By Stephen Ubanna
It was a bad news for foreign parboiled rice importers through the Cotonou Port, Republic of Benin , who had engaged the services of smugglers to carry an unknown quantity of ”50” bags into the country through an unpopular waterside within the Seme axis between June 20 and 26, 2019.
The importer, according to sources may have concluded arrangement with the hired smugglers to put the large quantity of rice on their locally built boat based on the assurance that it would be delivered at their warehouse as agreed. They were optimistic that it would never be intercepted by Customs personnel as the waterside where it would offloaded has never been known to Customs personnel.
Note that the popular Creeks known to Customs personnel are the watersides at Badagry axis, Wekan axis Yekeme creek, Ere waterways, Gbao Creek, Aseke Creek, Choki Creek , Idiroko Water Front among others.
Investigations shows that Customs personnel, particular, Enforcement officers from the Western Marine Command patrol the Creeks daily to ensure that foreign par boiled rice , poultry or Vegetable Oil were not smuggled into the country. The Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Comptroller General ‘s, CGC, Strike Force, and Seme Command patrol teams , were not left as they patrol areas within their jurisdiction, particular the Badagry axis. They have forgotten that there are other unpopular watersides in the until the recent operation carried out by the Seme Command in one of such watersides.
The smugglers may have been succeeding in the past in using such unpopullar watersides to carry out their nefarious deals but they were unlucky this time around.Unknown to the rice importer and the smugglers the information had leaked out to Muhammed Uba Garba, the Area Comptroller, Seme Command, who quickly reached out to Adahunse Rashid, a Deputy Comptroller in-charge of the Command Enforcement. The Customs Deputy Comptroller was said to have quickly mobilised his officers and detailed them about the operation.
Investigation revealed that to ensure a successful peration, the Command enforcement boss , on the orders of the Area Comptroller , may have engaged several patrol teams for the operation. This is evident going by the large presence of the Command personnel who took over the environment to ensure that that there is no escape route for the smugglers with their cargo.
The officers, who were armed to the teeth, according to sources were involved in the operation werevery happy as they were shouting their names, popular, Abdulaziz, Waziri, to ensure that officer was missing in action. There were also plain cloth security personnel , suspected to be department of Security , DSS, who may have supported the Customs team with information gathering to facilitate the operation.
It was learnt that when it became obvious that the waterside where the smugglers had used to carry out the dirty deal had been successfully condoned off and the smugglers forced to flee, the Seme Enforcement officers with the support of the military Operation MESA, moved into the waterside to cart away the smuggled rice by engaging the services of the youths from village who may have supported the smugglers to offoad the thousands ”50” bags of rice from the local boats.
The Command four wheel drives which were used for the operation were quickly loaded with the foreign parboiled rice and transferred to the Government warehouse at Seme. The Customs pick up vans, according to Eyewitness account may not have been enough to carry the entire smuggled rice as the military Operation MESA released one of its trucks and other vehicles to assist the Seme Command in carting away the smuggled rice from the waterside. The vehicles were said to have moved in a convoy as Adahunse , the Command Deputy Comptroller, overseeing the operation and some armed officers stepped out to monitor the situation until the last vehicle used for the operation left the scene. ”It was a successful operation”, a senior officer told The Value News.
Insiders told The Magazine that it was one of the best organised Operation ever to be conducted by any Customs anti smuggling Command in the last five years in the Creeks going by the number of vehicles found at the site .
Many believe that the Seme Command may be making a head way in the renewed anti-smuggling war in thra since Muhammed, the Command Customs Comptroller re-directed the its anti-smuggling war to the Creeks where spectacular seizures had been made including 175 X 6 of cloths were made until the recent seizure of thousands bagss of ”50” from the unknown waterside within Badagry axis.
While , the Seme Customs boss has succeeded in chasing the rice smugglers away operating within its jurisdiction, Michael Agbara, Comptroller , Ogun Command, which controls Idiroko Out station, who may be bearing the brunt, has engaged the Beninois Customs and other security operatives for talks to strengthen their Collaboration at the Idiroko Border axis to checkmate rice smugglers.
It was gathered that the continued abuse of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, privileges and protocol by member countries were discussed. They were also said to have looked the strategies to increase the fight aginst rice , drug smuggling and human trafficking across the Border.
Already, security operatives at the Igolo frontier and the Idiroko Border between the two West Africa countries, Nigeria and Republic of Benin, have resolved to strengthen Collaboration against Border related crimes
Agbara, the Ogun Customs boss, was said to have told those that cares to listen that the Cross -Border relatship between the two ECOWAS member nations that shares Borders would guarantee more effective management of the Land Border. The Ogun Customs Comptroller, is optimistic that the Joint Border Coordination will enhance the synergy among the security operatives of the two countries sharing Borders and the various Land Borders as it would also guarantee trade facilitation.
According to him, the Submit was a platform that enables Nigerian exporters and importers to declare their goods once in Republic of benin port of Cotonou , noting that the declaration which would be automatically transmitted through a Connectivity server to Nigeria without necessarily coming back to the country to make another declaration on such Consignment.
He averred that some of the information available to the Beninois Customs might not be available to their Nigerian counterparts but with the Collaboration, the two countries security agencies at the various Land Borders would be able to share such information willingly unlike in the past where the security operatives of the two countries were suspicious of each other.
Recall that Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, had repeatedly called for Nigerian n and Republic of Benin inter-agency Collaboration to improve anti-smuggling operations at the Border. Muhammed the Seme Customs boss, may have cue into the directive from the onset as the Chairman of the the two nations inter-agency security Committee at the Seme-Kareke Joint Border that smugglers are finding difficult to operate at the area. A Customs officer confirm that that Nigerian Customs operatives and their counterpart at Republic share information and carry out joint examination at the land Border which had never happened in the past. This may have helped the Command in making spectacular seizures of smuggled rice around the Creeks and watersides within the Badagry axis.