Combating Smuggling at Seme Border

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Eromosele Abiodun writes that efforts by the Nigeria Customs Service, Seme Command, at tackling smuggling will boost the Nigerian economy and enhance the command’s revenue generation drive

For the third time this year, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has intercepted a container load of arms and ammunition imported from Turkey.

The Federal Operations Unit (FOU) enforcement team had in January intercepted a container load of arms along the Apapa-Oshodi Expressway. In the same vein, the Tin-Can Island Command of the NCS intercepted another container load of arms on May 23.
On the latest seizure, the Customs Service said the Tin-Can Island Command intercepted 1,100 pump action rifles imported from Turkey on September 6.

Speaking on the development, the Comptroller-General of the NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) decried the importation of arms into the country through Turkey.
He disclosed that all three containers loaded with arms that had been intercepted by the service this year were imported into the country through Turkey.

Giving a lowdown on how the more recent container was intercepted by the service, Ali said the 20ft container was originally declared as containing wash hand basins and water closets.
According to him, “On the 6th of September, 2017, operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service intelligence unit, on a routine monitoring of activities across the terminals, discovered a 1x20ft container with No. GESU2555208 which was not previously listed for examination, positioned with other containers for the day’s examination.
“They also observed that the seal of this unlisted container had already been broken and padlocked. The container became suspect and had to be immediately transferred to the enforcement unit.”
This development has brought to the fore the need to tighten security along Nigeria’s vast borders.

Combating Smuggling
The danger of small arms aside, smuggling severely harms the economy of a country in multidimensional ways. It undermines the local industry, discourages legal imports and reduces the volume of revenues collected from duties and levies by the state. A major proportion of the revenue to be collected by the federal government is being lost, over and above the adverse impact that the smuggled items cause to local industry. Obviously this cannot be done without connivance of the corrupt officials including those in the law enforcement agencies and everyone is aware of it but no action is being taken.

Markets and shops across the country are flooded with various smuggled goods. Smuggled items through the Seme, Idiroko, Katsina, and Yobe borders form a major part of the informal economy volume of which ranges between 50 to 60 per cent of the formal economy. Smuggling has assumed an alarming proportion and turned out to be a parallel economy, which is depriving the country of its rightful levies including excise and customs duty worth hundreds of billions of naira.
As a result of the activities of smugglers, thousands of industrial units have been rendered sick, due to the availability of smuggled goods in open markets. Nigeria is facing the challenge of enormous revenue leakages and black money — its size estimated to be three time the regular economy.

Seme Area Command
To put an end to this menace, the Seme Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service in recent times has engaged in a renewed effort of aggressive anti-smuggling operation there by tightening the land border against smuggling activities.
The command is deploying all necessary tools to ensure that the core mandate of the Service (revenue generation, facilitation of legitimate trade and suppression of smuggling) amongst others, is vigorously achieved. This is because actualising the functions of revenue generation and legitimate trade facilitation depend solely on how smuggling activities are aggressively suppressed to the barest minimum.
It is against this backdrop that the anti-smuggling unit of the command has intensified its operations in order to curb the menace of trans-border crimes (smuggling) and other vices.
The ongoing aggressive patrol by the anti-smuggling operation unit of illegal routes and flanks of the border is yielding tremendous results and has translated to the seizure of numerous items.

Govt Fiscal Policies
Commenting on the items seized, the Customs Area Comptroller, Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu disclosed that combating smuggling is a major responsibility that the Nigeria Customs Service is saddled with and as such, compliance with federal government fiscal policies is not an option to an institution that is bestowed with such enormous responsibilities.
He further stated that officers are adequately motivated and re-oriented to execute their functions creditably and discretionally without compromise.

Aliyu further reiterated that in order to key into the presidential mandate (Reform, Restructure and Revenue generation), smuggling activities have to be confronted headlong in order to prevent revenue leakages. This reality has necessitated the proactive approach of the enforcement unit to ensure smuggling activities is maximally suppressed in order to enhance and boost revenue generation.
The Command’s helmsman, while showcasing the seizures made, charged all officers and men to maintain the tempo in combating smuggling activities across the frontier.

He added, however, the drastic reduction of economic activities through the corridor has impacted negatively on the revenue profile of the command.

