:Anti-smuggling: keen Competition Among Customs Interventionist Units To Win Ali’s Heart
By Stephen Ubanna
With the reopening of the 18 month-old border closure across the country with the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African of Cameroon, by President Muhammadu Buhari, last December, there appears to be great loses by the Contraband smugglers , particular, the foreign rice smugglers, to the Customs Interventionist Units across the country.
From the south west states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Eki, Ondo to the south-south –south states of Akwa-Ibom, Cross river, Delta, Edo, Rivers , Bayelsa and the north west states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa, and the north central states of Kwara, Niger, benue and Kogi, the story is the same: intensified anti-smuggling operations resulting in thousand s of bags of par boiled rice seizures and several units of vehicles and other Contrabands being seized from smugglers.
The land locked south east states of Abia, Anambra, Eboyi, Enugu, and Imo based smugglers , operating between the south west the south –south and region are also feeling the heat of the Customs Operatives as they lose thousands of bags of par boiled rice of 50kg each worth million of naira to the Commands in the various states.
In the last three weeks, the interventionist Units , across the country, Area Comptrollers which had Contraband seizures to show case to the public were said to have given the nod to the Head of their Public Relations Units to issue a Statement on their Operations. The latest to issue such a Statement was Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, owerri, overseeing the five states in the south east and the six, in the south-south.
The Statement that was signed by Jerry Attah, a Deputy Superintendent , and the Command spokesperson on behalf of L Yusuf Lawal, the Area Comptroller, shows that they made a Contraband seizure of 62 Jumbo bales of second hand Clothing worth N7.8 million, and 1,024 cartons of COLAPS Pharmaceutical Products.
The Pharmaceutical products which was confirmed by Yusuf, the C Area Comptroller to have been imported from the Asian country of India may have Contravened the government Fiscal policy as it was not registered with the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, and thus, did not have the agency Certification number to be imported into the country. Experts had put the value of the products at about N176 million. It could not be ascertained which of the south east ports had released the Consignment . Insiders said the Consigment was released from a Lagos port.
Other items that were listed by by Attah, the FOU, Zone C,spokesperson, to have been intercepted by the Command officers included 290 cartons of imported Eva Soap , worth about N4.2million and a 2018 , model of Toyota Corolla, which has a market value of N869.55million.This is in addition to 1,046 bags of foreign parboiled rice of 50Kg each valued at about N31.4 million. The Contraband seizures by the FOU, Zone C, Interventionist Unit, were said to have been made in January, 2021, alone, barely two months of Comptroller Yusuf deployment to the Command. The combined Duty Paid Value , DPV, of the intercepted items was put at N869. 55 million.
Recall that the Katsina state born Nigerian President had banned the importation of foreign par boiled rice through the land border into the country on January 1s, 2017, and which was later to extended to the seaports in June same year. The Nigerian President had equally banned the importation of vehicles into the country.
This may have given the Customs operatives in the interventionist Units across the country the ammunition to view all foreign parboiled rice found in warehouses in the country or markets as having been smuggled into the country from the neighbouring countries of Benin, Niger and Cameroon.
There is no gainsaying the fact that parboiled rice , which are produced by Individuals and Agro-firms in the Asian countries of India and Thailand, are imported through the Autonomous of Cotonou, Benin and Bollore Port, also in Benin Republic, Lome port in Togo and Duala port in Cameroon. Ironically , these West and Central African countries which import these Indian and Thailand parboiled rice never Consume it but rather makes do with the Pakistan produced white rice.
This is s an indication that all the par boiled rice shipment into these West and Central African seaports from India and Thailand were smuggled into the Nigerian markets through inappropriate routes from Benin, Niger and Cameroon, particular. Indeed,this may not have been done with these countries respective Authorities, being their major source of revenue generation.
Abba Moro, a one- time minister of Interior had said that there over 1,499 illegal routes that could be used by smugglers to carry out their smuggling activities across the country, noting that there are only 84 legal routes that are officially identified as entry routes for goods and services into the country.
It is not surprising why the FOU, Zone C, Command Patrol Team members had beamed their searchlight on the Creeks, watersides and other routes that could easily be used by the smugglers in carrying out their illegal operations.Yusuf, the FOU, Zone C, Command Comptroller, may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he said that the Command Patrol Teams had to go back to the drawing board to restrategise their operational modalities ‘’to ensure full implementation of the government policy banning the importation of foreign rice into the country through the land border as the smuggler become more daring”.
The massive seizure of Contraband in the last two months by the Command may have strengthened the resolve of the FOU, Zone C, Area Comptroller to push his boys harder to go all out and make more seizures, insisting that the smugglers would continue” to experience losses until they repent from sabotaging the nation’s economy with their foreign Collaborators”.
He may have sent a signal to the south east and south smugglers that the Command will no longer treat them with kid gloebs, ” but will be more ruthless in dealing with them”. Hear him: we have a responsibility to protect the nation’s economy in line with the expectations of the government.
