Seme: How Muhammed Seized Alleged Shipload Of Rice Smuggled Into Nigeria Through A Creek

By Stephen Ubanna

It was a bad news  for foreign parboiled rice importers through the Cotonou Port, Republic of Benin , who had engaged the services of  smugglers to  carry an unknown quantity of ”50” bags  into the country through an unpopular waterside  within the  Seme axis   between June 20 and 26, 2019.

The  importer, according to sources may have  concluded arrangement with the hired smugglers  to put the large quantity of rice on their locally built boat based on the assurance that it would be delivered at their warehouse as agreed. They were optimistic that it would never be  intercepted by Customs personnel  as the waterside where it would offloaded has never been known to Customs personnel.

Note that the popular Creeks known to Customs personnel  are the watersides at  Badagry axis, Wekan axis Yekeme creek, Ere waterways, Gbao Creek, Aseke Creek,   Choki Creek , Idiroko Water Front  among others.

Investigations shows that Customs personnel, particular, Enforcement  officers from the Western Marine Command patrol the Creeks daily to ensure that foreign par boiled rice , poultry or Vegetable Oil were not smuggled into the country. The Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Comptroller General ‘s, CGC, Strike Force, and Seme Command patrol teams , were not left as they patrol areas within their jurisdiction, particular the Badagry axis. They have forgotten that there are other unpopular  watersides in the until  the recent operation carried out by  the Seme Command in one of such watersides.

  The smugglers  may have been succeeding in the past in using such unpopullar watersides to   carry out their nefarious deals but  they were unlucky this time around.Unknown to the rice  importer and the smugglers  the information had leaked out to Muhammed Uba Garba, the Area Comptroller, Seme Command,  who quickly reached out to Adahunse Rashid, a Deputy Comptroller in-charge of the Command Enforcement.  The Customs Deputy Comptroller was said to have   quickly mobilised his officers  and detailed them about the operation.

 It was learnt that the Military patrol team in the area, Operation, MESA, were said to have provided security back up for  the  Customs operation which was led by Adahunse.  The Area Comptroller may have insisted that the  Customs Deputy Comptroller lead the operation because  of the quantity of rice involved, which many believe was about half  of a shipload of rice, going by the number of vehicles deployed for the operation.

Investigation revealed that to ensure a  successful peration, the Command enforcement boss , on the orders of the Area  Comptroller , may have engaged several patrol teams for the operation. This is evident going by the large presence of the Command personnel who took over the environment to ensure that that there is no escape route for the smugglers with their cargo.

 The officers, who were armed to the teeth, according to sources were involved in the operation werevery happy  as they were  shouting their names, popular, Abdulaziz, Waziri,  to ensure that officer was missing in action.   There were also plain cloth security personnel ,  suspected to be department of Security , DSS, who may have supported  the Customs team with information gathering to facilitate the operation.

It was learnt that when  it became obvious that the  waterside where the smugglers had used to carry out the dirty deal   had been successfully  condoned off and the smugglers forced to flee, the Seme  Enforcement officers with the support of the military Operation MESA,  moved into the waterside to cart away  the smuggled rice by engaging the services of the youths from village who may have supported the smugglers to offoad the thousands ”50” bags of rice from the local boats.

The Command  four wheel drives  which were used for the operation were quickly loaded with the foreign parboiled  rice and transferred to the Government warehouse at Seme. The Customs pick up vans, according to Eyewitness account may not have been enough to carry the  entire smuggled rice as the military Operation MESA  released one of its trucks and other vehicles to assist the Seme Command in carting away the smuggled rice from the waterside. The vehicles were said to have moved in a convoy as  Adahunse , the Command Deputy Comptroller, overseeing the operation and some armed officers  stepped out to monitor the situation until the last vehicle used  for the operation left the scene. ”It was a successful operation”, a senior officer told The Value News.

Insiders told The  Magazine  that it was one of the best organised Operation ever to be conducted by any Customs anti smuggling Command in the last five years in the Creeks  going  by the  number of vehicles found at   the site .

Army Helping The Customs To carry Rice From The Creek

Many believe  that the Seme Command may be making a head way in the renewed  anti-smuggling war  in thra since Muhammed, the Command Customs Comptroller re-directed the its anti-smuggling war to the Creeks where spectacular seizures  had been made including 175 X 6 of cloths were  made until the recent seizure of thousands bagss of ”50” from the unknown waterside within Badagry axis.

While , the Seme Customs boss has succeeded in chasing the rice smugglers  away operating  within its jurisdiction, Michael Agbara, Comptroller , Ogun Command, which controls Idiroko  Out  station,  who may be bearing the brunt, has engaged the  Beninois Customs  and other security operatives for talks   to strengthen their Collaboration at the Idiroko  Border axis to checkmate rice smugglers.

It was gathered that   the continued abuse of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS,  privileges  and protocol by member countries were discussed. They were also said to have looked  the strategies  to increase  the fight aginst  rice , drug smuggling and human trafficking across the Border.

Already,  security operatives  at the Igolo frontier and the Idiroko Border between the two West Africa countries, Nigeria and Republic of Benin, have resolved  to strengthen Collaboration against Border related crimes

Agbara, the Ogun Customs boss, was said to have told those that cares to listen that   the Cross -Border relatship between  the two ECOWAS member nations that shares Borders  would guarantee   more effective management of the  Land Border. The Ogun Customs Comptroller, is optimistic   that the Joint Border Coordination  will enhance  the synergy  among the security operatives of the two countries sharing  Borders  and the various Land Borders  as it would also guarantee trade facilitation.

According to him, the Submit was a platform  that  enables  Nigerian exporters  and importers  to declare   their goods  once in Republic  of benin port of Cotonou  , noting that  the declaration which would be automatically  transmitted  through  a Connectivity server to Nigeria without necessarily coming back to the country  to make another declaration on such Consignment.

He averred that some of the information available to the Beninois Customs might not be available    to their Nigerian counterparts but with the  Collaboration, the  two countries security agencies at the various Land Borders would be able to share such information willingly   unlike in the past where the security operatives of the two countries were suspicious  of each other.

Recall that Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, had repeatedly  called for Nigerian n and Republic of Benin  inter-agency Collaboration  to improve anti-smuggling operations at the Border. Muhammed the Seme Customs boss, may have cue   into the directive  from the onset as the Chairman of the the two nations  inter-agency security Committee at the  Seme-Kareke Joint Border that smugglers are finding difficult to operate at the area.  A Customs officer confirm that that Nigerian Customs operatives and their counterpart at Republic share information  and carry out joint examination at the land Border  which had never happened in the past. This may have helped  the Command in making spectacular seizures of smuggled rice around the Creeks and watersides within the Badagry axis.

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