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 had 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 entering the country through land border’s by President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC.
The revenue situation of the Command was said to have been made worse in the past by the illegal activities going on at the scrapped Atlas park used by the republic of Benin, Customs Administration to keep transit trucks . The content in some of these transit trucks , according to sources, were trans-loaded to smaller trucks or smuggled to Nigeria through illegal routes at the Seme-Krake joint Border because there is no rigid demarcation between the Border Communities, thus denying the country the much needed revenue for development, which ostensibly enter into private pockets.
Garba, who was not ready to sit by and watch the monthly revenue of the Command drop under his his Administration 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 come hard on thesmugglers, popular, fireworks, in the area to stop further revenue loss in the Command.
Acting on the Comptroller’s order, Adahunson Rashid, a Deputy Comptroller in-charge of the Command’s Enforcement Unit and his men 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 states. This is because of the numerous illegal routes in these states to carry out their nefarious activities. Take for instance, in Ogun state alone , the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, has confirmed that there are 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 in ”reducing smuggling activities to the barest minimum in the area”. He is right, This 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 should have increased tremendously because of the blockage of the illegal routes 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 Nigeria, their home country but this is not to be. They are optimistic that the revenue generation of the Command will increase in the months ahead with the increased 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.
Garba, the Seme Customs Comptroller, according to source, was said has 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 difficulty or congestion been experienced at the Seme-Krake joint Border was as a result of lack of adequate preparation to cope with the anticipated truck traffic from the Atlas park to the temporary site on the Nigerian side of the Border. The Seme Customs Command may not be charging the transit cargoes owner 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, thus reflecting on the revenue collection of the Command in the lat two months.
The Value News cited some of the transit trucks on queue from Cotonou, Republic of Benin, awaiting to enter Nigeria . they were said to have been delayed in entering the country because of the space constraint at temporary park provided for such trucks. The good news, however, wass that importers are not made to pay demurrage as obtained at the old Atlas park if their trucks stay beyond 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 without putting their own interest into the arrangement, the problem of space constraint currently being experienced to keep the transit carges ould not have been a problem .
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 sort out 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”.