By Stephen Ubanna
Barely two weeks after resumption as acting Assistant Comptroller General, ACG, Customs, and Coordinator, north central, Joint Border Drills, Muhammed Uba Garba, appears to have sent a signal to Cross-border smugglers in the region that it is no longer going to be business as usual.
As a prelude to winning the anti-smuggling war in the region through Information gathering and sharing , he was said to have hit the ground by taking a tour of Alapa, Ilesha Baruba, Yashkira, Chikanda and Okuta , the Border Communities in the Baruten local government area of Kwara state. He was said to have used the opportunity of the tour of the Border Communities to pay a working visit to the traditional rulers in their respective jurisdiction.
Note that the Baruten local government begins in Ilesha Baruba and ends in Chikanda , a border town between Nigeria and Benin Republic. Customs personnel and other security agencies personnel may have found it difficult over the years to access the Chikanda border Community because of the bad terrain.
In spite of the Chkanda Community bad terrain, the Kwara state government had planned to establish an International border market in the town to promote trans –border trading. Note that one of the traditional rulers that was said to have been visited by the Joint Border Drills sector 3 Coordinator was Umar Sariki Sabikpasi II, the Emir of Yashkira, described as very outspoken .
The Border Drills Coordinator, was said to have told the Yashkira Emir , that the synergy and Collaboration amongst the the security agencies and traditional Institutions was what the country needed now to suppress the smuggling activities in the country. He was said to have informed the Emir that the Border Drills Operation in the north central geo-political region comprising of Kwara, Niger, Kogi, Benue, Plateau and Nasarawa, cannot succeed without the support of the traditional institutions. The Statement by the Coordinator my have drawn out the Emir to speak out about the smuggling activities in his area of Juridiction , stressing that’’ it was being perpetuated by non-indigenes’’.
That may have forced the Joint Border Drills Coordinator in –charge of the region to go back to the drawing the board to review his strategies of tackling the smugglers in order to make the difference.
. Prior to the tour of the Baruten local government Area Border Communities the, Coordinator had addressed the security agencies personnel including Customs Operatives at the Ilorin Alapa Checkpoint where he was said to have enjoined them to ensure that they were guided by the government philosophy of taking the decision to close the borders with the neighboruring countries of benin Republic ,Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon, across the country to prove a point: that Nigeria cannot be turned into a dumping ground for third party manufactured goods and Agricultural products.
Take for instance, the Asian Country of Thailand produced par boiled rice and the Malaysian processed and semi-processed Vegetable Oil, , as well as other goods and Pharmaceutical products manufactured in China and India which are dumped at Cotonou Terminal, Benin and Bollore port, but smuggled into the Nigerian market through unapproved routes.The good news was that he enjoined them to carry the people along in their operations, particular, the Youths n order to achieve the desiredresults.
The security agencies , including the Department of State Security, DSS, personnel, may have got the Cooordinator’s message right as they quickly moved into action. This is evident going by the recent seizure of a ‘’40’’ Container in which over 360 50Kg bags of par boiled rice were concealed in with some dutiable goods. The total duty Paid Value, DPV, of the Concealed par boiled rice , according to valuation experts was about N6million , which included the duty , taxes and surcharges, that ought to have been paid on the Consignment. the acting ACG and his men were said to have acted on information to make the seizure.
It was the first major remarkable seizure that could be made by the Joint Border Drills in the region between August and now. Recall that under the lose watch of Aminu Dahiru, an ACG and former Coordinator of the Joint Border Drill in the region, Contrabands and vehicles were said to have been smuggled into the country from Benin Republic through unapproved routes in the region. There was an instance where it was alleged that over 120 trucks entered the region without proper documentation. This may have encouraged Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and the Customs Comptroller General the go to ejig the Joint Border Drills sectors 3 and 4, to give it a bite.
The north Central Border Drills Coordinator had alluded to the fact that the Border Closure has led to the drastic reduction of crime rate in the Kwara a Border Communities and other parts of the country. He had said that the era of, smuggling, banditry and sacking of a whole Community , particular in the north, have been reduced to the barest minimum.
He had Collaborated Ali, the Customs Comptroller General declaration that the daily revenue generation of the service has gone up from the usual N4 billon and N5 billion prior to the Border Closure to between N5 billion and N7 billion, an indication that the neighbouring countries had been short changing the country over the years.
President Muhammadu Buhari had banned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles into the country through the land Border on January 1, 2017. The policy was said to have been extended to the seaports in June 2018 as the Godwin Emefiele led Central Bank of Nigeria, NCN, denied the indigenous and Mullti-national rice and textile importers access to the official Foreign Exchange,Forex, market, in order promote local rice promotion.
Note that the Nigerian government trade policy may not have been that of Benin Republic and the other neighbouring West African countries including Cameroon, which allows the importation of foreign parboiled rice and other prohibited items banned by the government into their country.
The Fifteen Heads of States and Governments of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, sub-region had signed and agreed on a Common External Tariff, CET for the region Trade Protocol.They were said to have also signed several Trade agreements and Memorandum of Understandings, MoUs, on the implementation of the ECOWAS Trade protocol.
Investigations by The Value News shows that the Nigerian government had always respected the sub-regional economic bloc Trade protocol but the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic and Niger, a land locked country which uses Benin seaports for importation of its transit cargoes that had not respected the protocol including other trade agreements and MoUs, reached .
Many believe the biggest problem in ECOWAS subregion is Benin Republic which serve as a gateway to other ECOWAS member countries to turn Nigeria as dumping ground for foreign manufactured goods and agricultural products such as parboiled rice and processed Vegetable Oil.
While the Nigerian government have been worried over the two West African countries of Benin Republic and Niger not respecting the ECOWAS Trade protocol, the refusal of the Central African country of Cameroon to obey the various trade agreements and MoUs signed with the Nigerian government to ensure that foreign manufactured goods , parboiled rice and vehicles imported through the seaports in their own country were not smuggled into the Nigerian market through unapproved routes, did not help matters.
Former President Goodlluck Jonathan was said to have done everything within his powers to support Benin Republic and Niger in the anti-smuggling war. He was said to have donated seven anti-smuggling vehicles to Benin and eight to Niger, but that was how far he could go.
Security sources informed The Value News that the Beninese Customs Authorities never put the vehicles donated to them to use, an indication that they were note interested in supporting the Nigerian government in the anti-smuggling war.
They may have gotten it wrong as the Katsina state born Nigerian President was not ready to take chances with Presidents Patrick Talon, Mohammad Issoofu and Paul Biya of Benin, Niger and Cameroon respectively, for allowing smugglers to use their countries as base to flood the Nigerian market with Contrabands.
This may have informed why he gave approval for the Babagana Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA, Coordinated Joint Border Drills, popular, Operation Swift Response across the country, which had resulted into the partial closure of the Borders with the neighbouring countries.