Seme:VIP Smugglers Gnash Their Teeth

 By Stephen Ubanna

 For much of last year and early this year, some of the dealers, of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, Petrol, who got their allocation of the product for sale in the Nigerian market  from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, now baptized, Nigerian National Petroleum Development Company Limited, NNPC, with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill  by the National Assembly and which had been assented into Law by  President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General,  are no longer finding it funny at Seme and Badagry axis to do their illegal business.

This is because of the close surveillance that have been mounted at the creeks and beaches  around the Seme jurisdictions and Badagry axis by Abuabakar Dakargari, an Assistant Comptroller led Operations Team, at the instance of Comptroller Bello Mohammed Jibo, the Seme Command Area controller.

The Team, which have the backing of the Customs Comptroller, may have been encouraged to do so  because of the government policy that had made it clear that petrol meant for local consumption, which are mostly imported through subsidy must not be allowed to be smuggled to Republic of Benin or any other neighbouring country in the West or Central African sub-region.

This year, 2022, the Katsina state born Nigerian President had requested the National Assembly to approve  N4 trillion to subsidise the importation of petrol into the country for local consumption.

Darkingari, an Customs Assistant Comptroller and his Team members surveillance of the Creeks and Beaches, around the Seme jurisdictions and Badagry axis appear to have paid off. This is evident with the consistent seizure of thousands of  jerrycans of petrol of 25 litres each at some of these Creeks and beaches .  

customs Intercepted Jerry cans of of 25 Litres Each Of Petrol

   Only recently the Team had intercepted over 700 Jerrycans of 25 litres each at one of the unknown beaches that was said to have been arranged to be smuggled into the Beninoa market. The Value News had cited some of the jerrycans of Petrol at the Command Enforcement Unit on Wednesday, April 26, 2022, but could not take the pictures because of the tight security.

The question on the lips of most people was: What had the Command been doing with all the thousands of jerrycans of petrol of 25 litres each that had been intercepted and seized within the Seme jurisdictions and Badagry axis between December 2021 and now.

Recall that at different times the Customs Assistant Comptroller, who looked Calm, as if he could not hurt a fly,  but deadly on Patrol with his officers, had intercepted 1,300 jerrycans of 25 litres each of petrol or 39,000 litres of petrol, which is over a tanker of petrol, by six litres, 1,065 and 1,050 other Jerrycans of 25 itres each of petrol.

Being an inflammable product, that could not be kept in a place for too ong, an informed source told The Value News online Magazine that the Customs Comptroller General, Hameed Ali, a retired Army Army Colonel, who who may have gotten the approval of the Katsina  state born Nigerian President , may have directed the Seme Command Area Controller and  other Interventionist units which make Petrol seizures in their  respective areas of jurisdiction including the Headquarters Strike Force and Joint Borders Patrol Tam, to distribute the product to the various security agencies and take its share as well. The  stakeholders at the Border Communities were said not have been left.

Compt. Jibo: Seme Command Area Controller

Perhaps, this may have informed why Comptroller Jibo, had distributed the seized PMS, between December and early April, 2022, to all the agencies at the border Community. The agencies that were said to have benefited from the petrol sharing included the military, Police Divisions At Seme and Badagry axis, Department of State Security DSS, National Agency For Food and Drug Administration, Nigerian Immigration Service, NAFDAC, Nigerian Drug Law enforcement Agency , NDLEA, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Commission,, NSCDC among others.

Note that the interception of petrol by the Seme Command Operation Team members may not have been concentrated in the Creeks and Beaches alone. The Seme Customs Area Controller was said to have read the riot act to the officers  at the Gbaji and other checkpoints along the Lagos-Badagry road  the Owode axisis including those on Patrol, to ensure that those low profile smugglers, such as market women, Okada riders and Taxi drivers plying the Badagry-Seme route including KEKE riders who information had leaked out tip security agencies personnel on the road to cross the checkpoints to stamp their foot down to ensure that the right thing is done.

There are indications that some of the some of the security agencies personeel, particular, the Customs and Force Operative collect between N200.00 or N500 tip from such low profile smugglers to allow them pass with their contraband that will be taken to the Beninoa market through unapproved bush routes.

The Customs Comptroller may have beamed his search light on what is happening at the various checkpoints within the Seme jurisdictions and other areas to put that to stop because of the bad name it is giving to the Command at both official and unofficial quarters.

The Magazine could see the effect of the Seme Command, Area Controller’s tough measures, working out as the low profile, particular, the women and Okada riders as well as the KEKE riders have disappeared from the road.Even the taxi drivers plying the Badagry and Seme road, who load in small jerrycans of five litres, and sachets pretending to use it to top their fuel tank have stopped for fear of losing it to Comptroller Jibo’s men.

The fallout was that most of the security agencies officers on the road, particular,the police and some Customs officers at the checkpoints are no longer happy that the about the Taxi drivers are no longer carrying load. Even the popular Yello, Lagos Commercial Buses that plies the Lagos -Seme route have reduced considerably because of the drivers policy of ”no load”.

The worry of many was that officials of the other security agencies at the Seme Border Community and its environs, have left the job of policing the petrol smugglers to the Customs personnel alone for their own pecuniary gains. A top security official had informed the Magazine that apart from the military which have at one –time or the other made petrol sezuires which was handed over to the Seme Customs Command Authorities, no other agency had done it, not even the NSCDC.

Officials of the Nigerian Operation Swift Response, OPSR, a joint anti-bunkering Team which have commenced Patrol with their Counterparts from the Republics of Benin and Niger, were said to have visited the Seme Area Controller recently where they held a closed door meeting on how to tackle the menace.

Ali, the Customs Comptroller General had repeatedly said that” the OSR, has transformed into Nigeria’s Joint Border Patrol Team, in a renewed effort to combat transnational smuggling along the borders of the three West African countries”.

Note that the OSR,  was launched in 2019 and Coordinated  by the office of the National Security Adviser,  NSA, under the close watch of Babagana Munguno, a retired Army Major General, which  Comptroller Joseph Attah, the then Customs spokesman and now Comptroller , Kebbi Command, basically an anti-smuggling  unit, had said  that ‘’it was  part of  a tripartite operation, comprising of Benin, Niger and Nigeria security personnel’’.

Many believe that the OSR visit to the Customs Comptroller would make a remarkable difference in the anti-bukering operation at the Seme jurisdictions and its environs.Ahead of the Eid-ul-Fitr Festival, in which the Federal government, had declared Monday, May 2, 2022 and Tuesday, May 3, 2022, , the Seme Area Controller, was said to have further tightened up security around the border communities in its areas of jurisdiction, ”to ensure that no Contraband enters or leaves the country to Republic of Benin or any other country in the West Coast or the Central African sub-region through the Creeks or Beaches”.

This may have forced most of the VIP Contraband  and petrol smugglers who had expected to make good money during this short holiday period with the believe that most of the Customs Operatives will travel have been disappointed. It is not surprising why some of them who had invested their money to buy Tanker load of petrol to be filled in Jjerrycans of 25 litres each that would be smuggled into the Beninoa market or other countries in the West African sub-region are gnashing their teeth that hey have lost out.  

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *