Smuggling of contraband at Nigerian border posts and creeks has been a thriving business despite ban on importation of such products by the federal government. YUSUF BABALOLA writes.
Nigeria is a country in West Africa. It shares land borders with the Republic of Benin in the west, Chad and Cameroon in the east, and Niger Republic in the north.
Nigeria with a land mass of 4,000 square kilometres coverage, has well over 1,400 illegal routes which are not manned.
The number of illegal routes is 100 times more than the number of approved routes.
With only 84 approved land border control posts designated in the 1980s after the Maitatsine riots, there are more than 1,400 illegal borders spanning across the country where illegal activities especially smuggling is taking place.
In Ogun State, there are at least 83 illegal routes, while in Adamawa the country has about 80 illegal routes with which illegal trade and migration takes place unabated.
For instance, in the Idiroko and Seme border, lots of smuggling occurs at the illegal routes with several thousand of banned items such as foreign parboiled rice, vehicles, poultry products, groundnut oil among others are illegally exported into the country on a daily basis.
However due to the attendant implication of massive smuggling into the country, the federal government placed a ban on importation of foreign parboiled rice, vehicles -used and new, frozen chicken, vegetable oil, textile materials through the land borders.
Since, the government announced the restriction, smugglers have devised another means of moving vehicles into the country which included using officers of the border command to smuggle the items into the country.
But, left for the Federal Operations Unit(FOU) zone A and the ad-hoc unit set up by the comptroller general of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, (rtd), smugglers would have over ran the south- west zone the same way they have taken over activities unabated at other customs’ zones in the country.
At Idiroko and Seme border, smuggling of contrabands remained unchecked with Industry players attributing that to connivance of officers of the commands.
In January 2018, Customs officers who were supposed to fight smuggling at the nation’s border points were caught helping smugglers to move vehicles, and rice at the border.
Officers of the service especially Idiroko were allegedly offered N30,000 by smugglers to drive in banned items such as vehicles and foreign parboiled rice from neighbouring Benin Republic into Nigeria.
Investigation showed that two officers of the Ogun State Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) were in 2017, dismissed by the Customs comptroller general, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) for aiding smugglers to smuggle contraband from neighbouring Benin Republic into the country.
The officers were dismissed after they were found guilty of aiding smugglers to bring in contrabands into the country.
It was further gathered that another had his vehicle seized after being caught with smuggled rice and vegetable oil in his vehicles.
An officer said recently, “Due to the intensive anti smuggling campaign of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A and the CG strike force, smugglers now resort to engaging Customs officers to help them smuggle vehicles and rice even at times, our officers make use of their vehicles as means of conveyance.
Two officers of Ogun command were dismissed in 2017, while another was pardoned in 2018 for aiding smuggling.
Also, last week, the CGC’s strike force intercepted about 6660 bags of rice which is equivalent to 11 trucks of rice in the south- west after it was successfully smuggled into the country through the land borders.
The other seizures by the ad-hoc unit further range from vegetable oil, second hand clothes, cartons of frozen poultry products, unprocessed firewood, sugar to vehicles of different brands that were smuggled into the country through the land borders.
Speaking on the sidelines of the arrest, the national coordinator of the Strike Force, Abdullahi Kirawa, disclosed that the seizures were made by the CGC Strike Force team from August 11 to September 18, 2018.
Giving a breakdown of the seized items, he said, “The seized items are second hand clothing, 640 bales of shoes in 1×40 container worth N32,000,000; 18×20 and 3×40 containers of unprocessed firewood worth N144,000,000; 2×20 containers of wet blue worth N123,727,500, 59 bags of sugar x 50KG worth N590,000, four cars worth N6,000,000, two trucks worth N6,000,000 and one M/Ben Bus worth N1,5000,000.
Other items also seized were frozen poultry with quantity of 45 cartons value at N225,000; vegetable oil in 26 kegs by 10 litres value at N130,000 and 14 kegs by 25 litres value at N140,000.
He stated further, “The used motor vehicles seized were Madza 323 car worth N750,000; Toyota Hilux N11,500,000; Toyota Avensis car worth N1,800,000; Lexus ES 350 value at N2,500,000; Toyota Venza worth N5,500,000 and Ford Transit Bus loaded with contraband goods value at N1,750,000 and 6,669 bags of rice 50kg worth N90, 000,000 were all seized.”
