Katsina: Smugglers In A Fix

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By Stephen Ubanna

For years, smugglers, in Katsina, home state of President Muhammadu Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, had remained a base for smugglers in the entire northwest geo-political region. This because  most of the transit cargoes  meant for the Niger Republic  from the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou , and Bollore port,   particular, Foreign Par boiled rice, from the Asian country of Thailand, Vegetable Oil, fr andom Malaysia and Vehicles and other Merchandise goods from China and other other parts of the world had  ended up in the state.

 Note that Past Area Controllers of the Katsina state Customs Command had battled the smugglers without relenting to force them change  their old way of doing  business  at the border Communities by dispossessing of them of their Contraband worth millions of naira . The Value News findings shows that the smugglers Contraband were seized by the Customs operatives on  anti-smuggling operations on the road or forests that abound the state, the more hardened they  become to carry out their  nefarious  trade.

Dahhat Wada-shedi, a Deputy Comptroller and the Katsina Command, Area Controller, may have learnt a lesson from the mistakes of his predecessors that he was not ready to give a breather to the smugglers and their sponsors in the state.  Indeed, from his first day in the Command, in May 2021, and now, the Customs Controller had known that he has to fully engage the officers to ensure that the hundreds of the illegal routes between the state and Niger, used by the smugglers were blocked.

 As a prelude to ensuring that he achieved the mandate given to him by Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General of Customs in the state, the Custom Comptroller had started a sensitization Campaign to drum into the ear of the people the dangers of smuggling to the nation’s economy. He was said to have met some of the traditional rulers and district heads in the border Communities to rub mind with them on how to go about stopping the illegal trade in the state. The people may have mistaken Deputy Comptroller Wada-Shedi, as someone who could not hurt a fly because he looked calm and unassuming. They got it wrong.

Between May, 2021 and now, the Customs Controller, had made the Nigerian and Nigerien smugglers to understand that it is no longer going to be business as usual.  The pressure he had brought on the smugglers is so pronounced that many of they have relocated to Niamy, Capital of Niger as they could no longer bear the heat.

 Some of them were said to have used their contact in the state to lodge Complaint with members of House of Representative Committee on Customs, pleading with them to call the Customs Controller to order but that was how far they could go.

  But instead of whittling – down the operations of the officers of the Command, it had had emboldened to them to take the battle to the smuggler’ Camp in the state and make more Contraband seizures.  This is evident with the Contraband, worth millions of  naira, that had been seized by the Command including going after money launderers.

 .   It would been recalled that with the approval of Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, the Customs Comptroller, had thrown the Government warehouse open for Journalists  in the state to see the quantities of Contraband including used vehicles that could have entered into the state from different illegal routes without the intervention of the Customs personnel.

Recall that the Katsina state born Nigerian President had banned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles, through the nation’s Land borders on January I, 2017.  This may have encouraged the Command various Patrol Team Leaders and their members as well as the officers  manning the approved  checkpoints in the state to be on the red alert  to ensure that whatever tactics  adopted by the smugglers to carry out their illegal business  are punctured with ease.

Take for instance the recent attempt to smuggle N71 million into the country, neatly loaded in the booth of a Toyota Corolla,   for money Laundering in the state. The money, according to Wda-shedi, the Area Controller,was intercepted  by his officers along  the Katsina –Jibia  axis, described  as one  of the hot spots of insecurity in the state because of the activities of  Yan Bindiga and Yan Ta’adda, Bandits Group.

The government had made it clear  in one of its  Laws , that  any person  passing  through  the country’s International airports or Land borders, must declare  his or money  above $1,0000.  This may have informed why the N71million, found in the booth of the intercepted Toyota Corolla vehicle, and the suspect were   taken to the Command Headquarters in Katsina, for proper documentation.  The amount was said to have been in Godwinin Emefiele  led Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN,  office in the state and the incident reported  to Customs Headquarters.

Many had expected  the seized moneyto be handed over which  was said to have been earmarked for money Laundering to be handed over to Abdulrasheed Bawa led Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for necessary action because it was meant to have been used for money Laundering in the state and the Commission is the only government  agency that can deal with such problem and come with good results.

Informed sources told The Value News that the Customs Comptroller, on the advice of officers of the Legal Seat   has granted Administrative bail to the suspect while Investigations is still ongoing to ascertain the source of the Funds.Giving an insight of the Command activities, in the month of November, 2021, an elated Wada-shedi, disclosed that they impounded eight vehicles, worth about N14.41million and general goo ,with a market value of N71,350,000.00.

 He noted that out of the cumulative N176,350,000.00 , from both money Laundering and Duty Paid Value, DPV, of seised vehicles ,  and Merchandise goods from the different sources, within the period under review,  the Command, N46.545 million was the DPV, from Merchandise goods, while the DPV  from the West  African  country of Ghana  intercepted Indian Hemp was N18.1 million while the DPV  of the intercepted used vehicles,N14 .407million  including the   N71 million earmarked for money Laundering intercepted also..

Appealing to the smugglers to desist from sabotaging the nation’s economy, an aggrieved Wada-shedi, vowed that  he and his officers , will continue to go after them to seize their Contraband from their various Locations in the state until they turn a new’’ to do Legitimate business’’ 


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