Seme: Empty International Bonded Terminal As Compt.  Jibo Fights Smugglers To A Standstill

By Stephen Ubanna

Given the tight security at the Seme International Onded Terminal, SIBT, licensed by the Hameed Ali, a retired  Army Colonel ,  led Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, and  operated  by one Alhaji Wasiu, alias ‘’Mobile Terminal’’ one would have expected  that  the tight security was informed  by the  large volume of work at the terminal in to protect the workers  from intruders.

 Far from it. A  visitor to the terminal would be  shocked at what is on  ground at the  terminal: low activity. Many had expected at the bonded terminal in Lagos where there is  block stacking of Containers to  be the same  at the Seme International Bonded terminal giving the government policy that transit Containers  must be transferred to the country in their original form. this could have given the officers more job to do. There is no gainsaying the fact that the examination and releasing Officers are ready to do their job but are are limited by the Benin Customs Authorities, which are transferring the Containers to the Seme International Bonded terminal in trickles.

Compt. Jibo: Working Round The Clock To Make Seme Jurisdictions A No Go Area For Smugglers

 Nigerians  import cargo from neighbouring West African country of Benin including Togo, CoteIvoire and Ghana.  They believe that if these countries had cue to the Nigerian policy, the Seme International Bonded terminal will  be struggling for space to keep the transit cargoes but this not the case.

 The situation at the terminal , may have  been exposed   by  the scores of casual workers at  the terminal exit  gate awaiting to be called  into the terminal  premises for job to done, fueling speculations making the rounds that it is an’’ empty terminal’’.

 One of the casual workers who  claimed to be an agent before being forced into doing the menial  job  to  make living  had said that they  could be within and around the  exit  gate  , a whole day and  they  would never invited to unstuff a Container  that had been transferred to the terminal from Benin Republic  Automous port of Benin or Bollore port

The fallout  was that  many of them have to beg to go back  home for that and resume the next day to continue the waiting game. The agent turned casual worker at the Seme International Bonded Terminal  had said that revealed that the trucks laden Containers from the two Benin Reupublic   seaports ,   come into the  terminal in trickles  against the expectation of the agents.

 He noted that when the terminal was opened last year, importers with their Clearing agents were very happy , that the problem being encountered  at the Benin ports would soon be a thing  of their cargoes as their transit  goods would be taken to the terminal  in their Original form  for them to take delivery . This is not to be as one  would count the number of truck laden Containerised  cargoes that enters the terminal from Benin Repuvlic , daily. According to another casual worker, it ranges between one to five Container loads of cargoes , daily. The Magazine could  Authoritatively confirm that this true.

It is instructive to note tat at the time  the Magazine  was at the Seme International  Bond Terminal on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, it was not easy entering the premises because of’’ the tight security mounted at the exit gate.  The Magazine was, however,  directed to talk to one of the  officials through an opening  by the window  which  was not    quite different from what obtains in the prison  where   Warders had to send  message  through the hole    prisoners.

 The Magazine had posed some questions to the Officials met on ground who turned out to be one of their security personnel after introducing  the identity. This may have encouraged him after Consultations with a higher Authority,  who incidentally is a Youth Corper, serving in  the Terminal Human Resources Department who may have  given an order for me to  allowed in.

 Being a Human Resources Department ahoc Staff, may have limited  her understanding of the Operational activities at the terminal. She could not volunteer any information  or reasons for’’ the low activities at the terminal’’ , stating that the only  person who could respond to such questions  was the Terminal Manager,  identified as  one Adetona Abidemi, who was not on Seat  at the time of the visit.

 While inside the terminal, the Magazine too time out to feed his eyes with the modern cargo delivery equipment that had been procured  by the Operator  for the business. Unconfirmed report has it that in spite of the fact that the SIBT, is not  doing well  at present , there are indications that the Customs Authorities  are also planning to handover the  Customs Trailer Park , also located at the Seme Border Community  to the Seme International Bonded Terminal Operator to manage.  The Magazine took up the  matter of the matter of the low activities at the  terminal barely one  year of reopening for operations  in a telephone Conserversation but on Thursday, February 18, 2022, but was abruptly cut off to enable him  attend to some official matters , promising to return the call. But that was how far he could go.

   Efforts to speak to  speak toOjinma Onyekachi,  alias Sule,   Chairman, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents , ANLCA, Seme Chapter, did not   materialize as he was said to  have gone out on official enegagement.

