Customs Battle Bandits, Smugglers

By Bayo Bernard

Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba , the controller in charge of Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS took over the command last October thinking that his major task is to collect revenue for the federal government, so he can make the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali happy.

At least that’s what he thought.

But few months after, he understands better that his job also includes catching arm robbers.

Recently, he warned smugglers and saboteurs of the nation’s economy, who operate along the border between Nigeria and Republic of Benin to relocate, that the command under him will not tolerate their activities.

His list of worries now includes dare-devil, heavily armed thieves who are ready to kill their victims at will along the corridor.

On January 30, the ever alert officers of the command received a tip off that some robbers were operating along the international highway along Lagos/ Abidjan.

The usual thing was to alert the police who will in turn arrest the robbers. But the smart officers quickly reckoned that time was of offence, the heavily armed robbers would have escaped.

So they quickly launched out with the precision of the Russian made F16 fighter jet. By the time the surgical operation ended few hours later, the dare-devil robbers who for months terrorized passengers and traveler were all apprehended and handed over to IGP anti-robbery squad for further investigations.

The suspects are Ibrahim Fasasi, Alex Bright, Godwin Sunday and Abiodun Sodik.

While handing over the robbers to the police, Comptroller Uba said the command has stepped up fight against cross border crime.

The task of policing the Seme corridor has not been an easy task.

But the controller and his men seem to be happy that they are getting results for their selfless work.

What does not really matter is whether their boss in Abuja is impressed by what they are doing or not, the most important thing, keen watchers of customs said, is that the officers are rising up to their duties.

Figures don’t lie. Recently Comptroller Uba oversaw the successful facilitation of a joint border between Nigeria and Republic of Benin.

President Muhammadu Buhari flew in from Abuja last month to commission the Seme/Krake joint border post, which has now made the movement of goods and persons seamless and acrimony between the two Customs to disappear.

Business activities can only thrive in a peaceful atmosphere. Before now perennial clashed occurred between the NCS and their Benin counterpart.

The matter had at a point got to a head that Comptroller Uba’s immediate predecessor, called on the federal government to intervene in the matter.

But the situation is no longer so following series of consultations facilitated by Uba and his team to promote trade within the ECOWAS sub region.

Uba Garba: Regional cooperation is key.

Comptroller Uba said of such meetings “The joint meetings become important to strengthen ECOWAS common trade policy for regional integration and economic development within the sub region.”

If Nigeria is to attain the regional economic hub status, it must not limit herself to ECOWAS alone, analysts say.

That may have informed the participation of Nigeria in the recently organized knowledge sharing workshop for West and Central African regions on One Stop Border Post, OSBP by USaid and other international partners in Accra, Ghana.

On the high level meeting the controller said, Nigeria must interact with neighbors and partners to” promote regional integration, trade facilitation and economic development for the regions.”

But what’s the importance of such collaborations if it does not translate to the badly needed revenue for the federal government, some have rightly ask.

The NCS recently declared that it collected over N1trillion into the federation account. It was the first time such feat has been attained.

Therefore, CG Ali will not take the revenue issue lightly.

The Seme command had generated a total of N9.2billion into the Nigerian commonwealth last in 2018, representing over 76 per cent of the revenue target given to the command for that year.


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