at about N45.46 million, thus bring the total Duty paid Value, DPV, of both the vehicles and general goods , at about 70 million.
Many see the Contraband seizures of the Command as very impressive considering the fact that Niger Republic is a land-locked country which depend on its transit cargo imports from Benin Republic which have two seaports and Togo, another West African which also have a seaport port. The Petrol smugglers from NiGerian , may not have been finding funny because of the tight security at the various official and the illegal routes that could be reach in the state.