Customs: Smugglers Cry Out In Katsina/ Kaduna States

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.    

Abdullahi Kirawa: Acting Comptroller: Katsina/Kaduna Command

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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