IDPs: Buhari Shifting Responsibility

By Stphen Ubanna

More facts have emerged why the Federal government may have shifted the responsibility of feeding and clothing the internally Displaced persons, IDPs in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Edo states in the Camps in these states to the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.

This is because of the cost implication which runs into billions of naira annually which President Muhammadu Buhari believes, the government lean budgetary provision could no longer accommodate  because of the downturn in the nation’s economy and  other competing demands. The situation was so bad that e has no option but to approach  some donor nations  in Europe and the United States for help in the early years of the Administration but the response was said to be unencouraging.

The slow response of the donor nations may have forced him  in 2016 to set up a Committee  headed by , Aliko Dangote a multi- billionaire and President Dangote Group of Companies to raise funds for the up- keep the IDPs in the Camps.

The Committee had a mandate to raise $500 million to feed and clothe the IDPs in the north east and Edo state in the south-south. the Committee was said to have started  a sensitisation  Campaign both locally and overseas to drum people’s attention  to the suffering of the IDPs  in  Nigeria. Unconfirmed reports said the Committee had  raised about $100 million so far  . Dangote, alone was said to have donated N2 billion to the IDPs cause.

The President resort to” plan B” to use the services of the NCS, became pronounced,  when information filtered out that  its warehouses across the country are filled with rice and other Consumables including  bales of fairly  used  clothing and  shoes seized from smugglers including rolls of textile materials.

He was said to have issued a Presidential directive to the Hameed Ali, led NCS, to supply rice and other items in its warehouses across the country that had been condemned  by the Court and  turned to government property to the IDPs in 2016.

Joseph Attah, an a Deputy Comptroller of Customs and the Service Image maker, alluded to this when he  disclosed that in January 2016, the NCS, received a Presidential directive  to donate all the seized  items to Nigerians affected  by the activities of the insurgents  in the north east. The directive was said to have pushed Ali into action.

It was an opportunity, sources  said, Ali, the Bauchi state born Comptroller General of the NCS  had been waiting for to get the Customs involved in IDPs project as he could not take the initiative on his own without Presidential backing being from the north east region. This is because of the criticisms that it attract from all nooks and crannies of the country. The IDPs had Camps  arescattered in five states: Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa  and Edo  states.

The Customs helmsman was said to have given a matching order  to the Comptrollers of the Federal Operations  Unit, FOU, in the south west,  south east, north east and north west and those at the land border stations in particular, to step up their anti-smuggling operations to ensure that suspected smugglers of rice, second hand clothing and shoes and  other  items banned from coming into the Nigeria market through the land border were  t allowed to come in but sseized.

The Customs Comptroller General’s order was also said to have been extended to the  Comptrollers of Eastern and Western Marine Commands including those at the seaports to look out for importers who flout the government fiscal policies to bring goods into the country including rice  without permit.

At the seaports, the government had made matters worse for Olam and other  rice importers as it had stopped giving permits to importers since June last year. The directive may have forced Mohamed Uba Garba, Comptroller, FOU,Zone A into action. He was said to have ensured full compliance by importers and exporters  with all extant laws  governing imports and exports in the country.  The fall out is the significant seizure of foreign rice, vegetable oil, second hand clothing and shoes smuggled across the land border in the south west and those concealed in Containers released at the seaports by the Command.

The in-road made by Garba and his men in breaking into the smuggler’s ranks in the south west  may have strengthened  his resolve  to cripple smugglers in the region and force them out of the illegitimate business. The  Customs warehouse at Ikeja built to accommodated seized rice, vegetable oil had  always been filled with such items since 2016 that the government had no problem getting the items from the Customs without spending a dine,   .

Giving an insider information, Attah had said that in the last 22 months, the Customs had supplied 252,666 bags of rice fully loaded into 421 trailers provided by the Nigeria Army Corps  of Supply and Transport.  The worth of the rice supplied to the IDP Camps by the Customs within the period was put at about NN3.8 billion.   This is in addition 82,140 jerrycans of 25 litre of vegetable oil worth about a billion naira and 66 jerricans of palm oil.

Other items that was said to have been supplied by the Customs to the IDPs  Camps were  soap, spaghetti, macaroni,slipers, bed-sheet, and branded wrappers. Mosquito Coil, school bags,sacks, sugar,. Also, the service was also said to have supplied to the IDP Camps based on the Presidential directive to Camps tomato paste, children shirts, boxers, insecticides,female hijab, trousers and second hand clothing and shoes.

Eye witness account disclosed that several cartons of China tea, chocolate, condensed milk , maggi cube, liquid soap, and two ”40”   Containers loaded with different items were equally provide the IDPs by Customs. One of the ”40” Containers impounded from the seaport was said to have contained  1,600 sacks of Used bags, face caps and shoes. The second ”40” , the source  said  was loaded with frozen tilapia fish.

Despite supplying these items to the IDPs in the last 22 months, the Customs formations across the country had continued to do so , as warehouses are still filled to the brim with rice, vegetable oil among others. There is hardly a month five or ten trucks could not line up at the Customs warehouse to load rice, vegetable oil and other items to the IDP,s, an indication that Garba and his men are working.

Investigation by the Magazine shows that  some of the tones rice in the Customs warehouses across the country   had not been taken to the IDPs  for now because the Customs Authorities are still awaiting  the Court Condemnation and forfeiture to the government to the government.

in spite of the fact that the Court had not ruled on the impounded items, the Customs Authorities was said to have allocated  the rice to government of the affected states  which had reached a deal with the Customs to bear the cost of transporting the items to the IDPs located in their respective states by the Army Corps of Transport and supplies.

many believe that without the presidential order which forced the Customs to take up the responsibility of bearing part of the feeding and clothing of the IDPs  in their respective Camps in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa and Edo, it would have been bad for them as the government had lost interest in providing for them.

Officers and men of the FOU in the four Zones across the six regions of the country and those at the land border stations may have battled the smugglers  to a standstill in their respective areas of  coverage to deprive  them of ownership of their smuggled goods in the last two years but not without a fight. Ali, the Comptroller General had confirmed at several forums that smugglers who are not ready to let go their goods  mobilize  hoodlums  to block  the road and attack  operatives.  The Charles Okpabi Jack  Roving team of the FOU, Zone A, had been a victim of it.

Moreso, they have a way of inducing  Community  dwellers to provide them shelter for their smuggled goods. Only recently, the FOU, Zone A, operatives broke into a house stocked with rice in Ogun state. The rice  was  brought to Customs warehouse , Ikeja, with about  six trucks. The  Seme Command enforcement officers were said to done a similar thing last year.

Besides, inducing Youths of the border Communities,  they are armed with dangerous weapons  and some Customs operatives had been killed in an attempt to dispossess of their gods. The Customs confirmed that sic Customs operatives were shot dead by smugglers in 2017. the killing of officers in the process of enforcing the law may have forced the Comptrollers at the various anti-smuggling Commands and the Comptroller General task force and other Comptroller General special Units to devise strategies to save  officers from straight bullet of smugglers.

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