Border Closure: Smugglers Face An Usual Battle In Kwara And Other North Central States

By Stephen Ubanna

Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture and Kwara state born politician has been one of  the champions of the Border closure  with the neighboring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon to stop informal trade between Nigerian and the three countries.

Unknown to many,  Kwara, his home state, which  has many  Communities that share  boundaries with  Bennese  Communities is a haven  for smugglers of the   Asian  country Thai produced  par boiled rice,  vehicles and other prohibited  items  from Benin Republic ,  into the Nigerian market. The informal trade in the  state may have become  more pronounced with the siting of several  filling stations  on the road to the   north central state  Border Communities,  thus making  easy for tanker loads of, Petroleum Products, particular, Premium Motor Spirit, popular, petro,l to be smuggled across the  land Border  Communities into the Beninese  market.

 The Smuggling of Petrol, across the Border Communities in the state became pronounced   as  virtually all the filling stations  along the road to the Communities  were always running out of petrol. Ever since, President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General ordered the Border  closure with the neighboring countries to stop smuggling  of prohibited items  into the country which is having a toll on the economy,   the people of the region, particular, Kwara state, appear not  to have felt its impact as the  anti-smuggling drive in the region may have  been mild.

 The people of the state may have known that they are in trouble when information filtered out last December that  Muhammed Uba Garba, a former  Comptroller Seme Command , has been redeployed to the north central geo-political region as the acting Assistant  Comptroller General and Border Drills sector 3, Commander   to rplace  Aminu Dahiru, an ACG, who may have been recalled to the Customs Headquarters.

 In spite of the fact he has not  unfolded his action plan on how  to deal with smugglers and their sponsors, in the region,  the people are already sweating  it out. They may have heard so much about his no nonsense attitude at the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos and Seme Command, where he was said to have  made specular seizures.  His last operations, according to sources , which was  at Owode, in Badagry West local government Area, of Lagos state, was said to have led to the discovery of 12  filling stations   within one  month in the area, thus bring the number of filling stations in the area to  110 as many of them were said to have   closed   down as they could no longer  re-export petrol from Nigeria into the   Benin market  either  by road  or indulge in Bunkering activities. He was said to have forced the owners of the eight surface tank owners spread deep into the bush  ostensibly  to smuggle petrol into the Beninese to also be on the run.

Yakubu Danladi, Speaker, Kwara state House of Assembly  who hails from   Baruten  local government  Area, described as a home for smugglers,  may have known that there is trouble ahead for his people with the redeployment of   acting ACG  MUhammed to the state   that he was forced  to leave  his fully air conditioned  office to pay a Courtesy call  on the Border Drills sector Commander,  where he was said to have expressed his worries  over the scarcity of petrol in his area in the recent time.

Yakubu Danladi: Speaker, Kwara state, House of Assembly

An aggrieved Danladi, who was said to have been accompanied  by Baba Salihu, Chairman, House Committee on Education  and Human Capital Development, on the visit to the Ilorin office of the Border Drills sector Commander office had  lamented the hardship being faced by  the people of  Ilesha Baruba, Okuta, Chikanda and other Communities in the local government area due to the Border closure.  

Recall that Suleiman Umaru, a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Kwara North in the Senate, had justified why  smuggling thrives in Bukoro , one of the Communities in Baruten local government, which falls within his Senatorial District to  to lack of social ammenies.

The duo may  have given  a  clue to the acting ACG, and Border Drills, sector 3 Commander  on how to deal with the smugglers who are living among the people with their Complaint.

Note that  Dalandi, the House Speaker  had made a case for his his people by urging  Babagana Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA,  and who incidentally is the National Coordinator  of the Border Drills and Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service,NCS, which is the lead agency on the national assignment , to review the decision  to cut off fuel the supply  20Km to the Border Communities . This is because of the astronomical rise in the pump price of a litre of petrol in the Comunities in Baruten Local government and its environs.

Given an insider information as a Representative of the people, he was said to have told Muhammed,   that since the Border Closure  became manifest last August, a  litre of petrol  within the local government now sells between N250.00 and N3000.00 as obtained in Benin Republic.  The message was very clear that  smuggling of petrol and other prohibited items, including foreign par boiled rice  is the main business of the people of Baruten local government from where it is spread  to other  states in the region.

Nothwitstanding, the worries  of the Kwara state House Speaker over the Border Closure on his people, the Border Drills, sector 3, acting Commander,  may have spoken the mind of Munguno, the National Coordinator, when he told him that  the  policy  was not initiated by the government   to’’witch-hunt  or obstruct any legal businesses but to prevent illegal  re-exportation of foreign par boiled rice and other prohibited items from Benin to the Nigeria market and the  re-exportation of petroleum products, particular, petrol , from Nigeria to Benin.

Going by The Magazine findings, if the neighboring Countries of Benin and Niger, particular, whose citizenry are really feeling the pinch of the Border closure could obey the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS,  Trade Protocol  agreement,  the Katsina born Nigerian President  would be ready to reopen the closed   Borders across the country. The inauguration of the Continental African Trade Area, CfTA, in Abuja,  during the recent meeting of the  Authority of Heads of State  and Government of the  ECOWAS, sub-region, speaks volume.     

Investigations by The Value News  shows that  some of the  big time smugglers across the country, particular, in north central, north west, south-ssouth and the south west geo-political regions   have link with  the politicians including the  elected Legislators  and political appointees  at both at the states and Federal level, which may have  been frustrating Customs anti-smuggling Operations in the 21 local government Areas  that share Borders with the neighbouring  countries  over the years.

Perhaps, to ensure that the  people of the north central, and the Paramount Rulers of te Border Communities, were not taken unawares  in the renewed anti-smuggling drive in the region,  the acting sector 3, Commander was  said to have promised Dalandi , the House Speaker, that he would  carry the people along in the anti-smuggling in the renewed anti-smuggling war in the area. 

He was said to have promised to  visit the  various  Border Communities to sensitise  the people about the danger s of smuggling to the economy  and the need turn a new leaf  or be ready to face the Consequence if caught in the act.

 The south-south and south west  geo-political regions , based foreign rice and vehicle smugglers would never forget their experience in a hurry when he was the Comptroller of FOU, Zone C and A, as many of them were said to have been forced to go underground.

The situation  was more worrisome in Seme jurisdiction, Lagos state, as many of the notorious smugglers operating in the area, were forced to relocate to Ogun, Oyo , osun and Ekiti state Border Communities to practice their  nefarious trade. It was not surprising why maritime analysts believe that the situation may not be different in Kwara, Niger and other states in the north central geo-politica l region as the the foreign rice and vehicle smugglers would be forced to go underground as they would not be able to withstand the superior fire power of Muhammed’s men .

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