By Stephen Ubanna
For years, die-hard smugglers , in the Border Communities in Kwara and Niger states, north Central geo-political region described as very unusual using Camels , motorbikes to smuggle illicit goods through bush paths into the country had been succeeding.
Customs personnel and other security Operatives located at the Border Communities in the states may not have known much of these bush paths which served as major smuggling routes . The Customs anti-smuggling Teams, in the two states, according to sources, were aware that Camels and motor bikes , were means of conveying smuggled illicit goods in the north but had never expected to see much of it, either in Kwara or Niger states. They got it wrong.
Muhammed Uba Garba, a former Comptroller , Seme Command and now acting sector 3 , Border Drills Coordinator, with Operational base in in Ilorin, recent tour of the border Communities in the two states, may have been exposed to the new tactics of smugglers to beat Customs personnel to it and therefore, the need to go back to the drawing board in order to track the economic saboteurs, who were mostly migrants from Benin Republic, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali with their Nigerian Collaborators.
The tour which took him and his entourage including soldiers and the Department of State Security, DSS , personnel, to Ilesha Baruba, Yshkira, Okuta and Chikanda , which has the most difficult terrain in Baruten local government Area of Kwara state as well as the Border Communities along Kaima , Jebba, Mokwa, Wawa, Babanna and Kotangora axis in Niger state was very revealing.
‘’We are battle ready to halt all the new techniques that have been adopted by these economic saboteurs to carry out their nefarious activities ‘’, in the Border Communities between Nigeria and the Benin Republic’’, in the states he had said.
Another major discovery that was said to have been made by the Coordinator based on his experience as Comptroller of Federal Operations Unit, FOU,Zone A, Ikeja, and Seme Command at different times, was the use of boats in the riverine Communities in the movement and transportation of Petroleum Products to Benin despite the closure of the filling stations 20 Km to the entry points into the country by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Customs Comptroller Genera last year.
The north Central Border Drills Coordinator who could not hide his feelings has made it clear to those that cares to listen that the uncontrolled migration into the country through these unapproved routes forestalls the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS to have proper the necessary statistics and data to the government to guide its national planning programme .
According to him, these economic saboteurs facilitate ‘’ trans-border crimes, smuggling of arms and light weapons, drugs trafficking, terrorism , Human trafficking and other security challenges that needed to be checked’’. At the Palace of the District Head of Babanna, the Coordinator, had decried the attitude of the die- hard smugglers still operating within the Border Community axis using the bush paths to carry out their nefarious trade.
Boniface Anniebonam, founder, National Association of government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF had , lamented that a ship load of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice could easily be smuggled into the Nigeria market using Camels and motorbikes in the northern part of the country. He is right. The seizure of over of 7000 ‘’50’’ bags of parboiled rice which could be carried by 12 trucks of 600 bags each in two weeks of the north central Border Operations alone speaks volume.
Given the new tactics adopted by the smugglers in Kara and Niger states as discovered by the acting sector 3, Border Drills Coordinator, he was said to have met the Border Drill officers at the various Checkpoints in the two states visited including the DSS, Police , NIS as well as the Heads of the security agencies involved in the Operations .
He was said to have handed over a ‘’prepared and signed Code of Conduct to them, that contains the dos and don’ts, warning that ‘’anyone found violating the Code , Concealing Information, Compromising or engaging in any act contrary to the detriment of the Border Drills Operation will be shown the way out’’.
The north Central Border Drills sector 3, Cordinator has every reason to be happy. This is because the District Heads of all the Border Communities visited in Kwara and Niger, which form part of the region, have acknowledged that the security situation in their Communities had improved since the Border Closure was announced last August bby President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress., APC . They were said to have pledged to assist the Coordinator and his officers involved in the national assignment achieve the mandate given to them by the government.
Take for instance Mahmud Ahmed Aliyu, the District Head of Wawa , a Border Community in Bargu local government Area of Niger state, was said to have assured that he would take advantage of the long standing relationship between him and the all the security agencies personnel in his domain to do ‘’all it takes to assist the sector 3 Border Drill officers in’’ achieving the task at hand’’.
Saidu Namaska, the Emir of Kotangora, was said to have Commended the Katsina state born Nigerian President for taking the bold initiative to close the borders spread in four geo-political regions of the country with Benin, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroun believed to have taken a toll in the economies of other member countries of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS.
Chado Zakari, Border Drills, sector 3, spokesperson in a Statement said the Coordinator re-echoed the Comptroller General’s decision that the movement of all types of vehicles or use of boats for transportation of Petroleum Products across the Borders and water ways in the country remain in force, an indication that ‘’ anyone caught in the act in the region will be jailed’’.