Also at the zone B of the service, the strike force seized contrabands already smuggled into the country.
The breakdown of the seizures include 3,983 bags of 50kg assorted rice, 393 jerry cans of 25 litres of vegetable oil and 456 bales of second hand clothing.
Other items included 70 bags of 50kg sugar, 50 cartons of spaghetti and 49 various types of vehicles suspected to have been smuggled through land borders popularly called tokunbo and brand new ones.
According to him, the strike force was set up with the mandate to ensure effective suppression of smuggling, facilitation of trade and increase in revenue generation, as well as collection through enhanced, well stepped up and coordinated enforcement duties by patrolling the nooks and crannies of the country.
Barely two weeks ago, the FOU Zone A , Ikeja of the Nigeria Customs Service also intercepted a N1.5 billion worth of petroleum products on the verge of being smuggled to Benin Republic.
The petroleum products, loaded in about 12 wooden speed boats, had about 50,000 jerry-cans set to be smuggled from Ijofin creek in Ipokia local government area of Ogun State.
The Ijofin creek is under the supervision of the Ogun State command of the service but illegal petroleum smuggling was ongoing at the creek for so many years before being discovered by the Rapid Response Squad of the FOU, Zone A headed by one Jack Okpabi.
According to the assistant comptroller – general of Customs, Zone A, Dahiru Aminu, exportation of petroleum products through the creeks is an illegal trade.
He said, “This is a big seizure and it needed to be showcased because of the size and volume involved. This is an unimaginable seizure made by officers. Since it is petroleum products, we do not expect it to be smuggled into Nigeria. So, naturally, it is going out of the country.”
SIFAX Group Partners Bayelsa On Maritime Development
The Bayelsa State government has harped on the need to collaborate with SIFAX Group towards the development of its aviation and maritime potentials based on the expertise of the conglomerate.
The agreement was reached after the top management team of the Bayelsa Investment Promotion Agency (BIPA) led by Patience Ranami Abah, director – general, and Godwin Konyefa, managing director, Bayelsa Properties & Investment Company paid a working visit to SIFAX Group.
A press statement made available to LEADERSHIP by the corporate affairs manager of the group, Muyiwa Akande, over the weekend noted that the team toured facilities of the company’s subsidiaries at Skyway Aviation Handling Company Limited (SAHCOL), Ports & Cargo Handling Services Limited, SIFAX Off Dock Nigeria Limited and SIFAX Haulage and Logistics Limited.
The statement quoted Ranami Abah as saying that the aim of the visit was to collaborate with SIFAX Group in the development of the huge business potentials in the state, adding that the SAHCOL’s team had earlier visited the state to inspect its new cargo airport.
“After the visit of SAHCOL team to Bayelsa, we were invited to take a first-hand tour of the facilities of the company. Before the cargo airport begins operations, we wanted to get things right.
“With our visit today, we are marveled at the excellent business operations of the company. We don’t just want to build any kind of warehouse neither indulge in any shady operations of the airport, we want SIFAX Group to come with their technical expertise in the development of Bayelsa State,” she said.
On his own part, Godwin Konyefa , was impressed with the facilities and operations of SIFAX Group and commended the company for its level of investment and expertise, which he said, would be beneficial to Bayelsa State.
He said, “After the tour of SAHCOL, we found out that the right partner we have been looking for is SIFAX Group.
“They have all it takes to develop the newly-built Bayelsa Airport. We also want to engage them in the development of the deep seaport located in Agge.The seaport with a natural draft of 13 meters, is aimed at boosting the business activities of the state.
“After touring the facilities we are challenged at the homegrown logistics solutions that SIFAX Group has in its arsenal.
” We are engaging the company in varied business options that will be mutually benefitting to both the government and the company.”
Barrister Ezekiel Ajewole, executive director and senior special assistant to Dr. Taiwo Afolabi , group executive vice chairman, SIFAX Group assured that the company’s business model and vision were well aligned with that of the state and noted that the people of Bayelsa would be happy to have SIFAX Group on board.
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