By Stephen Ubanna
Mohammed Aliyu, Comptroller, Seme Command and his counterpart at Onne , Bashir Abubakar, appears to have woken up from sleep to take the Customs anti-smuggling operations serious. The duo , according to sources have been on holiday over the months as smugglers had their way in their areas of control .
Aliyu, a source told the Magazine was forced to sit up with his anti-smuggling personnel when information began to make the rounds that Seme, a border town between Nigeria and Republic of Benin has become a veritable source used by smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities of smuggling rice and vehicles into the country.
The situation may have become too worrisome to the Seme Customs boss that he had to go back to the drawing board with his men on how to deal with the smugglers in the area. The Comptroller may have discovered the new tactics used by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities .
A taxi driver plying the Lagos – Seme road says Customs officials along the express road had been much alive to their duties in the last three months discovering the new tactics of the rice smugglers such as building of bunkers underneath buses or vehicles used for the dastard act or hiding bags of rice under vehicle Seats and passengers well seated on it.
It was learnt that one of the notorious places was the MTN check point where passengers are often ordered out of the bus for thorough checking. Many traders who had bought rice from the border town for sale in the Nigeria market which are loaded into a bus coming to Lagos had lost it to the Aliyu’s men.
Acting on information the Command anti-smuggling men had also intercepted bags of rice from smugglers in their hideout in the border area. The quantity of rice seized by the Command’s anti-smuggling men which had filled its warehouse is evident that Aliyu has got his act right and his men on the road are working according to plan .
The rice and vehicle seizures that had been made by the officers on the road gives a clear indication that the Customs boss has learnt from his mistakes and ready to prove to Hammed Ali, a retired Colonel and the Customs Comptroller General that he can do the job.
Abubakar, his counterpart at Onne Command, who not much is known about his efforts to combat the activities of smugglers in his area also has suddenly made a seizure of three units of ”20” feet Containers carrying imported rice valued at about N23 million .
Sources told the Magazine that rice smuggling through the port had been a regular business that had defiled Customs knowledge. at the Onne port. This may have forced the Customs boss to read the riot act against non compliant port users while assuring compliant ones of smooth processing of their imports and exports.
The break threw in the rice seizure loaded in ”20” Containers may have emboldened him to vow to deal ”ruthlessly with importers and exporters who manifest recalcitrance to government fiscal policy”. He has also given a word of advice to officers at the Export Unit to be on the alert to their duties to avoid desperate smugglers beating them to it.
Only recently, the Federal Operations Unit , FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, impounded seven ”20” Containers load of wood , a ”20” Container load of scrap metals, leather, Blue gum, Hide and Skins which were export bound through Apapa port. The items were intercepted by the Command Roving team headed by Charles Opabi Jack, a Chief Superintendent of Customs.
But between and January and September 2017, the Command was said to have recorded export activities to the tune of N29.45 billion . The Command was also said to have recorded an increase in Nigeria Export Supersory Scheme, NESS, free of N150 million.
He could boastfully beat his chest now that the Onne port is a ”no go area for any form of illegality and unlawful acts capable of undermining government revenue.