By Stephen Ubanna
Muhammed Uba Garba, a former Acting Coordinator, Border Drill , sector3, now Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, ACG, EI&I, who was overseeing the four north central border states of Kwara, Niger, Kogi and Benue , and has a big task at hand: How to finally deal decisively with the smugglers comprising of the Youths and the greedy get rich criminals across the country.
Muhammed, who was said to have opened up during his interactive session with Journalists on Tuesday, September 22, 2020, in his capacity as still the Acting Coordinator of the Border Drill, sector3 aseed in Ilorin, Kwara state, preparatory to his relocation to the Customs Headquarters at Abuja , the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to resume in his new office had described smuggling in Nigeria’’as a huge industry that welcome all comers including Youths’’ based on his experience in anti-smuggling operations over the last years.
Hear him: Gentlemen of the press, smuggling is gradually becoming a huge industry accepting all comers, attracting the greedy and the get rich criminals including the Youths who do not see it as a crime.
The erstwhile Border Drill , sector 3, Acting Coordinator, may have been exposed to the reality on ground that the Youths , particular, are the ones DRIVING smuggling activities in the country because of the number of suspects who had been caught with smuggled Contraband in the north central states of Kwara, Niger, particular, including Benin Republic nationals in the recent time which fall within the age bracket of 25 and 35 years. The suspects were said to have been caught with smuggled Contraband Foreign parboiled rice, vehicle and other Contraband.
TheY were said to have been caught , mostly in the Border Communities in the Baruten local government Area of Kwara state, in BOkoru, Alapa, Okuta, Illesha Baruba, Chikanda border Communities and Babanna axis in Niger state.
An eye witness account disclosed that the Border Drill , sector 3, Patrol Teams personnel had caught and arrested the smugglers involved in the illicit trade of Foreign par boiled ice, vehicles, textile materials, motor cycles and other Contraband, within the country and those working for their sponsors in smuggling of Premium Motor Spirit, popular, Petrol or Automotive Gas Oil, AGO, or diese’ into the Benin market. The arrested Nigeria suspects, were said to be working with their Beninois counterparts at the Border Communities.
The Youths caught in the Act believe that what constitutes crime in the society are robbery, murder, kidnapping and money laundering and not smuggling. They see smuggling ‘’as a way of life’’.
Given an insider information, Muhammed, the then Border Drill, sector 3, acting Coordinator, had said that 13 Nigerian suspects, were caught in different parts of Kwara and Niger states with Contraband during their operation. He further disclosed that the sector also arrested 15 Benin Nationals, who ere, howeer, granted administrative bail and repatriated back to their country.
He had confirmed that that the suspects were arrested in connection with the seized Contraband by the Joint Border Drill between July 26 and Tuesday, September2, 2020. The arrested Benin nationals, were said to have entered the country through the bush path of kabour –kta –Taso Express road, in Kara state , with their smuggled Contraband , but fell into the waiting hands of the Border Drill, sector 3, vigilant officers on the road.
It is on record that between July 26, and Tuesday, September 22, 2020, the Joint Border drill sector 3 Team, had made 111 seizures of Contraband from different parts of the north central geo-political region. Take for instance, the Team was said to have made 2,794 bags of Foreign rice of 50 Kg each, 1,212 bags of banned Foreign,APK Fertilizer, with a Duty Paid Value, DPV. Of about N16 million and among other seizures within the three weeks of operations.
A senior Customs officer who spoke to The Value News explained that since Muhammed mounted the saddle of leadership as the Acting Coordinator of the Border Drill sector3, last January and now, the sector alone, had seized 23,449 bags of Foreign rice of 50Kg each smuggled into the country from Benin Republic through the several illegal routes in Kwara, Niger, Kogi and Benue, all states in the north central geo-political region.
This may have informed why the Border Drill, Acting Coordinator, sector 3, had pleaded with the Youths in the Border Communities in the region, ‘’not to allow themselves to be deceived by engaging in smuggling activities which could lead them to prison if caught in the act’’. He noted t this is in addition to losing their smuggled Contraband to the government. He was said to have warned the Youths ‘’to stop seeing smuggling as a means of livelihood and assisting the economic saboteurs’’.
Appealing to the Border Community leaders, he urged them’’ to rise to the Challenge and Cooperate with the Joint border Patrol Team personnel, on operation, stressing that’’ it is the only way ’’ to checkmate the activities of those who are doing illegal businesses in the country and who use their environs as safe routes and hiding places’’.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had banned the importation of Foreign rice and vehicles, through the land borders across the country on January 1, 2017. Given the spectacular Contraband seizures that were said have been made by the Border Drill sector 3, between July 26, and Tuesday , September 22, 2020, Muhammed t,he newest Acting ACG, EI|&I, has sent a signal , to the smugglers operating in the north central geo-political region and other parts of the country that it is no longer going to be business as usual. This is because he has alrady known the mindset of the Youths towards smuggling in the country and could easily penetrate their rank with ease.
The ACG , who could not hide his feelings had said that there was no basis for the smuggling of Foreign rice into the country because there are already functional Rice Mills in the country and other ones coming up that are capable of meeting the rice demand of the country. Muhammed was said to have cited the Ihamsad Rce Mill in Kano, north west, Anambra Rice Mill limited, in the south east, Jewes Rice Milling Factory in Taraba, north east, Lake Rice, jointly owned by Lagos and Kebbi states.
He was said to have also said that there was no basis for the smugglers to continue sabotaging the economy by smuggling processed tin tomato into the country when there are tomato Companies in the country like Wole Tomatoes Enterprises, Iwo , Osun state, FIRO in Lagos and Sonia Tomatoes Company in Jos , Plateau state, all producing the same product that could effectively compete with the Foreign products, if not better. believes that with the Collaboration with the border Community dwellers, Customs would would suffocate smuggling which in due course collapse’’. This should gladden the heart of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Customs Comptroller General, who is determined to curb smuggling activities in the country.
It is on record that the previous ACGs, never saw the reason to extend their supervision to the Commands involved in anti-smuggling operations, except if on official Assignment on the orders of the Comptroller General. They made do in staying in their Abuja office, to issue directives to the Area Commands on the orders of Ali, the Customs boss or the Deputy Comptroller General, DCG, EI&I.
Being an experienced anti-smuggling officer, who had been involved in anti-smuggling operations, particular, as Acting Coordinator, of the Border Drill sector 3, many believe that he could push the service anti-smuggling operations to greater heights with the support of the no nonsense retired Army Colonel, who has a vision: to make the country too hot for smugglers and their sponsors by regularly reaching out to the Area Comptrollers, whose Commands are involved in in Anti-smuggling operations as a way of motivating them to enhance their operations .
They noted that he must work closely with the DCG, EI|&I, seen as the Administrator of the Department, and who deals directly with the Comptroller General to ensure that the Department’s plan to suffocate smuggling and collapse the illicit business, which fall falls in line with his visision would succeed.
In spite of the fact that ACG may have had illicit at the back of his mind to collapse the smuggling business, he must watch it. This is because , there is nowhere I the world including the technologically advanced countries of the north American country of the United States, US, Asian country of China, United Kingdom, UK or the European countries of France , Germany, Italy, Spain and or Netherland, where smuggling has been stamped out. It could only be reduced to the lowest level, they remarked.