Anti-smuggling Operations:  Compt. Bomodi Promises Strong Leadership  To Command, Joint Border Security,JBS At Seme

By Stephen Ubanna

 For years, past Area Controllers of the Seme Command, and the Joint border Security, JBS, have been grappling with the problem of the numerous Checkpoints mounted by the various security agencies at   Seme, a border Community between Nigeria, the most populous country in the West African sub region   and neighbouring Benin Republic.

 Some of the agencies that were said to have mounted checkpoints along the Lagos -Seme route, include the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Nigerian Police Force, NPF, Immigration Service, NIS, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Military and the Department of State Service, DSS.

  Mohammed Bello Jibo, acting Deputy Comptroller General, DCG, of Customs, who had served as Area Controller of Seme Command, was said to have made several efforts at reducing the over 50 security agencies checkpoints, along the Seme-Abidjan corridor that had been making intra-African trade difficult. He was said to have taken up the matter several times at the JBS, meetings at the Border Community comprising of sectional Heads of the various security agencies but that was how far he could go.

 Until he was redeployed to the Customs Headquarters in January, 2023, he was said to have continued making all the moves to sanitize the security checkpoints along the Lagos –Seme border route.  Take for instance, the Badagry Division of the NPF, made up of various Police Stations were said to have mounted well over 30 checkpoints, at the last count.  

Informed sources told The Value News that the  vexed issue  had been discussed several times at the Seme JBS, comprising of the  sectional Heads, the Seme  Command of the NCS,  NIS, NDLEA, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, I DSS, and  the  Divisional Police Officer, DPO, of the  of the Seme Police Station .The sectional Heads, particular, those of the NPF and the Seme Command of the NCS,  had at several times  agreed to reduce their checkpoints on the road  but with little  or no action.

Compt. Timi Bomodi, the new Area Controller of Seme Command, who was said to have taken over from Dera Nnandi, the immediate past Area Controller of the Customs Command and now the current Chairman of the Seme JBS, who could not understand why there should be too many security agencies checkpoints along the Lagos-Seme -Abidjan corridor described as inhibiting trade by importers with their Clearing Agents may have gone back to the drawing board to address the problem squarely.

The Customs Comptroller who was said to have promised strong Leadership to the JBS from the onset was said to have held individual and collective Consultations before taking up the matter at the JBS level.

The Customs Compt. who had stressed the importance of the regular meetings of the JBS members at the Joint Border Post had said that  it provide valuable  intelligence and opportunities  to cross –fertilize  ideas  about border management’’, noting that this has led  information sharing among the agencies and the Command improved anti-smuggling operations.  Hear him:  collaboration holds the key to border management .

The Seme Command Area Controller may have been encouraged to take the bull by the horns with the advice of officials of the Border Management who said to have repeatedly said that that too many security agencies checkpoints along  Seme-Abidjan corridor was not helping in any way to promote trade between   Nigeria and other countries of the ECOWAS .

The ECOWAS, Border Management had said that a manageable number of Customs and Police checkpoints will still do the same job on the road compared to when there are too many security agencies checkpoints on the road involved in combating transnational organized crimes ranging from irregular migration, gun-running to smuggling of contraband like the Asian countries of Thailand par boiled rice and the Indian, agricultural rice or fairly used vehicles, into the country.

This may have informed why Compt. Bomodi, had made a bold statement by making the necessary interventions to clip the wings of the officers to ensure that that the issues that have come up several times for discussion at the JBS meetings like  anti-smuggling operations and the implementation of the ECOWAS  protocol  are handled with fewer checkpoints on the road.

He had his way. As at the time The Value News visited the Seme Border Community on an undercover investigation, on Thursday, 2nd, May, 2024, the usual large number of NPF, Seme Command, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja and Border Drill, Lagos Zonal office, and the NIS,   had been reduced drastically . A visitor heading to Seme for the first time will be shocked that there   was no much disturbance on the road by the security personnel, particular, the Seme Customs who were said to have been very professional in doing their vehicle checks. In the past, the security agencies personnel could surround one vehicle in search of Contraband like bees.

  A top official of the NIS, who spoke to The online Magazine  on condition of anonymity had confirmed that some of the Customs, NIS and NPF, personnel, who could not adapt to the new security arrangement at the  Laagos-Seme and Owode border routes were said to have taken advantage of the reopening of the border  between Nigeria and neighbouring Niger Republic by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu,  to seek for redeployment to the north western states of Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kaduna, Katsina, and  Jigawa  states where there are viable Customs , NIS and Border police Stations. It was not surprising that there have been total sanity along the Lagos-Seme  international  Border  route in the recent time.

Seme Border Community

Many VIP smugglers who were said to have taking advantage of the too many security agencies checkpoints on the road to carry out their nefarious activities on Land Creeks   but could no longer   do it because of the effectiveness of the security agencies , particular, Customs personnel on the road  were said to have relocated to Ogun state , where there are over 90   illegal smugglers routes, Saki and Iseyi, axis  under the Jurisdictions of the  Oyo/Osun Command  and the core  north to carry out their smuggling activities.

 A senior Customs officer who spoke to The online Magazine disclosed that for the first time in the last 10 years, smuggling on Land along the Seme – Abidjan corridor by land has reduced drastically as the smugglers had shifted their operations to the Creeks to carry out their nefarious activities, which calls to question  the job of Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogga, the Chief of Naval Staff, CNS’,  and Western Marine Command, Customs Amphibious Command personnel,  and the   overseeing the country water ways.

Enough on issues on the checkpoints. We turn to the Seme Command anti-smuggling operations over the last one year, described a very revealing.  Going by the Customs Comptroller report card, the Command was said to have made 168 Contraband seizures. This include 2,193 bags of foreign rice of 50 Kg each, and a truck load of beans, totaling 400 bags. The truck load of beans seizure was said to have been made   at one of the exit corridor at the Seme border community.

Intercepted truck load of beans by Seme Command patrol team officers

The Command was said to have also intercepted  81,930 litres , or three tankers load of Premium Motor Spirit, popular, petrol  and an additional 12,000, litres , with a Duty Paid Value DPV, of N8,, 347,680.00, on March 2nd, 2024.  

nine  fairly used vehicles,  1,425 general merchandise, 265 parcels  of cannabis sativa  and other narcotics , 149 kgs of codeine and two locally manufactured guns.  Valuation experts had put the Duty Paid value, DPV             , of the seized Contrabands including the nine fairly used vehicles and other items at N365,888,696.00.

There are indications  that the  Customs Comptroller, who s working according to the mandate given to him by Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, MFR, the Customs Comptroller General, to ensure that any smuggler caught in the act  was not spared to have arrested 13 suspects.   Compt. Bomodi, may have said it all when he declared that ‘’the continuous surveillance of the Seme border community by his ever vigilant officers had led to the Contraband seizures and the arrests that were made.

Going by the account of the Customs Comptroller,  six of the suspects are currently on Administrative bails, while three others were handed over to the NDLEA, and one to the  to the NPF,  in the spirit of inter-agency relationship for  further investigations. An insider confirmed that three of the suspects are still in Customs custody.

The Customs Area Controller, who is determined to clean up the joint border community may have sent a message to the smugglers and their collaborators that it is no longer going to be business as usual. He had  told those that cares to listen that he will not spare the smugglers whose ‘’ illicit businesses have been  significantly hindered by his men’’.      

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