By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerge why effective supervision of Seme Command by Comptroller Bello Mohammed Jibo, have brought about total sanity for Customs operations at the border community and along the Lagos- Badgry road and the creeks over the last two years.
This is because the Customs Comptroller, takes time out to supervise officers at the checkpoints and patrol Teams to ensure they do the right thing without compromising to do their work. This appears to have paid off. The Seme Area Comptroller was said to have reprimanded officers found not have cue into the management policy to clear the Seme Jurisdictions of the low and high profile smugglers who use motorcycles, Keke, and exotic vehicles to smuggle Contraband particular, Foreign par boiled rice into the country and premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, out of the country, to the neighbouring West African country of Benin. Officers, who were said to have been churning out spectacular Contraband seizures were said to have been rewarded as a way to encourage them to do more.
A visitor to Seme in the recent time would be surprised that the low profile smugglers who uses motorcycles and Keke, to smuggle Petrol, foreign par boiled rice and poultry products, have completely disappeared along the Lagos- Badagry route to avoid playing into Comptroller Jibo’s hands.
This is evident by what is happening at the Command anti-bunkering checkpoint at the foot of the Gbaji bridge. The anti-bunkering officers had lined up empty Jerycans of 25 litres each to transfer five litres of Jerry cans of petrol that will be intercepted from the low profile smugglers but are currently having little or no job to do on the road alongside their Federal Operations, FOU, Zone A,Ikeja, Lagos, Counterparts. This is most of the Most of the motorcycle and Keke, riders have deserted the road.
A petro attendant at a Ba filling station around the Badagry round about who spoke to the Value News on condition of anonymity disclosed that the station is no longer making good sales as most of the low profile petrol buyers are no longer coming around to buy the product because of what they have gone through in the recent time time in the hands of Seme Command Checkpoint officers along the Lagos-Sme road, losingtheir market to tComptroller Jibo’s men who have refused to be compromised.
Those who are used to making bookings at the various checkpoints to pass with their Contraband at night were said to have stopped for fear of Comptroller’s Jibo Operations Team headed by Abubakar Dankigari, an Assistant Comptroller, who could strike at any time, without warning and cart away the goods to the Governemnt Warehouse at the Seme border Community.
The Magazine took time out to observe what is happening around the foot of the Gbaji Bridge, where virtually all the Customs Interventionist Units at the Seme Land border have their checkpoint and foundout that most of the officers are no longer happy that the motorcycles, Keke riders and the Commercial buses, as well as other cross-border vehicles which carry load have stopped. The usual question asked the driver of a vehicle stopped for routine check was any load in the booth. If the driver’s rspons is nothing, the officer would be very unhappy and would band the bang the vehicle and ask the driver to go angrily.
While Comptroller Jibo appears to have forced the illegal traders off the Lagos-Badagry road, some stakeholders who were said to have approached him to soft pedal to give the people a breather, now that the Idiroko border has been reopened by President Muhammadu Buhari were said to have been disappointed by his response, insisting that he would only tolerate genuine traders around the Seme Jurisdictions.
He was said to made it to clear to those that cares to listen that he will not take anything other than seeing ‘’the right thing being done by the cross border traders’. He may have advised those who could no longer cope with the tough anti-smuggling measures of the Command to go other areas to practice their nefarious trade as the Seme Jurisdictions is a no go Area.
A senior official of the Nigerian Immigratiion Service, NIS, had said that there are over 140 illegal smuggler routes that dotted the nooks and crannies of Ogun state including creeks, used by the cross-border traders who engage the services of smugglers to practice their nefarious trade.A taxi driver plying the Lagos-Seme route, confirmed that most of the low profile traders Customers, who smuggle petrol, in cans and five litre Jeyy cans, have relocated to Ogun state to do what they know best: smuggling .
