Trade: Why Buhari Signed The AFCFTA As Ali Carve Out Eight Additional Commands To Strengthen Anti-smuggling Operations

By Stephen Ubanna

More facts have emerged why President Muhammadu Buhari signed the African General Trade agreement, ACCTA, barely one year after it was approved by the Authority of the African Union, AU, of Heads of State and Government in Kigaly, Rwanda, about a year ago. This is because the concerns of the manufacturers and he real sector have been addressed through support from support from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as Nigerians now patronise locally made goods instead of foreign goods.
The President may have further been encouraged to sign the AFCFTA, and a Trade pact with the Republic of Benin based on feelers from the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA, that the Executive Orders 001, 003 and 007, which he had signed into law are making the appreciable impact on the nation’s manufacturing sector and patronage of made in Nigerian products.
Taiwo Adeniyi, Chairman, NECA, at a recent visit to the President with other members of the leadership of the Association, had told the President that signs that the real sector are bouncing back to life was based on the fact that 70 percent of members of NECA, who had earlier refused to pay the N30,000.00 minimum wage approved by the government had started paying it.
This may have informed why the Katsina state born Nigerian President has given his words to ban further importation of basic items into the country to stop the exportation of jobs to other countries at the expense of the country. The President may have known the implementation of such policies that could bring back the lost jobs in the sector may not be a ”hitch free exercise because of the activities of the dare devil smugglers that he had had enlisted the support of the NECA officials to fight these menace. He pleaded with the Association leadership to always engage the government by providing ”honest and constructive feedback” on the state of the sector.
Note that the government had banned the importation of 43 items into the country including textiles into the country between 2007 and 2018, to save the nation’s real sector.
The President who could not hide his feelings to the NECA leadership had assured them that the government would do everything within its powers to support the members of the Association in their efforts to keep their factories humming as employers of labour.
In spite of the fact that the Administration has concluded plans based on the recommendation of the Nigerian Economic Council, NEC, Headed by Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President, to ban the importation of the most basic items into the country, the President may have gladdened the heart of the NECA officials when he disclosed that the government are looking at other ways to give manufacture a new lease of life to ensure that the country have a sustainable platform for ”businesses to succeed”.
Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, may have known of government’s plan ban more basic items from coming into the country that he has created more additional Customs anti-smuggling Commands to have given a bite to the Service anti-smuggling war. The Ogun and the Idiroko Commands, which was merged by Abdullahi Dikko, a a former customs Comptroller General to function as one Command has been separated , with the the Idiroko Command reverting to its old status as an autonomous Command. Going by the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, records, there are about 84 unapproved routes used by smugglers and human traffickers in the state. Ali, may have considered it to be too much for one Area Comptroller to oversee from Abeokuta, the state Capital and therefore the need to give idiroko out station an autonomous status.
The same treatment was said to have been extended to Sokoto/Zamfara/ Kebbi Command, considered to be too big for one Comptroller alone. A document cited by The Value New News shows that Kebbi, now stands as a Command. The Customs Comptroller General, may not have spared and Eastern Western Marine , the Service, amphibious CommandS, overseeing the country’s water ways , from the south- SOUTH -Kebbi state and south-west -to the north east , anti-smuggling operations, the two amphibious Commands were separated into two each to make them more effective. Note that the problem of both the Eastern and Western Marine Command , over the years , had been lack of functional Crafts, thus giving the waterway smugglers the upper hand to do their illegal business
Recall that at a recent meeting between the Customs Comptroller General and the Area Comptrollers of the Federal operations Units, FOUs, and the anti-smuggling Commands including the Zonal Coordinators of the Headquarters Strike Force, Ali had had expressed his worries over the failure of the the Area Comptrollers and the Strike Force, to contain the activities of the smugglers, particular, foreign parboiled rice and vehicles in the area.
Recall that that the President had approved the ban on the importation of foreign rice and vehicles through the land border on January 1, 2017 and the Customs given the mandate to implement the policy to the later.
Maritime watchers believe that the creation of the additional anti-smuggling Commands in the north west and south-west geo-political regions would go a long way to give smugglers still operating in the region a fight as the Area Comptrollers would be forced to devise new strategies block the smugglers in their areas of jurisdictions.
Prior to the establishment of the additional Commands, Mohammed Aliyu, FOU, Zone A, overseeing the entire south-west anti-smuggling operations and Muhammed Uba Garba, his counter at Seme Command, overseeing the Seme-Krake , Joint Border , regarded as the busiest International route , have succeeded in putting many of the rice and vehicle smugglers out of business, with the thousands of ”50” bags of imported rice r from thailand and exotic and bullet proof vehicles, through Cotonou port and other ports in the West African sub-region that been seized from them in the last one year. The major problem the Customs Authorities have had over the years in the anti-smuggling was from the porous water ways. the recent seizure of foreign rice from the Ajase area of the Badagry axisis Creeks and watersides by eme Command Enforcement Patrol teams speaks volume.
It was not surprising why analysts had have hailed Ali, the Customs Comptroller General to take the bold initiative to approve the establishment of two additional amphibious Commands from both the Eastern and Western Marine Commands to give a breather to the Current Comptrollers of the Old Commands to Concentrate on the areas that concern their Commands only.

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