By Stephen Ubanna
Barely two weeks of resuming at Ilorin , Capital of Kwara state, north central , Nigeria, and operational base of the Joint Border Drills , popular, Operation Swift Response, and Mohammed Uba Garba, a former Comptroller of Seme Command and now acting sector 3, Commander appear set to re-enact all what he did at Federal Operations Units, FOU Zone C and A and his former in the anti-smuggling war that forced many smugglers to go underground.
As an experienced anti-smuggling officer, who knew that the only to achieve result in the region would be be carry both the critical stakeholders in the region and the officers along was said to have used first one week at Ilorin to hold Consultations with the people. The close interaction with the people including Officers attached to Border Drills operation in the region , may have given him aclue a clue that much needed to be done in the region, particular, Baruten local government area of Kwara state.
S a prelude to starting his operations in the region, he was said to had visited the Border Communities in Baruten local government area of the state which included Alapa, Ilesha-Baruba, Yaskira, Okuta and the notorious Chikanda Community, which earned its notoriety because of the difficult terrain. He was said to have used the opportunity of the tour of the Local government Area to drum the support of the traditional rulers and the Youths including the officials of the Independent Marketers Association of Nigeria, IPMAN, in the anti-smuggling war.
Eyewitness account disclosed that at the various meetings with the Emirs of the Border Communities, he had solicited their support in information and sharing in order to bring the smugglers to their knees.The Customs Comptroller may have also realised the important role which the Youths, IPMAN and other stakholders in the Border Communities could play in the renewed anti-smuggling war in the state and the region in general that he was said to have held a Town Hall meeting with them to further sensitise them on the dangers of smuggling to the economy.
The Border Drills sector 3, Commander may have won the heart o Umar Sariki Sabikpasi II, the Emir of Yashkira, who was said to have promised to support the Team to do their work. The Emir, had said that most of the smuggling activities that take place in his area of jurisdiction were carried out by non –indigenes.
The Yashkira Monarch may have gladdened the heart of the Customs sector 3 Border Drill Commander when he promisd to work with the Team in area of Information gathering and sharing. He may have set the stage for other Monarchs in the Border Communities in the Baruten local government area to follow to support the Border Drills Operation, particular, in Kwara.
With the mandate given to Muhammed, the former seme Command Area Comptroller by Ali, the Comptroller General to ensure that the activities of smugglers in the north central region are brought down to the barest minimum in order to boost local production of rice, the item mostly smuggled into the country, as well as enhance the country’s Border security , he said to have prepared the mind of the officers over the challenges ahead.
Addressing the staff officers and the 11 Team leaders of the Border Drills operation in the region at the heavily guarded Ilorin /Alapa checkpoint, he was said to have informed them that the exercise was not to witch hunt or obstruct legal trade but to force the neighbouring countries who provide safe passage for the smugglers to comply with the Economic Community of West African States , ECOWAS, Trade Protocols. The Joint Border Drill Officers may have got the message as they were poised for action to ecell in the region by ensuring that the government policy that comes in or goes outside the country was maintained.
Note that the renewed Border Drills Operation the north central region which covers Kwara, Niger, Kogi and Benue states have become the talk of the day in the recent time in the states. . The Staff officers and the Team leaders were said to have read the riot act to their members to sit up to avoid running into the sector Commander’s trouble, described in Customs circles as a moving Train. Ready to crush any smuggler tanding on his way.
Yakubu Dalandi, the Speaker of the Kwara state House of Assembly may have known that there is trouble ahead for smugglers in his Border Community that he he was said to have paid a courtesy call to Muhammed in his Ilorin office to ensure that people who engage in genuine trade were not harassed or their goods seized.
Recall that the sector 3, Commander had told the Kwara state House of Assembly Speaker that the government initiated the Border Drills Operation which had resulted into the partial closure of the borders with the neighbouring West African countries of Benin, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon, since last August to curtail the rate of informal of informal trade in the country.
, Babaga Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA, and who is incidentally the National Cordinator of the programme and Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, the lead agency, appear to have taken the national assignment serious going by their mandate to the sector Commanders stop the further loss of the country’s revenue to these countries through the informal trade on illicit goods.
Note that the country over the years had lost billions of naira to these neighbouring countries because of the undeclared volume of prohibited cargoes smuggled into the co country. The Only last year , the NCS, paid into the Federation Account over N1.3 trillio, which could not have been possible, both for the c Border Closure which had forced many importers who in the past patronise Cotonou Terminal and Bollore port in Benin Republic as well as the Cameroonian ports to relocate to Nigerian ports, early abandoned over alleged high Cost of business transactions.
They may have been forced to relocate to Nigerian ports as the era of informal trade on illicit goods was ove because of the on-going Border Drills . Joseph Attah ,a Deputy Comptroller and Customs Spokesperson, had said that the Customs paid into the Federation Account about N1342 trillion. Attah averred that the amount generated was over the target of N937. 286 billion set for 2019 by about N405 billion and about N 139.242 billion over the sum of N1202 generated in 2018.There is no gain saying the fact much of the these amount paid into the Federation Account could have entered into private pockets both for the Border Closure. This shows the extent to which Benin Republic, Niger and Cameroon , have been cheating Nigeria, through informal trade over the years.
Insiders told the Value News that ever since Muhammed settle at Ilorin to fully confront the smugglers in the nor central geo-political region, information had round, forcing many of the smugglers who could not stand his Team superior fire power to relocate to far north and south western states of Ogun, Oyo and Osun to carry out their nefarious trade.
Some of others were said gone underground to avoid losing both their goods and money to Ali’s men On the road at the various sectors of the Border Drills across the country.