By Stephen Ubanna
B The last one month appears to have witnessed a flood of Contraband seizures by the Katsina state, Customs Command, Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, Team B and The Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone B, Kaduna.
Barely one month after Shedi Wada, a Deputy Comptroller, who may have carved his teeth at Seme Command, overseeing the border Community described as Nigeria’s busiest in the West African sub-region between Nigeria and Benin Republic.
It was therefore not very surprising that he has been able to replicate the same feat within one month of assumption of office at Katsina, Command, as the Area Comptroller. The Contraband foreign par boiled rice and vehicle smugglers in the President Muhammadu Buhari , a retired army General home state, may have known that they were in for trouble when information filtered out from Customs Headquarters that Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and the Customs Comptroller General has redeployed him to Katsina Command.
Wada, according to informed sources was said to have used the first two weeks of his redeployment to study the Map of the state to have an insight on how to track the smugglers with their cargoes. Recall the Katsina state born Nigerian President had at one time lamented that the border routes between the north western state and the land-locked country of Niger, are too numerous that only Almighty God can effectively monitor the border routes as it may have gone beyond the Customs Operatives.
True to people’s thinking, the last one month has remained a nightmare for the smugglers who are now running from pillar to post to find cover and those who may have escaped were said to fallen into the waiting hands of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU , Zone B, and the Comptroller General of Customs, Team B , Strike Force or the Border Drills Patrol Teams in the state.
The Contraband Seizures , that were said to have been made by the Katsina acting Comptroller Wada and his men in the last one month speaks volume. It was a clear message to the smugglers from the land –locked Niger, and their Nigerian Collaborators that the game is up and that they have no hiding place any longer to keep their smuggled foreign rice or vehicles in any part of the state without being smoked out by the Command patrol Team officers. Note that Niger, transit cargo importers, who are mostly Nigerians , receive their transit cargo imports , particular, foreign par boiled rice and vehicles from Benin.
According to informed sources, most of these transit cargoes , particular, the trucks load of foreign rice and vehicles develop wings between Benin and Niger and find their way into the Katsina and Kano markets. Recall, that the Nigerian President had banned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles into the country into the country through the land border on January 1st, 2017 and the policy is still in force despite the appeals by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the economy, and who incidentally is World Trade Organisation, WTO, Director General, to the Nigerian President to maintain a Liberal border policy to facilitate movement of goods and services within the West African sub-region.
The Katsina Command Comptroller, who may have gotten the approval of Ali, the Customs Comptroller General , to go- ahead and showcase to the Press what the Command has been able to achieve in the last one month based on request. The Journalists including the Electronic Media who had gathered at the Command Premises were shocked at the Contraband foreign rice seizures and their means of Conveyance, vehicles and other items in one month despite the presence of other Interventionist units Patrol Teams personnel in the state involved in anti-smuggling operations.
Plus or minus, Wada and his men ,may have given a good account of themselves in their anti-smuggling drive in Katsina state. Armed with the Comptroller General’s mandate as directed by the retired army General that no Contraband should be allowed to enter or leave the country, through the state, Wada and his men have followed the directive religiously.
This may have informed why the Command could dispossess the foreign rice smugglers operating between the Buhari home state and Niger, of 866 bags of foreign rice of 50Kg, each, despite the threat posed by people who were said to have themselves as the informant of the smugglers on the Katsina Command Patrol Team members movements and thus, guide them on how to go about bringing their smuggled foreign rice, vehicle or other Contraband items into the country.
, Wada, the Katsina acting Comptroller, had confirmed that the Command intercepted 181 cartons of foreign Spaghetti, 50 JerryCans of the Asian country of Malaysian processed vegetable oil, 394 bags of 100Kg tiger Nut and 15 bags of 50Kg foreign sugar. Valuation experts put the market value of the seized Contraband item at about N60 million in two weeks. The Katsina Customs Comptroller may have been encouraged by the continued seizure of the Contraband items worth millions of naira to advise the smugglers to turn a leaf and embrace Legitimate trade be ready to face the Consequences: losing their cargoes and money to government.
Given the low activities at the CGC Strike Force Teams B and C, in Kaduna and the oil City of PortHarcourt respectively, may have given Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, the ammunition to read the riot act to the Coordinators of the two ad-hoc Teams to sit up.
The Magazine gathered that the ad-hoc Team could have been disbanded but the Comptroller General was said to have had a rethink on the decision because the Team A, which has Deputy Comptroller Ahmadu Shuaibu , as the Coordinator is performing according to the mandate: not given room to the smugglers and fraudulent agents notwithstanding the presence of the FOU ,Zone A and Border Drills personnel in the south west states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Eki and Ondo.
Take for instance, in the month of March, 2021, the CGC Strike Force Team A, had recovered over N1 billion lost revenue for the government through the issuance of Demand Notice, DN, based on the regular alert from the Team Information Communication Technology , ICT, unit, for suspected cargoes where the importer was alleged to have made false declarations, wrong Classification and underpayment of duty.
The Shuaibu led ad-hoc Team A may not have spared warehouse had raid one of such suspected warehouses which are regularly raided and a Seal put on it. The evacuation of Contraband Basmati rice and second hand tyres of different sizes from one of the warehouses raided in the Orile axis of Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve- centre bear eloquent testimony to the CGC Team A, anti-smuggling drive.
This may have forced Oseni Olarukoba, a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator, CGC, Team B, Kaduna, to wake up. Between January and March 2021, the CGC Team B, Coordinator had said that they intercepted and seized 1,540 bags of rice of 50Kg each and other items worth about N784 million with the arrest of three suspects.
Many believe that the CGC Team B, may not have mademuch seizures of foreign rice and other contraband items in the north west Geo-political region , comprising of Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Sooto, Kebbi and Zamfara, described as a Bandits haven, in the last three months because of the dominance of Hamisu A.B, the Area Comptroller, of FOU, , Zone B, Kaduna and his men , in the region.