Customs Uncovers New Methods of Smuggling Rice

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  • Says Criminals bring in commodity with caskets, gas cylinders

Ejiofor Alike

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has alleged that despite the closure of the land borders, criminals still smuggle rice into the country with caskets and gas cylinders.

The agency stated that the ingenuity deployed by criminals or smugglers has made it possible for contraband items to come into the country.

NCS’ Public Relations Officer, Mr. Joseph Attah, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja wednesday, explained that there were so many factors responsible for the entrance of smuggled items into the country in spite of efforts to stop them by the service.

He stated that most smugglers use unapproved routes to bring in contraband goods into the country while some deviously conceal the items to escape arrest by Customs operatives.

“People often ask where were Customs operatives when contraband goods entered the country without being stopped.

“We have seen a situation where rice is smuggled using gas cylinders or a situation where a spare tyre is used. The tyre is perforated and rice is loaded inside and when you open the booth you see what is supposed to be a tyre.

“If you do not have a tip-off, you are not likely to know that inside that spare tyre are 10 or 15 mudus (measures) of foreign rice.

“Another circumstance, smugglers use casket that is used to carry a corpse to either smuggle rice or petrol. They sometimes load petrol in jerrycans and put it inside a casket, wrapped in such a way that you think is carrying a dead body.

“A situation like this, if you don’t have intelligence, you wouldn’t know. For instance, without a tip-off, it is unlikely as a human being to accost a vehicle carrying the casket with a supposed dead body and request for such to be opened.

“If people with all these tricks succeed and escape, their smuggled items are what you find in shops, markets, and houses,” he explained.
He added that smugglers’ actions are meant to sabotage the economy and the security of the country and assured Nigerians that the Customs were determined and committed to checking that.

Attah stated that Customs had fortified its strategies and intelligence to check the smuggling.

Nigeria in August last year, closed its land borders to check smuggling, especially of rice and petroleum products.

But the closure did not go down well with Nigerian neighbours, Benin Republic, Chad and Niger.

The authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government had earlier this month constituted a committee, headed by President Roch Kabore of Burkina Faso, to study and make a full report on the impact of the Nigeria’s land border closure on its neighbours.

The decision to set up the committee was reached in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at an extraordinary session of ECOWAS leaders convened on the margins of the 33rd AU Summit to discuss the issue and other pressing regional matters.

The federal government closed Nigeria’s land borders in August 2019 mainly to check smuggling of agricultural and petroleum products.
The government said the border closure had been positive for the economy as local production of food such as rice had increased while local consumption of petrol had reduced.

It has also vowed to continue the border closure until its neighbours, mainly Benin, Niger and Chad, ensure they properly regulate their sides of the borders.

However, the neighbouring countries affected by the closure said the border closure violated ECOWAS and African Union protocols.

The Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had earlier this month held high-level meetings on the assessment of the situation of the closure of land borders of Nigeria to goods.

The two-day meeting held in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso assessed the situation of the closure of the land borders of Nigeria to goods, pursued the overall objective to reach an acceptable solution by all parties and proposed actions for the rapid reopening of the land borders of Nigeria for the free movement of goods.