While Comptroller Jibo has made the Lagos –Badagry route a no go area for the low and high profile petrol and foreign par boiled rice smugglers, some Made –in Nigeria goods, loaded in Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Trucks are said to be regularly passing through the Seme Border Community to the West Coast market on a daily and weekly basis, ranging from Cement, Steel products to beverages and drinks cans. This may have given Seme Command export
A senior Customs officer at the Seme Border Community told the Magazine that ‘’African Foundries, which have its Factory located at Agbara Industrial Estate steel, which compete favourably with foreign Steel Manufactured products such as Iron rods,Iron Coils, angles, channels and pipes and other wire related products have already entered Togo and the neighbouring Benin Republic market and more Customers from other West African countries are also placing order for the African Foundries Steel products.
Informed sources told The Magazine that most of the Company’s one million metric tones of steel produced annually, are currently being exported to these Wes African countries. It is instructive to not that almost on a daily and weekly basis, scores of Trucks of African Foundries loaded with its steel products line up the Lagos-Badagry rout for export to the West coast market. The Magazine cited some of the African Foundries trucks around the Seme border Community on Wednesday, May 25, 2022.
Another Nigerian Company located at the Agbara Industrial Estate, that was said to entered the West Coast and making waves because of the high demand for its products , according to informed sources was GZI Industries Limited Limited, which was said to have commenced production of aluminium cans for the beverage and drinks industry.
Prior to the establishment of the industry in Nigeria, which is now serving both the local and West Coast market, Nigeria Beverage and drinks industries, including Guiness Nigeria limited and Nigeria Breweries plc, imports 100% of its cans, which was costing the Companies millions of the North American Country of the United States , US, dollars annually to import from China through the Lagos ports of Apapa, and Tin can Island port or through the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou, Benin Republic..
Given the high demand for the Company’s manufactured can s by the Beverages and drinks industry in Nigeria and the West Coast market, particular, Togo and Benin Republic, may have informed why the Company, in the last one year is currently moving ahead to double its yearly production capacity to 1.2 billion cans per year and facilitating export to the to the West Coast market. A company source confirms that the GZI company manufactures both long, and slim cans currently used for energy drinks, along with the 33cl and 50cl beverage cans that it now produces for the drink Industries.
An insider confirmed that in one month, the company may decide to produce the branded Cans for, Guness Breweries and in the next month it may take the contract to manufacture for a Togolese or Beninois Beverage or drinks Industry.
Penultimate week, the Magazine, took time out to look into the Seme International bonded terminal premises and found several trucks loaded with export cargoes from African foundries and GZI. Some clearing agents who spoke to The Magazine on condition of anonymity disclosed that it will be better to turn the Seme bordercommunity for the use of exporters of Made in Nigeria, goods to the West and Central African markets, as Since the Nigeria bound transit imported cargoes through the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou and Bollore port,in Benin Republic, are not coming into the country as expected due to the country unfavourable Fiscal policy , which had slammed heavy tansit fees on such cargoesforcing may Transit cargo owners to abandon their goods at the p Benin ports.
Until African Foundries and GZI, and Nigerian Companies entered the West Coast market with their products, Dangote Industries, which exports Dangote Cement, have dominated the ECOWAS, market. This is evident with the number of Dangote Trucks, loaded with Cement,that passes, through the Seme Border Community, on a daily basis, to the neighbouring West African countries. Take for instance in 2021, the Companies, including the Dngote Industries, which had dominated the Weest Coast market, had exported 348,827,775 metric tonnes of goods with the Free On Board , FOB, value of about N4.3 billion. There are indications that the export figure of the Made in Nigeria goods that had flooded the West Coast market would be higher this 2022, with the entrance of African Foundries and GZI, and othe CnIGERIAN Compnies, which are in high demand in the West Coast and Central African markets.
For now, those who are still finding it difficult to penetrate the West Coast market, are the petty traders, who engage in group purchase of products which are exported to the West coast market through third parties. This is because of the difficult polies that had been put in place by Godwin Emefiele led Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, that they must repatriate their profits to the country through the apex Bank in dollars. This may have forced many of them to stop the export business which could have made the Seme Border Community and export hub in the West and Central African sub region.