By Stephen Ubanna
In spite of the low economic activities and large presence of Border Drill, Lagos Zonal office, sector I, and the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, at the Seme-Krake joint border between Nigerian and Republic of Benin battling to contain the activities of smugglers, Wada Cheldi Dalha, acting Comptroller, Seme Command, appears to be making a headway in dealing with the smugglers operating within the Seme jurisdiction.
Many believe that he had acquired the tricks to match the smugglers operating in the south west land border, tricks, as a former deputy Coptroller in-charge of the Command Outstation at Owode, described as a smuggler’s haven under Muhammed Uba Garba, the Command former Areea Comptroller who had been deployed to Border Drill sector 3, Ilorin, Kwara satte as acting Zonal Coordinator overseeing the north central geo-political region.His brief stay at the Owode Outstation may have exposed him to the activities of bunkerers and other petroleum product smugglers through the Creeks as well as other Contraband smugglers.
It was therefore not surprisisng that when he was appointed the acting Comptroller of the SemeCommand last December by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, last December, he did not have much difficulty in mobilising his officers to crack down on the smugglers, described as economic saboteurs operating within the vicinity. He was determined from the onset to broke their wings to prove a point that the era of importers who think that they could take delivery of their transit cargoes at Benin Terminal T or Bollore port at Benin, and smuggle it into the Nigerian market through the Creeks and other inappropriate routes was over.
With the support of the Border Drill sector I and the CGC, Strike Force, personnel, who are everywhere at the land border and its environs, the Seme Command ,Patrol Teams, at his promptings, were said to have moved in full force with information volunteered by sources to smoke out the smugglers from their hideouts, thus making spectacular seizures as.
.The Seme Command anti-smuggling drive appears to have made it difficult for the Border Drill sector I, and CGC, Strike Force, adhoc Teams which had mounted checkpoints at Gbaji and other strategic locations along the Lagos-Seme road awaiting for the smugglers to have little or no job to do in the recent time.
Last week, Wada had opened the Government Warehouse at the Seme border Community for Journalists to see the Contraband including thousands of ‘’50’’ bags of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice and hundreds of 25 liters each Jerry cans of vegetable oil seized between January and Friday, April 17, this year.
A document made available to The Value News shows that the Command made a 431 Contraband seizures with a Duty Paid Value of about N250 million. It was a morale booster to the acting Comptroller who many believe could not make much impact in the Command because of his reserved life.
A breakdown of the Contraband seizures that was made by the Command within the period include 2,325 of ‘’50’’ bags of rice , equivalent of four Trailer loads, 78,585 litres of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol,887 cartons of poultry products, which had been buried and 43 units of second hand vehicles.
Note that President Muhammadu Buhari, had banned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles , through the land border on January 1, 2017. The ban on the rice imports into the country was extended to the seaports also. Indeed, the ban on the importation of vehicles through the land borders was the gain of Lagos seaports, particular, Port Multi-services Terminal limited.
But thetransit vehicle importers through Benin Republic ports are still daring the Customs personnel at the borders that many of them have fallen into the waiting hands of Customs patrol Teams personnel as could been with the 43 units intercepted by Wada’s men at various locations at Seme and in the bush.
Other items that were said to have been seized by the Command that were cited at the Seme Government Warehouse include 165 Jerry cans of 25 liters each of vegetable oil, 112 bales of used clothing, popular, Okirika , 82 sacks of shoes, belts and ladies hand bags. This is in addition to 45 parcels of Canabis or India hem as well as other general Merchandise goods. The Canabis parcels were said to have been hand handed over to the Nigerian Agency for Food anD Drug Administration, NAFDAC, for destruction.
Many believe that Wada and his boys could make that much seizure within the period under review because of the border closure with the neighbouring countries of Benin, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon last August.
The case of the smugglers may have be worsened because of the outbreak of the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged Coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, named after the year it was born in the Asian country. An elated Wada said he had begun a sensitisation Campaigns of the officers and men of the Command immediately with the Headquarters Medical personnel and Port Health Services , officials to refocus their strategies of dealing the smugglers under the present circumstance.
According to him, they were encouraged to embark on the sensitisation Campaign when the Nigerian Center for Disease Control, NCDC, under the close watch of Chikwe Ihekweazu, announced first index case of the pandemic in the country last March. The fallout was that the Command Patrol Team officers had maintained regular washing of hands , after every operations, use of face masks supplied by the Headquarters and strict adherence to the World Health Organisation, WHO, maintenance of social distancing rules and regulations which had improved their operations.
This may have informed why Wada, could beat his chest that the Command ’’will actualise its anti-smuggling Campaigns in accordance with the strict enforcement of the government fiscal policies with a view to protecting the nation’s economy and the country health services sector from these economic saboteurs’’.
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