By Elizabeth Chukwuma
When Ababukar Aliyu, no relations of Aliyu Mohammed, Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, tweeted that Customs anti-smuggling officers, , particular those at Seme Command, a border Community, between Nigeria and the French speaking country of Republic of Benin, are passing smuggled fairly used vehicles by collecting gratification of between N50,000.00 and n100,000.00,on each, depending on the model and year of manufacture, not many people took him serious but the social media latched on it as a scoop.
This is because of his pedigree as a mischief maker who was said to have made several attempts in the past to penetrate the ranks of the officers of the Command including the Border Drills security Operatives to perpetuate his nefarious Activities but no luck.
Security watchers believe that it is very difficult for any vehicle smuggler to pass through the Gbaji Check point where the Seme, FOU,Zone A, CGC, Strike Force and the newly inaugurated Border Drills Congregate to screen vehicles passing through the Lagos-Seme road .
Note that since the closure of the land Borders with the neighbouring Republic of Benin, Niger, Tchad and the Central African country of Cameroon, on August 23, 2019, the Seme Command with its strong network of informants and good working relationships with the Community leaders were said to have intercepted and detained 55 fairly used vehicles. This is in addition to the thousands of ”0” bag of par boiled rice from the Asian country of Thailand.
The seme Customs Comptroller who takes strong exception to officers abusing their position was said to have made it clear on assumption of duties at the command in 2018, that any officer caught In the act would be summarily dealt with. It was not surprising why he could not brush over the Aliyu tweet alleging that ani-smuggling officers from the Command are sing their position to make cheap money by allowing smuggled fairly used vehicles to enter into the country.
The Customs Comptroller was said to have sent out an under- cover Teams on a preliminary investigation to Gbaji, Agbara checkpoints and other locations where the Command has temporary checkpoints. The officers were said to have carried out their special assignment as directed by the Area Comptroller without disclosing their identity to anyone to avoid disrupting their operations.
The report of the undercover officers about the conduct of the of the patrol Teams speaks volume.’’ There was no iota of truth about the allegations against the officers who were said to be thorough in their job. This may have informed why Hussani Abdullahi Onawo, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs and the Command Spokesperson had described the Aliyu’s tweet as ‘’ not only baseless but unfounded’’.
The Seme Customs Spokesperson was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that’ ‘’no amount of blackmail by aggrieved persons who may have lost their smuggled vehicles to Customs, ‘’ would ever stop or frustrate the Command anti-smuggling officers from doing their work of checkmating the cross-border smugglers’’ .
Appealing to the general public,particular, the Social Media he urged them to investigate their facts before going to the press, insisting that it would not be in the interest of the nation for the Media to be used by blackmailers to ‘’dampen the of morale of officers’’ . He noted that these are officers who have laid their life working under rain and sun on a daily basis on the road, bush and the Creeks to checkmate the activities of these economic saboteurs and their sponsors who are spread all over the country.
There are indications that the said Aliyu who had laid the serious allegations against the Customs, particular, the Seme Command, may have opted to fight back because it was either his smuggled vehicle or the one given out to a Cross –border agent to fly it into the country through an unapproved route had fallen into Muhammed’s anti-smuggling officers’ hand.
Bu, Aliyu, and others like him have no cause to worry. This is because Hameed Ali, a retired Army and ComptrollerGeneral, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, may had soft pedal on his hardline position of seizing such intercepted smuggled vehicles. He was said to have taken advantage of President Muhammadu Buhari’s riot Act to the revenue generating agencies to step up their revenue drive to meet their yearly targets in order to get a bonus or fall short of the revenue expectation and be punished for it.
Perhaps to give the owners of the impounded vehicles , an opportunity to recover it from the Service , he was aid to have set up a Customs Revenue anti-Recovery Committee in FOU offices in Lagos, Kaduna, Owerri and Bauchi to handle such exercise. At the FOU, Zone A, Lagos, south west Nigeria, which is under the close watch of Aliyu, Ali Ibrahim, a Deputy Comptroller who is in-charge of the Command’s Enforcement Unit was said to be the Chairman of the Committee.
Indeed, Abubakar Aliyu and others like him whose vehicles may have been intercepted in the bush, Owode axis or on the Lagos –Seme road and detained at the Command premises have another opportunity of recovering it by approaching the nearest FOU, with their relevant documents to pay the Demand Notice , DN, that may be raised by the Committee.
The Seme Command Spoke person also said that much. ‘’The service has ‘’introduced some palliative measures to help those whose vehicles were impounded and detained and are willing to pay the duty.
A visitor to seme border Community in the recent time told The Magazine that it has become very difficult for vehicle smugglers to thrive at the Seme border Community because of the tight security
. Recall that the Katsina state born Nigerian President had banned the importation of fairly used vehicles and foreign rice into the country through the land border with the neighbouring countries On January 1, 2017.
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