By Suleiman Umaru
When President Muhammadu Buhari, said the Border Drill exercise inaugurated to enforce the Border closure with the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic,Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon was last August was a huge success because of the Contraband seizures being made in the Border Communities across the country, not many people took him serious.
This is because they saw it as an opportunity by the Katsina state born Nigerian President and his economic Managementteam and Advisers to prolong the continued closure of the Borders across the country with these neighboring countries .The katsina state born Nigerian President may have opened up on the activities of the adhoc Team based on the information volunteered to him by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS.
Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and the Customs Spokesperson, who is armed with the reports from the Border Drill Zonal Coordinators in Lagos , Owerri, Imo state and , Ilorin, Kaduna, and Bauchi, over the last seven months appears to have. The report of given credence to what the President had said about the activities of the Border Drill.
Given an insider information, the Customs Deputy Comptroller, noted that seven months into the Border Drill exrecise across the country.’’it has saved huge resources and improved national security’’ as experts had said that gun runners from the sahel region are no longer finding it easy to penetrate the country’s borders with the small and light weapon which before now regularly fall into the waiting hands of the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe based Islamic Fundamentalist Group, BokoHaram, the Islamic State of West African Province,ISWAP or Kidnappers.
He noted that local production of local rice had been given a boost as Benin Republic foreign parboiled rice based importers who turn Nigeria as their market had been crippled as they could no longer push their imports into the country. Virtually all the Warehouses in Cotonou and its environs and the warehouses in Niany and other major towns in Niger and Cameroon had been filled up with unsold stock of foreign rice. More worrisome was the number of ships loaded with foreign rice cargo on the high sea awaiting to be given a signal to sail to Benin Terminal , Cotonou and Bollore port in Benin Republicas the Dual port in Cameroon.
The Beninese and Cameroon Customs Administrations were said to collected the duties on these transit cargoes which are dumped in the Nigerian market .
As at Friday, March 6, 2020, going by the report from the office of Babagana Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA, who incidentally is the Chairman of the Joint Border Drill Operation across the country, 86,602 ‘’50Kg’’ bags of foreign parboiled had been seized from the daredevil smugglers across the country.
This is in addition to petrol, the seizure of 695 NPK Fertilizer,1,172 units of different models of vehicles, 2,997 drums filled with Premium Motor Sprit, PMS, popular, Petrol, 16,771 200 empty 200 litres drums of Petrol, 90 engine oil boats, 68 drums of groundnut oil, 26 trucks of 33,000 litres of Petrol each and 29,693 Jerrycans of 25 litres of Petrol each. The value of the seized items was put at about N7.4 billion.
Investigation by the Magazine shows that most of the ‘’25 ‘’litres Jerry cans, drums and tanker load of petrol were intercepted by the various sectors of the Border Drill , particular, in the north. Although the seven month-old Border closure is biting hard on the economies of these neighboring countries, particular, Benin and Niger, the Katsina state born Nigerian President was said to have made it clear to the members of the Committee set up by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Heads of State and Government, Headed by the President of Burkina Faso, at the instance of the leadership of the AfricanUnion, AU, that the country is committed to the ongoing Diplomatic engagements to finding a lasting solutions to the problems that necessitated the closure of the Borders across the country with the neighbouring African countries.
In spite of the Tripartite Committee Technical Committee meetings comprising of the West African countries of Nigeria, Beni and Niger, the ministers in-charge ofECOWAS Affairs and Trade of Benin,Burkina Faso, CotedÍvoire,Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Togo, were said to have met last February at Ouagadougou, Capital of Burkina Faso, to assess to assess the Border closure and its impact on the West African Sub-region.The report of the various Committees are very damming.
It is not surprising why the Katsina state born Nigerian President has given his words to the country is fully committed to the recommendations of the various Committees on the Border closure with the neighbouring African countries.
Even though Buhari, the Nigeria President has given his words to implement the report of the various Committee on the biting Border closure, cross-border traders may have to watch it. This is because the priority of the government remains to keep the country’s borders safe from any inimical activity that would compromise the national security.
This is bad news to Benin, Niger and Cameroon, as Buhari, appears t not to be in a hurry to reopen the closed borders with the neighboring African countries for now until they are ready to change for good by dealing with the smugglers using their country as base to sabotage Nigerian economy.
In a related development, Ali, the Customs Comptroller General , has kept his words to give Customs officers their promotions into their next rank asat when do. Between 2016 and now, Ali, the Customs Comptroller General , had conducted three promotion examinations and interviews for both junior and senior officers.
Last week , the Comptroller, gave approval for the release of the junior officers promotion result which is within his powers to do. A Statement by Attah, the Customs Spokesperson said 2. 974, junior officers were promoted to various ranks. Many had lost hope of wearing their newrank because of the delay in releasing the promotion examination result which was taken on January 1st, 2019.
According to him :the promotions were based on merit, Cumulative marks of annual performance, enaluation scores, written examination, seniority and availability of vacancies. A breakdown of the promoted junior officers show that 897 Assistant Inspectors of Customs were promoted to Inspectors of Customs, 1,426, Customs Assistants 1, were promoted to Assistant Inspectors of Customs, 123 Customs Assistant II, were said to have been promoted to Customs Assistant 1. The last but not the list among the promoted Junior officers were five Customs Assistants, who were said to have been promoted to Customs Assistant II. There were other junior officers who were promoted in the Staff support cadre that run into hundreds.
The Customs Comptroller General is optimistic that the elevation of the officers would ‘’motivate them to discharge their duties’’. With the release of the Junior officers Promotion result, the senior officers are eagerly looking up to Ali, to also put a smile on face by releasing their own promotion result. This where the Customs Comptroller General may have to work on , the minister of Finance, Budget and National planning , who is the Chairman of the Customs Board, in order to call for a meeting of the Board to consider and approve the senior officers promotion without further delay to enable the officers enjoy their new rank.