… Exotic cars, rice, hard drugs inclusive
By Ray Ugochukwu
Smugglers operating through the Seme border axis are currently having hard times as the Seme command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) policing the area, has in the last two months impounded their wares worth N1.06 billion.
Among the items are 29 exotic vehicles valued at N177.3 million; 6,753 bags of rice, an equivalent of eleven truck loads worth N157.5 million and 45 x 25 litre jerrycans of vegetable oil valued at N573,750.
Other seizures recorded are 135 x 50kg bags of sugar with a duty paid value (DPV) of N567,000; 71 jerrycans of 25 litre premium motor spirit (PMS) otherwise known as petrol worth N106,500; 21 cartons of tinned tomatoes, N127,575; and two sacks of used shoes costing N67,500.
In the period under review, the command seized 91 parcels of drugs/narcotics, which had been handed over to the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other regulated drugs like tramdol.
A suspect in connection with the drugs, one Difo Kenneth Cornelius, transferred to the NDLEA by the command in August 2018, was said to have been convicted on November 30, 2018 for a two-year prison sentence.
Showing journalists round some of the seizures at the command Tuesday, the Customs Area Controller (CAC), Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba, disclosed that seven suspects were arrested in the process with three already convicted.
He made it clear that as a revenue agency, their responsibility in dealing with suspects was to arrest and detain and eventually hand over to the judiciary for prosecution.
The Seme Customs boss regretted that due to circumstances beyond the command’s control, they could only meet up 76 per cent of their revenue target for 2018 but assured that this year would be a different ball game.
Comptroller Uba lauded the newly launched Joint Border Patrol (JBP) at the Seme-Krake and Neope-Akanu in Badagry by President Muhammadu Buhari and his Benin Republic counterpart, Patrice Talon on October 23 last year.
“With the inauguration and subsequent movement of the command to the Joint Border Patrol (JBP) of Seme-Krake (designed to operate as a modern border), the operations of the command will be further enhanced through cooperation, collaboration and regional integration by facilitating the free movement of persons and services, reduction of trade and logistic costs, increase in inter-regional trade, increase of Government revenue by eliminating trade barriers, reduction of delays, operating cost and availability of baseline data for impact assessment. This is to assure the Customs high command that this year’s revenue target allocated will not only be met, but will be surpassed provided that other factors remain constant”, the Controller stated.
With the JBP initiative, which he serves as its Chairman and his Benin counterpart as Co-chairman, Uba informed that the system provided a one-stop border post, which he explained meant “single entry, single exit”.
He added that with that arrangement, once a traveller entered the post, he needed not move from one office to another as both sides of the divide (Nigeria and Benin) would attend to him at the same time in an enclave where all the agencies were present.
He assured that all the agencies of government on both sides were on the same page on the initiative; hence the assurance of travellers of unhindered movement in the course of their businesses.
On plans for the year, he said, “The command will further strengthen its anti-smuggling operations against trans-border crimes through intelligence-driven operations and continuous partnership with other relevant agencies for effective border management to stem the unlawful activities of daredevil criminals.
“We however assure members of both local and business communities that the command will increase dialogue, enlightenment and robust stakeholder engagements for seamless operations through the modern Joint Border Patrol. “Furthermore, Customs personnel will remain stationed at strategic and approved points to assist in facilitation of legitimate trading activities and equally ensure adequate security”.