By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why Mohammed Aliyu, Comptroller Seme Command embarked on the fencing of the expansive land owned by the Command which land speculators over the years had sold to unsuspecting victims and another part taken over by the National Union of Road Transport Workers, NURTW, for use as their own park.
one of the reason for fencing the land is to give it a facelift as an international route. Another reason was to keep the environment clean as it ought to be clean to attract foreign investors coming into the country for the first time through the land border station.
A Deputy Comptroller, from the Command, who spoke to the Magazine on condition of anonymity disclosed that the initiative to secure the Customs land because the whole area looked untidy like the old Oshodi which was very rowdy abnd a hide out for Criminals.
Given an insider information, the officer said the Comptroller had given the occupants three months to quit the land after a series of meetings with the Community leaders. He disclosed that the illegal occupants knew they had no case as they voluntarily removed their make shift houses without waiting for the Command to bring bulldozers to pull down the illegal structures erected on the Customs land as they may have been told that the 1976 Land Use Decree gave the entire land to the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.
The Customs land was said to have started from the boundary between Nigeria and Republic of Benin, precisely at the area where the sign board ,” Welcome to Nigeria was placed”. The voluntary removal of the illegal structures by the owners may have disappointed the Lawyers who were waiting in the wings to drag Customs Authorities to Court for forceful ejection of their clients from their land for their own use without compensation.
The Customs Authorities may have been encouraged to hasten work on the fencing of the land to catch up with the European Economic Commission, EEC and Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, international office Complex project at the border town.
A visitor to Seme in the recent time would be surprised at the level of that had executed by the contractor handling the project as the fencing had gone far, almost linking up with the Customs Scanner Site at the Border Community.
Aliyu, the Comptroller was said to have visited the site on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, for the first, since the Contractors mobilized on site, accompanied by a retinue of officers, armed to the teeth to access the level of work done in order to report back to the Customs Headquarters at Abuja.
There was the initial rumours that the reclaimed Customs Land , now being fenced would be used as a truck park by the Command to receive Containerized transit cargoes that would be trans-loaded into trucks that would go through the scanning and clearing process at the Command.
the treatment may have gained ground because of the treatment meted to Nigeria Customs officers and other agencies personnel including importers with their Clearing agents by the Banana Customs Authorities, who take advantage that the land is their own to do as they like.
It was learnt that there are some fees which they collect from Nigeria importers for trans-loading their Containerized cargoes into trucks in the land under the close watch of Nigeria Customs personnel but there is not much they can do.
Another officer, who spoke to the Magazine explained that only Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, would determine what the reclaimed land would be used for after the fencing and no one else.
Efforts to speak to Aliyu, the Seme Comptroller including visits proved abortive as he was said to have barred dealing with Agents and Community leaders who call at his office at will than Journalists. The reason for hobnobbing with Agents and Community leaders may not be far- fetched : to give them a sense of belonging.
Indeed, the Cordial working relationship between the Command , Agents and Community leaders may have provided a sane working environment for the officers . Many of the Community leaders were said to have turned to Customs informants leading to spectacular seizures that had been made by the Command in the recent time.
It is not surprising why the Comptroller could boldly say that ”sanitizing of the Lagos-Abidjan Corridor and facilitating trade in line with the Federal government executive order to ease the process of doing business and in line with international best practice remains his major focus.
He has stated that effective Interpol collaboration with the NCS and other Customs Administrations in the sub-region led to the arrest and detention of over 50 exotic vehicles by the Command in 2017 alone.
Taupyen Selchang, a Chief Public Relations officer and the Command spokes man disclosed that the Command made a total of 270 seizures between January and March, 2018. He placed the Duty Paid Valued, DPV, of the seized items at about N234 million.
The good news about the Command was the overhaul of the smuggling of petrol across the border thhrough the Owode outstation, thus correcting the ills of smuggling the product to Republic Benin through the land border and the Creeks.
Selchang disclosed that the Command is always gathering classified information on the berthing of some Consignments in Cotonou port, Republic of Benin, and other ports in the West African sub-region, that are prohibited, going by the government fiscal policy measures but the importers were targeting Nigeria market as their final destination. This is in addition to about N1.58 billion collected as revenue which was paid into the Federation Account within the period.