By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why Chedi Wada, acting Comptroller, Nigerian Customs Service, Katsina Command, which is an interventionist unit is getting tougher on the smugglers operating between Niger Republic and Katsina, home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, popular, MB, and a retired army General.
This is because on assumption of duties last March, he had visited the Command Out stations and border Communities in the state to familarise himself with the areas preparatory to launching his anti-smuggling war plan on the smugglers.
He was said to have also used the opportunity of the visits to talk to the Traditional rulers, district Heads and Community Leaders including other stakeholders in the state, urging them to advise their Youths to shun smuggling because of the numerous business opportunities in that have been provided in the state by the Nigerian President He
He was said to have deployed his wealth of experience in dealing with the unrepentant smugglers around the Seme Jurisdiction, owode and Badagry axis including those operating in the 15 Creeks and Waterways scattered in the area to deal with the Hatsina state smugglers.
With the mandate given to him by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, to ensure that no Contrraband enters or leaves the country, Wada, was said to have tightened up security at the Land border areas in the state, with a warning to the officers ” not to compromise in the discharge of their duties because of the dire consequences. The Patrol Team Leaders and the officers at the outstations may have gotten his message right to go out and make seizures .
A senior officer who spoke to The Value News on condition of anonymity disclosed that the Patrol Team Leaders now Compete among themselves to make seizures of Contraband which are mostly transit cargoes re-exported from the neighbouring West African country Of Benin republic Autonomous port, Benin, Cotonou and Bollore port to the land-locked country of Niger. Some of these re-exported transit cargoes, according informed sources develop wings on the road to enter the Nigerian market. It is these smuggled cargoes that fall into into waiting hands of Wada’s officers on the road or in the bushes.
The Magazine learnt that some prominent people in the state including Traditional rulers had used their contacts in the service to penetrate the ranks of the Customs Command to force them tosoft pedal in their anti-smuggling drive in the President’s home state but no luck.
Instead, Wada, and his officers were said to have intensified their anti-smuggling war in the state, thus making things more difficult for the dire-hard smugglers who are no longer finding funny it because of the millions of naira worth of goods ranging from fairly used vehicles, foreign rice, foreign Macaroni, Spaghetti, and Vegetable oil including Foreign textiles which they lose to Customs Patrol Teams on a daily basis.
The Patrol Team officers were said to have been acting on information volunteered by credible informants to carry out their duties. The Contraband items that were said to have been seized by the katsina Command within the one month under review included 486 bags of the Asian country of Thailand foreign par boiled rice, m 304 cartons spaghetti, 97 Jerry cans of 25 litres of Vegetable oil, 98 bags of foreign sugar, 12 cartons of Macaroni and 21 cartons of foreign couscous.
This in addition to the interception of nine vehicles,six cartons of tomato paste, 30 cartons of foreign milky creamer and 32 Jerry cans of Premium Motor Spirit, popular, petrol.
There is no gain saying the fact that Nigeria share more than 1,500 Kilometers of border with Niger, which the Katsina state born Nigerian President had said could only be ”effectively manned by God and not by Customs personnel.
It is instructive to note that most of the illegal borders between Nigeria and Niger are scattered all over Katsina state, which had given acting Comptroller Wada and his officers much job to do.’’Wada and his officers are like ubiquitous bees in the Katsina state pursuing smugglers’’, remarked a district Head.
If it is possible for the aggrieved people of the state who are not happy with acting Comptroller Wada, to have access to Ali, the Customs Comptroller General to ask him to redeploy him to another Interventionist Command, they would not hesitate do so so because he is giving them tough time in their smuggling activities.
In a related development , Malanta Yusuf, Comptroller, Apapa Command ,which controls the Apapa port, described as one the biggest port in the in the West Africa sub-region handling over 70% of the cargo coming into the Nigerian market was said to have made some spectacular Contraband seizures.
With several bonded Terminal terminals under the control of the Command within the Lagos Metropolis, these appear to have kept the anti-smuggling officers busy. Note that the importer with their agents may have found a way of importing Tramadol Pharmaceutical drugs through the APpapa port and transferring it to the private bonded terminals to take delivery of it.
This may have forced Comptroller Yusuf and his Enforcement officers to beam their search light at the bonded terminals. This appears to be yielding result.This is evident going by the recent seizure of 4 x ‘’40’’ Container at APMT, described as the biggest Container terminal in the West African sub-region and SIFAX bonded Terminal 3, located at Ijora, allegedly laden with unregistered Pharmaceutical products.
The Examination officers, comprising of Customs personnel and officials from other security agencies including officials of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, were said to have discovered 674 cartons of Tramadol tablets in 225mg and 120mg respectively. This is in addition to 805 cartons of codeine syrup in 100ml, that were said to have been discovered on one of the Containers.
Yusuf, the ApAapa Command Area Comptroller had said that the importation of the Pharmaceutical products” contravened sections 46 and 47 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, CAP C45, LFN2004”.The Customs Comptroller who could not hide his feelings s disclosed hat ‘’these dangerous drugs” pose a threat to the health of Youths and the economic well-being of the country’’.
Though, Apapa Command not an interventionist Cunit, but its anti-smuggling war had repeatedly resulted in the interception and seizure of Containers ladden with Contraband goods. It was said to have also intercepted two Containers of unprocessed wood and one Container of Copper wire in its recent operations at APMT AND sifax 3, Bonded terminal.. Valuation experts put the value of the seized items at about N 1.76 billion.
Recall that last April, the Apapa Customs Command, had intercepted a ‘’40’’ Container loaded with 805 cartons of Codeine syrup and 124, cartons of Tramadol Capsules at the SIFAX2 bonded terminal in Lagos.
The April drugs seized by the Command were said to have been loaded in a ‘’40’’ Container with registration No. TEMU 6164202. The drugs were said to have been Concealed in a thousand, four hundred and eight hot pots.
This is to show how desperate that the fraudulent importers with their agents are to bring banned Pharmaceutical products into the country through the Apapa port which are subsequently transferred to any of the bonded terminals under the Command on arrangement to facilitate the clearing process. Buut they have to watch it as Comptroller Yususf and his Enforcement officers have known their tricks and are out for them.