By Nwangwu Uba
The revenue drive embarked upon by Muhammed Uba Garba, Comptroller, Seme Command on assumption of duties last September appears to be yielding result. This is evident going by the consistency in the sustaining the monthly revenue generation of the Command which was said to be at lowest ebb before his deployment to the African’s busiest international Border route last year by Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS.
Nobody expected the Command to be making any reasonable monthly revenue generation because of the ban on the high revenue generating cargoes such as foreign rice and vehicles through the nation’s land border’s by President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC. The revenue situation of the Command was made worse by the illegal activities going on at the scrapped Atlas park used in the republic of Benin, Customs Administration to keep transit trucks . The goods in some of these transit trucks , according to sources, were trans-loaded to smaller trucks or smuggled to Nigeria through the illegal routes at Seme-Krake joint Border because there is no rigid demarcation between te Border Communities, thus denying the country the needed revenue, which ostensibly enters into private pockets.
Garba, who was not ready to sit by and watch the monthly revenue of the Command dropped because of the ban on the importation of vehicles or foreign rice through the land border was said to have read the riot act to the Command anti-smuggling officers to descend heavily on smugglers, popular, fireworks in the area to to stop further revenue loss in the Command.
Acting on the directive Adahunson Rashid, a Deputy Comptroller in-charge of the Command Enforcement Unit and his boys were said to have mapped out strategies to deal with the fireworks which had forced many of them out of the Seme and the Owode axis as they relocate to Ogun , Ekiti and Oyo because of the numerous illegal routes in these states. Take for instance, Ogun state alone , the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, have confirmed about 84 illegal routes. These are routes used by smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities between Republic of Benin and Nigeria.
The Customs Comptroller who was happy with the intensified anti-smuggling operations of Deputy Comptroller Adahunson and his boys said it has gone a long way to ”reduce smuggling activities to the barest minimum in the area”. This, according to sources has reflected in the monthly revenue generation of the Command in the last five months.
An elated Garba said the Command generated N1.4775 billion in two months. The revenue , according to him was a combination of the duties and levies on imported goods including the Duty Paid Value of goods seized which includes foreign parboiled rice and vehicles and other items seized during the period.
Many believe that the monthly revenue of the Command may have improved tremendously because of the blockage of the illegal route leading to the old Atlas park used by the Beninoise Customs Administration to relate with transit cargo importers with their agents in processing their documents to allow them entry into their home country, Nigeria. They are optimistic that the revenue generation of the Command will further increase with the inproved freight forwarding activities at the land Border which has received a boost with the standardisation of the transit protocols in line with international best practices.
Already, Garba, the Seme Customs Comptroller was said to have assured importers and their agents that the Command is working assiduously to guarantee a smoother experience by clearing the congestions at the Border within the shortest time possible. The believe in both official and unofficial circles was that the Seme Customs Command officials may not have made adequate preparation to cope with the antucipated truck traffic from the Atlas park to the temporary site provided for the transit trucks before blocking the park. The Seme Customs Command may not be charging the transit cargo importers for use of the facility which may have forced many of them to be compliant and honest in their declarations to avoid running into trouble with Customs import and valuation officers.
The Value News cited may of the transit trucks on queue from Cotonou, Republic, awaiting to enter Nigeria but may be delayed because of the space constraint at the temporary park provided for such trucks. The good news is that importers are not made to pay demurrage as obtained at the old Atlas park if their trucks over stay the grace period allowed for transit trucks to be at the park.
A senior Customs officer who spoke to the Blog disclosed that if past Comptrollers of the Seme Command had taken the initiative to develop the park as promised without putting their own interest into the arrangement the problem of space constraint currently being experienced to keep the transit cargoes on the Nigerian side of the Seme-Krake joint Border could not have been there.
Given the problem on ground, Ali, the Customs Comptroller General , according to sources is doing everything within his powers to support the Seme Command to ease the problem of the transit cargo owners at the joint Border. That much was confirmed by Garba when he gave kudos to the Customs Comptroller General for his continuous”support and encouragement”.