Operation Clean Up Seme

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.

Seme Land Border Station
Seme Land Border Station

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.

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