Custom’s Dilema

Charles Edike: Urged road users to submit to customs checks.

Fear grips Customs  personnel  working  at Seme land border  over  alleged  killing of  indigenes of host Communities while pursuing Smugglers

By Stephen Ubanna

For  much of last week,  officials of Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Services, NCS, made elaborate arrangement  to receive  Hameed Ali, a retd Colonel and Comptroller  General, NCS. The magazine learnt  that Victor Dimka, the Controller took  advantage  of the planned  visit to invite the Paramount rulers, Chiefs, Baales and other  stakeholders  including the  Youth leaders in the Border Communities to be at the Command  to meet with the Customs helmsman  to lodge   their complains.
Dimka has every reason of inviting  stakeholders in the border communities  and opinion leaders.  This is because of the frequent clashes between  his men chasing alleged smugglers  and youths of the host Communities.
Many believe the incessant  killings became worse  since Dimka  assumed leadership of the Command. The Seme Customs boss disclosed  that the  frequent clashes  between his  men and youths of  the host Communities have put the officers under perpetual fear including himself. Signs that he is living in fear is evident going by the number of heavily armed officers  stationed at his official quarters which is backing the Atlantic Ocean. The officers, the magazine was informed  scrutinises visitors  for fear of any  attack. Moreso, he has mounted a CCTV in his house to monitor  visitors coming to see him. It was learnt that on several occasions, he has turned back some senior officers who had come to see him after close of work. Indeed, he confirmed  that it is now a crime to wear Customs  uniform within the  border area as an officer driving to the office  was recently burnt  with his  vehicle. Also, some youths of the host Communities have fallen victim to the officers sporadic-shootings.
A source who spoke to the magazine said the officers commit the crime of killing while chasing alleged  smugglers with unbranded vehicles to the village. The source said  officers should be blamed  for the clashes at the land border as they collect money from the smugglers and still seize their vehicles and goods. He said no smuggler can fly any car  into the  country without passing through the Customs checkpoints along the Lagos-Badagry road.  Only, recently, some officers from the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, zone A, Ikeja, Lagos, had shot  sporadically at Ajara Community in Topo area of Badagry while chasing smugglers the gun shots hit four indigenes of the Community. The killing is coming at a time when the Customs authorities want the Controllers  to train and retrain their men on weapons handling  and sensitise them on the” Rules of Engagement”.
Charles Edike, an Assistant Comptroller General and Coordinator of Zone A, who was at Seme on Wednesday, September  28, 2016, was said to have witnessed the training of the officers on weapons handling  but still believe that a lot need to be done.

Victor Dimka: Ordered to train and retrain his men.

Many believe that Ali could not attend the seme meeting because of the recent scam at the Command. He was at Ogun and Idiroko  Command where he met  with  paramount rulers, Chiefs, Baales  and Community leaders who made a case for employment of their youths. He was however happy at the good working relationship between the officers and  indigenes of the  border Communities  which is facilitating trade in the land border. He commended Multafu Wainda, the Controller for maintaining peace in the border area.
Edike who was at Seme bared his mind to the people,” we are concerned  about the incessant clashes  between  some members of  the Seme border Communities and the Customs personnel”.  He decried  a situation  where officers have  been  injured, maimed   and killed’’.
“It ought not to be so”, he said.  He urged  the Paramount rulers, Chiefs and Baales  to call the youths in their communities to order in the interest  of peace.  According to him,  the trouble in the border area can be avoided if the youths respect  constituted authorities. “if  you are driving and an officer stops  you at a checkpoint, stop and hear what he has to say. Ask him to take you to their office to meet the boss if you are  not satisfied with his action and conduct”. He disclosed that  often, officers stop vehicles at checkpoints to ensure that  there is no concealment of arms and ammunitions, drugs or contraband goods.  He said  the Customs  “stop and check”, policy  has punctured many robbery and kidnap cases along the border area and noted that  Customs personnel  would not  molest traders who bring in their goods through the appropriate routes. He urged  the people to protect officers living in their communities. He gave an instance  of a recent  case at Shaki Community in Oyo state where some angry people had attacked the Customs  office but the villagers came out in full force to repel  the attackers. It was a big relief to Tope Ogunkua, the Controller who has  made  the state too hot for smugglers. Edike  said trouble can be avoided if the people do the right thing. He listed the items  which can not be brought  into the country in commercial quantities and those on the outright ban list. The first item on the import prohibition list, according to him are pork and beef. Others are frozen products, box egg, refined vegetable oil, Spaghetti, fruit juice, bottle water, bagged cement, medicaments, waste pharmaceuticals.
He said soap and detergents, domestic articles, retreade  tyres, corrugated pipes and bars, footwears excluding safety shoes, suit cases, used compressors, used fridges,Tokunbo  vehicles of over 15 years are not  allowed  to enter into the country in commercial quantities.
The  items   banned by the government, he said, are air pistols, Airmill  graphic printing paper, blank invoices, coupon, cowries, instruments pertaining to loading of catridges, manilas, matches made with white phospherous and meat. Banned items on the export list, he said, include scrap metals, artefacts and antiquities, wild life animals declared as endangered species such as Croco dile,  Lizard, monkey, Zebra, Elephant and Timber.  He however, said those interested in exporting theTimber need to get the appropriate specification from the Federal Ministry of Environment and Department of Forestry. He said those who may want to smuggle the item out of the country would run into trouble with Customs.  In addition, he said all imported goods are not  expected to be  exported and  cleared the air over rice imports, stating that  it is not on the import prohibition list  but cannot be imported through the land border except through the sea port. He confirmed that there have been cases where imported vehicles have been exported on Customs approval. He cited an instance of a man who imported a Roke Royce but declared it as a land rover at the port.  But, when the  car developed mechanical fault, he approached the Customs Authorities for help to take it to the manufacturers for repair. He disclosed that  it was at that point the importer was caught  for wrong declaration. He was given an Import Certificate to enable him take the vehicle out of the country for repairs after nine years of usage in the country. He was said to have been given a Debit Note of N93 million. The import certificate exempt him from payment of duty but only on the things changed on the vehicle. He urged importers to take Customs personnel into confidence to enjoy their business.

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