The Magazine  was said to have taken advantage of the  visit to the  Seme Land  Border Community International Bonded Terminal to visit the Command  Operation Team office, but was shocked  at what

 While at the terminal exit gate on  Wednesday, February 16, 2022,  one of the trucks laden with a ‘’40’’ Container had arrived from the Autonous port of Benin to the terminal to discharge  and return the Container back to the Benin Republic  seaport for onward transfer to the country of origin,  which  a source confirmed  was the Asian country of China. 

 Inside the terminal, The Magazine  had  cited some Customs and other security agencies  personnel  involved in the examination waiting  to do their job. It was therefore not very surprising that they were very happy when a truck ladden with a ‘’40’’ Container arrived the terminal  on the said Wednesday expected to keep them and the casual workers who were said to have been idle.

A   senior Customs officer who spoke to The Magazine  disclosed that the low activity at the terminal may  not be due to  lack of patronage by  the Nigerian transit cargo importers with their agents but as  a result of the ‘’sit down de loo attitude’’,  of the Importers’’, who are believed  to be studying the 2022, government Fiscal  policy to see the direction  the policies are going  before placing order for their  goods for sale in the Nigerian markets. The officer is optimistic that low activities at the Seme International Bonded terminal will  pick up in March 2022.

 But an agent  who spoke to  The Magazine described the Officer’s remarks as a ‘’word of  consolation’’as the Beninoa  Authorities  are not ready to give a soft landing to the Nigerian importers  using the  neighbouring w West African country’s seaports to take   stressing that it will take long for the terminal to bounce back  to full economic activities as  most of the big –time importers with their agents  have relocated from the  Seme border post to the Lagos port of Apapa, Tin-can Island to take delivery of their Containerised cargoes while some had relocated to Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, to take delivery of their vehicles import.  The Magazine had on several occasions cited Ekene Onyebchi, one of the big time agents at Seme Land Border and now National Association of Government freight Forwarders , NAGAFF, Chairman, Seme Chapter, at Headquarters Strike Force , Team A, office and Federal Operations Unit, Ikeja, Lagos, over undisclosed reasons.

 The worry of  may was that  even without the establishment of the Seme International Bonded Terminal, the Semand , had  processed 179 trucks, for import baggage, though it had captured  713 trucks  with various between December 16, 2020 and June 2021. They had expected it to be more  with the  establishment of International Bonded Terminal at the Lnad Border Community but the reverse is the case as one can count on his number fingers the number of Containerised cargoes  transferred from Benin  Republic and other  West African countries that had been cleared at the Terminal between 2021 and now.  This is where Alhaji Wasiu, the terminal Operator, may have to put in ore efforts to  encourage  these West African countries  expedite action in transferring more  transit Containers to the terminal as the importers with the Clearing agents are waiting in the wings to take delivery of their cargoes.

Abuabakar Dankingari, and Assistant Comptroller , overseeing the Team and his Team  members are doing: making Contraband seizures a daily thing without ceasing , thus ,turning the premises into  a warehouse of seized vehicles as the Government warehouse remises   has little or no space to accommodate more intercepted  vehicles or products  from  smuggglers  as it is  filled  to the brim with Contraband , particular, foreign par boiled rice

The katsina born Nigerian President had in January 1, 2017, banned the importation of Foreign rice and vehicles into the country through the Land borders  across the country.  The Magazine cited the bus that had had  Concealed  11 parcels of Cocain that was intercepted by the Team last year at the Team’s office , amidst tight security.

 A visitor seeing the Customs  Customs Assistant for the first time would think he cannot hurt a fly because of his ‘’gentle and calm looks but deadly in operations that he has no sympathy for  contraband smugglers on Land, beaches  and creeks within and around the Seme Jurisdictions and the Badagry  axis.  The big time Premium Motor Spirit , popular, Petrol smugglers , would never forget in a hurry , as he has disposed many of them thousands of Jerrycans ,  25 litres each of petrol, worth  millions of naira, which had turned to government property.  Many  fear coming to talking to him or sending third parties to him for  fear  of  been arrested and detained.  Many believe that he could  achieve that much  for the Command  because he has the backing t of the  Area Comptroller  who  was   said to have given the Team , all the necessary working tools in order to deliver on their mandate.  A closer  look at the Operational Strategy  of ssistant Comptroller Dankingari  and Mohammed Abdullahi, his Counterpart  at the FOU, Zone A, shows a lot of similarities both in action and behavior. The duo look’’ Calm and unpredictable’’, an Officer remarked.

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