Border Closure: Smugglers Intensify Attacks Against Customs

DAPO OLAWUNI

Attackers and hatchet-men, hired by some unscrupulous smugglers who are unhappy with the gains made by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration over its decision to close land border across the country, are at work in Seme, to destroy the good works of Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba and officers of the Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS

Since the federal government directed all land borders across the country to be under lock and key on August 20, smugglers and those angry with the policy have been fighting back with so much ferocity.

They are now sponsoring social media influencers, bloggers and opinion molders to wage a media war against the NCS and the federal government, to pressure the government to drop the policy, which has been largely applauded by the International Monetary Fund, IMF, an organ of United Nations and other international partners to be very successful.

“On the border closure in Nigeria which has been impacting Benin and Niger, our understanding is that the action reflects concerns about smuggling that has been taking place

“It is about illegal trade, which is not what you want to facilitate,’’ Abebe Selassie, the managing director of the Fund stated, adding that suggestions by neighboring countries that the action of the Nigerian government violated the AFCFTA, is incorrect. 

During his recent working visit to Seme Customs command, to ascertain the level of compliance,  CG Ali commended the officers and men of the command for standing firm in the face of constant efforts by importers and smugglers to compromise them, warning detractors that their actions will be vehemently resisted.

Ali said “We cannot do business without you but compliance is lacking between you and our officers. Most of the things we do don’t comply with rules and that’s why we end up with weapons, Tramadol that killed our children.

“We end up with ammunition that bandits use to kill our people; we don’t manufacture ammunition in this country; if we do, it is only from one source and that source is well protected and documented.

But today, we have seen a lot of the ammunition in Nigeria. Where are they coming from?” Ali said.

Still undeterred by this retribution, these unpatriotic individuals have also sought to bribe some security officials now manning the borders, particularly personnel of the NCS unsuccessfully.

They have therefore ratchet up their campaigns and dangerous shenanigans after effort to get the NCS on their side to continue to sabotage the economy, failed.

So their decision to turn the heat on the service, to blackmail the Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) led NCS is not lost on many discerning Nigerians who have praised Buhari and the Service for implementing a policy that could make the nation transform to a self-sustaining economy within few years.

Unfortunately, the Seme Command and the Area Controller of the command, Mohammed Uba Garba have been caught up in the crossfire of cheap blackmail by those that are poised to roll back the gains of the border closure, which Comptroller General of Customs, Ali, told the National Assembly last month, has led to the increase of Customs Revenue to at least N5 billion daily.  

It’s therefore, not a coincidence that those angry with this feat recently ramped up their campaign of calumny against the patriotic personnel of NCS who are implementing the border closure under severe conditions and sacrifice.

“Do you know that all the outstanding allowances of these security agencies are yet to be fully paid? In spite of this, they are standing firm refusing to be compromised.

It’s under this hard condition they are working, and some persons, for reasons best known to them are poised to attack their sensibilities,” the security analyst said.

On November 2, one of them finally reared his head after hiding for so long for fear of how Nigerians will react to the evil act.

 Named Abubakar Aliyu, the saboteur claimed in his twitter account that some unknown personnel of the NCS have been collecting bribes from smugglers to bring in goods, even when the borders still remained shut.

He mentioned various bogus sums allegedly collected by some officers to allow smugglers have their way.

“That’s not possible with the retinue of no-nonsense and fierce looking soldiers, police, DSS, customs and other security forces taking position on ground at Seme border, with their tentacles spreading to Gbaji and as far as Igbo Elerin along the Lagos Badagry expressway to deter any ambitious smugglers.

“What many people don’t know is that there are more security men in mufti working to see that this policy is not breached. Even when you managed to bribe your way through the uniformed contingents, having your way with these ‘under cover cops’ will be like passing through the proverbial camel that wants to make its way through the needle’s eye,” Olawale Tokunbo, a security analyst familiar with land border matters told the magazine.     

Curiously, Aliyu who the magazine learned is working in cahoots with some disgruntled smugglers did not mention names.

The accuser who shortly enjoyed media frenzy, no sooner he made the allegation and has now become an object of infamy on the internet, only made a sweeping suggestion that mischievous importers and smugglers are bribing their way through NCS personnel stationed along the Seme border.

“I’m still around that border, trying to compile my report,” he said in the mischievous tweet. He’s yet to release the report.

Expectedly, many patriotic Nigerians have seen through his mindset and now turned against him in the last few days, accusing him and his cabal of sabotaging federal government’s effort to prevent Nigeria from becoming a dumping ground of sort for banned goods and illicit weapons which the border closure targets.

 They have equally accused him of plot to demoralized officers of the Service who are on ground rain or shine to make sure that the policy is enforced to the letter, even beyond the January 30 terminal date, temporarily set by the Buhari administration.

And despite the ambiguity surrounding his claims, the Controller in charge of the command, Mohammed Garba, the magazine was told, has swiftly gone to work to investigate the matter.

 Indeed, his action is not because he doubts the integrity of his men. The controller is not also trying to prove Aliyu wrong, because “obviously there’s nothing to prove. As the thespian goes, he who alleges must prove. The Onus is on the accuser to prove his allegation,” Chuks Obioma, an importer with over 20 years-experience, at Seme said.

But Comptroller Mohammed probe has somehow paid off.

What was discovered will shock the most doubting Thomas’s.

Sources at the command disclosed that Aliyu is one of those that are not happy with the federal government’s closure of the border and having tried in their own diabolical way to have the policy rescinded but failed, they decide to launch a war of attrition against the Customs.

Even though, Aliyu has refused to answer posers sent to the same twitter handle to substantiate his allegation, sources at the border with Benin Republic, said the ‘Accuser’ is part of a clique of itinerant smugglers whose goods were seized by men of the command after the border was shut in August.

Their effort to get the goods released through the back door has failed and they now resorted to blackmail, the source said.

But the command has a bad news for the unpatriotic citizens: “we cannot be blackmailed and will not buckle under the pressure to demoralize our officers,” a senior officer at the command vowed.

Also, Hussaini Abdullahi Onawo, spokesman of the command has warned that “no amount of blackmail by aggrieved persons who may have lost their smuggled vehicles to customs,” will stop the officers from doing their jobs.

The officers appear right.

According to investigations, the command has recently impounded 55 assorted, state of the art automobiles from dare devil smugglers as part of the effort to enforce the border closure policy.

But the NCS under Ali seems to be merciful and has opened a window of opportunity for the owners to reclaim their seized items.     

 Nigerians are waiting to see whether they will take it. 


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