By Stephen Ubanna
For years, Katsina state, which have over 1,500 Km, boundary with the neighbouring Republic of Niger, that had forced President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, to make a declaration that only ‘’God can man the borders as the Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel –led Nigerian Customs service, NCS, has failed to do so’’.
There is no going saying the fact that there are 12 official land borders in the north western geopolitical region and more than 100 unapproved entry and exit routes used by smugglers to bring into the country the Republic of Niger Contraband transit cargoes from Bollore and Autonomous ports of Benin, Cotonou. Much of the illegal routes are said to be in Katsina, Buhari’s home state alone.
This may have forced Comptroller Dalha Chedi Wada, the Katsina Command Area Controller and his Management Team with the support of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller, NCS, to go back to the drawing board to re-strategise on how to keep the cross-border smugglers under close watch. He was said to have deployed more anti-smuggling Patrol Team officers to the Jibiya and Kongolam borders where the smuggling activities are more pronounced in the state.
He may have made the job of the officers much easier to transverse difficult terrains with the deployment of the new Patrol vans supplied by the Command by the Customs Authorities to help in suppressing the menace of smuggling activities in the state.
Recall that the aggrieved Community Leaders of Jbiya border town, one of the closed borders that was recently reopened by the Katsina state born Nigerian President had cried out over the hardship people encounter due ‘’to the large number of Customs personnel at the different check points in the state.
The Customs Comptroller had told those that cares to listen that along the 44Km Katsina-Jibiya road, the Command have three checkpoints. He had said that one is at located at Earth mile while the secondcheckpoint is at Agangaro and Da-Aru and not 30-40 as the Katsina people have made Nigerians to believe. He had said that the Command also have two Patrol bases at Natsitna and Makera respectively which are putting a close marking on the nefarious activities of the notorious smugglers in the state.
Many believe that Comptroller Wada may have chased out the smugglers along the Katsina-Jibiya road because he had made it clear to the checkpoint and Patrol Team officers and those at the checkpoints and other Patrol Teams across the state that any officer found ‘’to have compromised his position would be dealt with’’.
It was not surprising why the officers at the various check points and Patrol Teanm bases in the state have turned back on the third parties that may have been used by the smugglers to penetrate their ranks but laid in wait for them at strategic locations in the state. Indeed, the few who have dared the Comptroller Wada’s Patrol Team officers on the road and those at the checkpoints would never forget their experience in a hurry as they have lost both their goods and money to the government.
Signs that the Katsina state based smugglers are gradually turning a new leaf began to manifest last March when the Command anti-smuggling officers despite their spread in state intercepted only 432 bags of the Asian countries of Thailand par boiled rice and India Agricultural rice, including 284 jerry cans of 25 litres each of Petrol. The total Duty Paid Value, DPV, of the Contraband that was said to have been seized by the Command in that month of March was put at about N53.3million. Recall that the Command in January, had intercepted from the smugglers a trailer load of foreign rice and other contraband goods worth about N70 million in one operation alone. This appears to have become history as no foreign rice smuggler dare try it again without severly paying for it.
But with what is happening in Katsina where smugglers and Bandits are collaborating in attacking the Comman Personnel, in the border Communities that ought to have dampened the enthusiasm of the officers on the road in doing their job, but the reverse is the case. The officers appear to have become stronger, in confronting the smugglers and terrorists which may have forced many of them out of the way of the anti-smuggling officers ‘’to avoid being killed or losing their cargo to government’’.
The Contraband seizures by the Comptroller Wada led Katsina Customs Command between April 1st, 2022 and Tuesday, April 24, 2022, speaks volume. The officers at the various checkpoints and Patrol Team bases were said to have seized nine vehicles with a DPV, wort about N8.63 million.
One of such exotic vehicles that was said to have been intercepted and seized by the Command was a Toyota RAV 4 Jeep, which had already been numbered. The RAV 4, Jeep, with Registration Number, ABJ 919 AE has a DPV of N 4.32 million.Another big vehicle that was said to have been seized by the Command within the period under review was a fairly used Boxer Bus with Registration Number BMA 02 XA, which was said to have a DPV of N2.025 million. Enough of vehicle seizures by the Katina Command.
I Now, we turn to the area of Merchandise goods. The Command, was said to have intercepted 398 bags of foreign par boiled rice of 50Kg each, which was far lower than what it was in the past the where these economic saboteurs could easily enter the road with trucks load of foreign rice and still beat the Customs to it to discharge in their various warehouses in the state.
The officers were said to have also intercepted 95 jerry cans of Petrol of 25 litres each valued at N431,063.00.This is in addition ‘’to the seizure of Gas Cylinders of 50Kg each, 40Kg and 2.5Kg among other items, worth about N23 million. This brings the cumulative value of the Contraband seizures by the Command both vehicles and Merchandise goods, within the period under review to about N31. 454 million.
There are indications in both official and unofficial circles that the Contraband seizures by the Katsina Cutoms Command may further drop or increase as Comptroller Wada, has tightened up security at the borders across the state with the recent reopening of the Jibiya border by the Katsina state born Nigerian President. The Customs Comptroller may have tightened security along the Katsina-Jibiya road to effectively control the movement of goods and services within the Border Communities.