Appealing to the smugglers to turn a leaf, or be ready to face the Consequences that may come out of their smuggling activities, he has vowed that ‘’the Command would leave no stone upturned in its effort to up the ante of its anti-smuggling operations’’. He insists that ‘’no amount of resistance from the smugglers and their mob Collaborators to frustrate the Customs personnel from doing their job will deter them from performing their statutory responsibilities of suppressing smuggling within the south east and south-south Zones.
Appreciative of the synergy between the Customs Operatives and other security agencies personnel in the two regions placed under the Command by the Headquarters, which he described as tremendous, he disclosed that it had helped in their operations.
An elated Yusuf, who was also very appreciative of the support of the general public, had said that the 1,046 bags of foreign par boiled rice of 50Kg each which was evacuated from an undisclosed warehouse along Elelenwo road in PortHarcourt, the oil Rivers state Capital, was ‘’based on Credible information and timely intelligence’’, an indication that but for the public support , it may not have been possible to make such a large quantity of Foreign rice seizures by the Command in one month. Note that only the Interventionist Units in the north and south west part of Nigeria, analysts had said could do so because of the too many illegal routes in the two regions that could used by smugglers.
The baby smugglers, within the Seme Jurisdiction, as they are labelled, within the south west, are no longer finding it funny because of the tight security that had been mounted in the area by Mohammed Jibo, the Seme Command Comptroller. Take for instance, last year, the Command was said to have made a seizure of 7,667 bags of foreign par boiled rice and 127 units of vehicles worth millions of naira, from the smugglers which was unprecedented in the history of the Command over the last five years. Much of the seizures were said to have been in the Command in the last seven months.
Many believe that Jibo’s strong leadership to the officers which had given them a sense of belong may have encouraged them to go go all out to deal decisively with foreign rice and vehicle smugglers including other categories of of smugglers within the Seme and Badagry Jurisdiction to ensure that that nothing enters or leaves the country through the land border. His exemplary leadership ever since he was deployed to Seme Command some seeven months had won the Command may informant.
Agents who had tried to penetrate him now that the border s had ben opened by the Nigerian President to give a helping hand to them when they come with their job may have been disappointed as they have vowed to do the right thing to avoid playing into his hand which might result in the seizure of their goods. He was said to have given a matching order to Adahunse rashid, a Deputy Comptroller in-charge of the Command’s Enforcement Unit Unit and his boys a ma to always be on the alert to ensure that the Importers and Exporters including the ETL Companies goods conform to the government Fiscal policy before beeing allowed to leave the border to their different locations outside Nigeria. Many believe that he is working according to the mandate given to him by Ali, the Comptroller General, that no Contraband should enter or leave the country through the land border.
A visitor to Seme would be surprised if this is truely a land because the Customs Operatives along the Lagos – Badagry Express Way are baasically idle because of the tight security mthat had been mounted at the various smuggler routes within the Seme Jurisdiction which had made it impossible for the the big time smugglers to operate. Informed sources to The Magazine that the Magazine that the name of Jibo invocates fear on the officers on the road to ensure that the right thing s done as he could disguise himself and enter the road at any time to supervise what is happening as a Leader.
rashid who is overseeing, the Command Enforcement Unit appears to have followed the footstep as he could emerge at any location where the anti-smugglings are stationed to guide them on how to go about their job. This apapear to be working out for the Command as the small- time smugglers who have continued to lose between five to 10 bags of Par boiled foreign rice, 50Kg, a at a go are n longer finding it funny.
Many wre said to have have either relocated to Ogun, where there are many illegal routes or Oyo, Osun and Ekiti states to carry out their nefarious activities. Those who could not stand the fire coming from the Seme Command anti-smuggling Patrol Teams were said to have gone under ground or resorted to the use of the Creeks and waterside to supply smuggled foreign rice to their Lagos Customers where officers of the Western Marine and FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving Team are waiting for them.
The FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving Team, headed by Jack Okpabi, an experienced anti-smuggling officer and his Team member members , raid at Alaba Intenational market , described as a safe haven, where thousands of bags of par boiled rice of 50 Kg speaks volume.
Last January, the smugglers from the Ilara border route which may have escaped the eagle eyes of the Customs Operatives in the area wer stopped along the Lagos –Abeokuta Express way, around the shagamu roundabout and their six pickups load of foreign rice bear eloquent were intercepted by the FOU , Zone A , an-smuggling officers who were fully out for them
. A visitor to the Government waRehouse, Ikeja, on Friday, February, 12, 2021, would be surprised that the Foreign rice smugglers have not learnt their lesson with the loses they are making as three vehicles fully loaded with smuggled rice intercepted from the dare devil smugglers are outside the premises awaiting for space to be created and the contents offloaded and transferred to the warehouse.
For now , the Ikea, Government warehouse filled up with seized foreign rice and other Contraband seized by the various patrol teams of the Command. and those at the checkpoints. It is instructive to note that what is happening in the south west may not be different from what is happening in the north west and the north central where the FOU, Zone D officers and the Border Drills , Zonal office including the CGC, Strike Force Teams in the north are making desperate efforts to curtail the activities of the Contraband smugglers, particular foreign rice in the regio s. Even the Commands , overseeing the Land border in the region are also given the smugglers a cause for concern.