“The Command remains undaunted in ensuring that smuggling is suppressed to its barest minimum. The seized items include the followings: 3200 x 50KG bags of rice, 1000 cartons of frozen poultry products which has since been destroyed in accordance with the extant laws, 720×25 jerry cans of vegetable oil and 57 bales of second hand clothing, with a total duty paid value of fifty four million, four hundred and sixty five thousand naira only (N 54, 465, 000.00),” he said.

The Comptroller used the opportunity to call on all concerned Nigerians, stakeholders and other relevant agencies at the borders to help the service in giving credible intelligence for all kinds of trans-border crimes to be nib in the bud.

He reiterated that the Nigeria Customs Service Seme command will continue to protect the Nigerian economy by ensuring that our local industries are protected to give employment opportunities to the teaming population of our unemployed youths.
He further stated that this can only be achieved by ensuring that the fiscal policies of the federal government are enforced to the later.

He used the Customs Community Consultative Forum (CCCF) platform to sensitise and advise the youth in the host communities to stay away from border vices as offenders caught in the act will be made to face the full wrath of the law.
The warning, he added, became necessary in view of the fact that others who have fallen victims of smuggling offences are currently undergoing prosecution at various law courts.

Trans-border Crimes
Aliyu had, while addressing newsmen at the command recently, stated that his command has intensified its anti-smuggling operations against trans-border crimes of illicit drugs trafficking and other vices.

The Customer chief, who handed over a dismissed officer caught in the illegal act of drug trafficking to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), said renewed commitment in intelligence driven operations and collaborations with other relevant agencies for effective border management cannot be over emphasized.

The Customs Area Controller while handing over a dismissed officer caught in the illegal act of drug trafficking, and the three hundred and ninety one kilograms (391 kg) of tested Cannabis sativa (Marijuana) to the commander NDLEA, disclosed that a lot of strategies has been adopted by the command to ensure that the busiest land border will be a “no go” area for trans-border miscreants/ traffickers of any kind including small and light weapons.

He disclosed that the 391kg of Marijuana handed over to the NDLEA has a street value of N8 million.
He added that all necessary conditions were explored in line with the public service rule and the Customs and Excise Preventive Service Regulation before the officer was relieved of his appointment.

The comptroller further noted that the punitive measures for gross misconduct of unruly behavior meted on the dismissed officer is to serve as a deterrent to other bad eggs in the service that may choose to be recalcitrant to warnings.

Commenting further, the Command’s helmsman frowned at the alarming and disturbing rate at which illicit substances are being apprehended by officers and men of the command in an attempt to be smuggled through the waterways or land borders.

He reiterated that the leadership of the service will not shy away in purging it from all unscrupulous elements who delight in dragging the image of the service in the mud, hence portraying the service subservient to other organisations because of criminal and irresponsible acts that are inimical to the ideals of the service.

He affirmed that Seme Command will continue to protect the nation’s territorial integrity through the scanning of all imports and aggressive anti smuggling operations of all illegal routes. He stated that this measure must be taken because there is a lot of security threat and opportunities arising from international trade growth and global migration.

In a related development, the Customs Area Controller while delivering the welcome address at the Customs Community Consultative Forum (CCCF) stated that the core mandate of the service can only be achieved under a peaceful atmosphere devoid of rancor.
He sought for the cooperation of all the stakeholders in the host communities (Baales, youth and opinion leaders), bankers and licensed agents as he enforces federal government policies.

The Area Comptroller said that by hosting different communities under the CCCF platform, the command has consciously differentiated the actual stakeholders based on their position of influence and location to the border command. The continuous mutual consultations always give rise to effective relation management whose benefit is reciprocal and symbiotic.
In the same vein, the Comptroller said recently dwelled extensively on the need for inter-agency collaboration for effective border management, intelligence sharing and strict compliance with the ECOWAS Protocol along the Lagos-Abidjan Corridor; which will facilitate legitimate trade and enhance ease of doing business.

The command, he added, generated the sum of N317.8 million as revenue for the month of May 2017.
He said the anti-smuggling unit of the command also made a total of 28 seizures with a duty paid value of N30.008 million for the period under review.

“As an institution of the federal government, the NCS, Seme Command remains committed to performing its statutory responsibilities without fear or favor; this is because the security, economic and socio-political development of the nation is dependent on effective and efficient management of its borders, “he stated.