By Stephen Ubanna
Between February 27, 2020, and now, since the out- break of the Wuhan Town in province of China emerged Coronavirus virus, popular, COVID 19, smugglers operating in the porous border routes of the north central states of Kwara,kogi, Niger, and Benue , who had expected the Border Drills sector 3, operatives to slow down their anti-smuggling operations are no longer finding it funny.
Investigations by The Value News shows that instead of the Muhammed Uba garba, a former Comptroller of Seme Command and now ,Zonal Coordinator of the Border Drill sector 3, based in Ilorin, Kwara state, keeping to the Nigerian Center for Disease Control, NCDC and World Health Organisation , WHO , regulations of keeping safe distance f to avoid contacting the deadly disease, the Headquarters Roving Team appear to have come up harder on the smugglers operating between Nigeria and Benin Republic in the region. The smugglers who are never tired of new ideas and tactics to beat Customs personnel to it are worried over the renewed anti-smuggling war in the region.
The situation is so bad for the smugglers who had taken advantage of the COVID 19, in the recent time to increase their smuggling activities with the believe that Border Drill sector 3, and other Customs Formations personnel would not be on ground to confront them were said to have played into their hands at different routes across the region.
The Magazine findings shows that in the last one month, the loss suffered by the smugglers in the region to the Border Drill personnel are enormous. That much was confirmed by Chado Zakari, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs and the Border Drill sector 3 that Spokesperson. The Border Drill sector 3, spokesperson had said over a billion naira worth of goods including the arrests of 45 persons in connection with the seized items had een made in the last ten months in the region.
Given an insider information , about the activities of the Team in the last one month, which had yielded results,particular, the raid of a private warehouse at Abayawo Area of Ilorin West Local government of Kwara state used in warhousing smuggled rice. the Team were said to have evacuated 450 ‘’50’’ bags of rice from the warehouse to the Government Warehouse at Ilorin. The Team, according to sources had acted on information going by the way the operation was carried out without any suspicion by people who came into contact with the Customs personnel around the area which have forced them to make contact with the warehouse owners in the area to close shop.
The raid of the Warehouse in the Abayawo Area of the Ilorin West Local government, described as a haven for smugglers, may have sent a signal to other private warehouse owners that it was no longer going to be business as usual . The raid was said to have been followed up with the operation at the ITA-MERIN Area .
the Customs Headquarter’s Roving Team were said to have met the smugglers on ground offloading the Asian country of Thailand par boiled rice in a private residential quarters. It was bad news for the smugglers as they were said to have lost the 224 ‘’50’’ bags of rice to the Team.
Indeed, the successful raid of the Abayawo warehouse and the discovery that smugglers also use private residential quarters to warehouse smuggled rice and other food items appear have thrown the Ilorin West local government smugglers and their their Collaborators into confusion as the warehouse operators and landlords whose houses are used to warehouse smuggled food items kept their premises under lock and key to keep away Muhammed’s men prying eyes.
Prior to the Team resort to raid of private warehouses, in the Ilorin West, particular, they were said to have made the smuggling business unprofitable in the region by pursuing the smugglers into their hideouts . This is evident going by the various seizures ranging from rice, Jerrycans of vegetable oil, Drums of vegetable oil, Jerry cans of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol, Bundles of Textile materials, Foreign Fertilizers, cartons of different brands of Foreign beers, vehicles and Motorcycles that were intercepted .
An elated Muhammed, had said that the Team intercepted 1,657 ‘’50’’ bags of rice in one month of its operation alone. According to him the seizure had beefed up the ‘’50’’ bags of Foreign rice seizure of the Team in the last ten months to 14,813 bags., equivalent of 22 Trucks load of rice valued at about N451.686 million.
Other food items that were said to have been seized by the Border Drills sector 3 Team , according to him, include 282 Jerry cans of vegetable oil of 25 litres each, 898 Drums of Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, 1355 Jerry cans of Petrol of 25 litres each,28 bags of Foreign Fertilizer and 66 cartons of assorted beer. This is in addition to 26 units of vehicles and eight motorcycles.
Note that the 14,813’’50’’ or 22 Trucks load of seized rice were part of the 1.1 million or 158 Trucks load of rice that Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs, NCS, donated to the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development , under the close watch of Sadiya Umar-Farouk, for distribution to the poor and vulnerable Nigerians.
the donation had been made at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari to cushion the effect of the COVID 19, on the poor and the Vulnerable Nigerians throughout the 36 states of the Federation.
While there had been complaints of the rice delivery to Oyo state, in the south west geo-political region and Kano state, in the north west , from the Government Warehouses in the region, there had not been complaints against the food items sent from the Government Warehouses in north central or north west geo-political regions to any of the benefiting states in the north.
Giving the rate at which smugglers are playing into the hands of the Border Drill sector 3 personnel in the north central region with their smuggled food items, particular , rice and vegetable oil, Muhammed, the Zonal Coordinator has advised the public to ‘’embrace legitimate means of livelihood and avoid smugglings in all its ramifications ‘’.
He was said to have made it clear to those who had been arrested in connection with smuggling activities in the region that ‘’there is no retreat in the fight against smuggling in whatever disguise they may come’’.
The Border Drill sector 3 Coordinator was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen , particular , the smugglers, that they are combatant ready to halt their activities because thay are ‘’economic saboteurs’’. ` `