By Stephen Ubanna
When Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General Customs , CGC, deployed Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller and former National Coordinator of the old CGC, Strike Force, which had been balkanized into three Zonal Units, to Kastina/Kaduna, Command, as a acting Comptroller, smugglers operating within the axis knew that they were in for trouble.
This is because , as the former national Coordinator of the old CGC, strike Force, which took him round the four geo-political regions of the south south-south, south-west, north central and north west, covering about 21 states of the Federation , which shares Borders with Republic of Benin, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon either by land ,Sea or the creeks, he made spectacular seizures from each of the regions. At present ,the four regions anti-smuggling operations, popular, Border Drills, are being Coordinated by Babagana Munguno, a retired Major-General and National Security Adviser, Border Drills.
As National Coordinator, CGC Strike Force, he was said to have truncated every tactics that was said to have been employed by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities . Recall that Lai Mohammed, minister of Information and Culture , had said that goods on the government prohibition list such as second hand clothing, foreign processed vegetable oil and par-boiled , have been smuggled into the country through the porous borders.
The minister had alleged that far flung countries were using these neighbouring countries seaports, particular, Benin Republic and the land locked countries, which depend on Benin ports , to take delivery of their transit cargoes to turn NIgeria, into third party goods. He may have alluded to the Asian countries of China, India, Malaysia, Thailand and the European country of France.
Aware that that it was no longer going to be business as usual for the smugglers and their sponsors operating within the Katsina axis, they were said to have cooked up the strong rumour that the Borders between Niger and Katsina, President Muhammadu Buhari , home state have been opened as smugglers are having a field day.
. A lawmaker in the state House of Assembly was reported to have said that smuggling of foreign boiled rice and vehicles, which, the Katsina state born Nigerian President had said should not come into the country through the land border, are being smuggled freely in, through the numerous porous Borders in the state. They may have come out with the spurious rumour in order to divert the attention f Kirawa and his Officers.
The rumour became so pronounced that The Value News called on Kirawa, the acting Area Comptroller of the Katsina/Kaduna Command on Saturday, November 30, 2019, to respond to clear the air on the matter that smugglers are having a field day in his area of jurisdiction in the north west geo-political region.
Describing the rumour as the handwork of mischief makers because of the tight security around the Border Communities and the various porous routes , between Katsina and Niger, used by smugglers to carry out their nefarious which had become very difficult to penetrate, he declared that there is no hiding place for smugglers in the state.
An elated Kirawa, told The Magazine that the Command is doing everything within the ambit of the law to suppress smuggling activities within the area under his jurisdiction. The measures that were said to have been taken by the acting Area Comptroller, based on his exposure in anti-smuggling operations , particular, at the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos and CGC, Strike Force, to deal with the Cross-Border smugglers in the area may have given him a clue on how to deal with the Cross-Border smugglers. These may have forced them to cry out.
Those of them who were said to have dared the Command anti-smuggling Officers in the last one month to smuggle foreign parboiled rice and other prohibited items including vehicles into the Katsina and Kaduna states market , would never forget their experience in a hurry because of what they met on the road: Hardline fighting Customs officers who were not ready to compromise on the job.
The fallout was the seizure of various Contraband goods at various Border Checkpoints and other illegal smuggler routes between Katsina, and Niger. Given an insider information, Kirawa , had said that the Command under his close watch in less than one month impounded 1, 365 of ‘’50’’ bags of foreign par boiled rice, allegedly produced from the Asian country of Thailand, ,295 jerry cans of 25 litres each of Vegetable Oil, produced from Malaysia , Bales of second hand clothing and six exotic vehicles, ranging from Mercedes C430, 2015, models and a Toyota Corolla, 2019, model.
The Command was said to have also impounded six cars , described as smugglers cars’’, loaded with foreign macaroni heading to the Katsina from Niger. This is in addition to the seizure of a 30- Seater bus that was also said to have been arrested on a route between Niger and Katsina.
An angry Customs Comptroller could not understand why people who have the money to buy exotic vehicles and other goods from land locked country of Nigeria would want to smuggle it into the country though unapproved routes in order to evade payment of duty.
His worries was that the owner of these transit vehicles , pay duties on such vehicles to the Nigerien Customs, to enhance the government revenue generation but would not want to do same in Nigeria, wondering where the government would generate the revenue to provide the basic infrastructural and social amenities to the people.
Appealing to Nigerians who have the money to buy exotic vehicles and other foreign goods to patronise the country’s seaports in order to pay the legitimate duties and other sundry charges including Taxes in order to enhance the revenue generation of the government from non- oil imports.
Kirawa, may have also sent a signal to Cross-Border petroleum Product smugglers within the Katsina axis to watch it as it is no longer going to be business as usual. The seizure of a tanker carrying 33,000 litres of Premium Motor Spirit, popular Petrol, which was said to have been arrested 16 Km away from Mar Bara Border , between Nigeria and Niger speaks volume. The Tanker, according to Customs sources , was scheduled to discharge its contents at a filling station in Jigawa state but was said to have been diverted to Katsina state in order to be smuggled to Niger.
Issoufou Mohammad, the President Of Niger, who was said to have created the impression that he has banned the re-exportation of foreign goods in any form into the Nigerian market in order to win the heart of the Katsina state born Nigerian President in order to give him a soft landing and consider re-opening the Border with the country.
Many believe that that if the Niger Customs personnel were doing their work as it ought to be done by effectively manning the Borders with Nigeria, from Katsina axis, Kirawa and his men , would have had little or no job to do chasing the smugglers operating between Niger and Nigeria from Katsina axis.
Investigation by the Magazine shows that the seized hundreds of ‘’50’’ bag of foreign par boiled rice and six exotic vehicles by the Katsina and Kaduna Command heading to the Border state through illegal routes from the land locked country of Niger were said to have been re-exported to the country from Republic of Benin but suddenly developed wings on the road.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan was said to have been concerned about how the neighboring countries had opened their Borders for smugglers to use to sabotage the nation’s economy that he had donated six Operational vehicles to Benin Republic Customs and seven to Niger, to help them contain the activities of smugglers in their country but that was how far he could go.
Insiders informed the Magazine that if the Benin and Niger , Customs Authorities, had deployed the Operational vehicles for their anti-smuggling Operations., the situation could not have been so bad that the Nigerian government would have contemplated with the option of closing the Borders with the neighbouring countries to forestall the free movement of goods and services ostensibly to protect the country’s maritime domain.
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