By Stephen Ubanna
In spite of the tight security at the nation’s border Communities with Republic of Benin, smugglers appear to have devised new tactics to beat Customs personnel to it at the checkpoint . The smugglers were said to have resorted to the use of bunkers built into their buses or vehicles to smuggle foreign parboiled rice, vegetable oil and textiles into the country.
The Magazine learnt that this had been the practice over the years at Seme axis as thousands of bags of foreign parboiled rice, Vegetable oil and bales of textiles were smuggled into the Nigeria market through the Lagos – Seme Express Way or through the waterways.
The situation was said to be so bad at Seme until the deployment of Muhammed Aliyu and Muhammed Uba Garba as Comptrollers of Seme Command and Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja respectively.
Muhammed, the Comptroller of FOU, Zone A, who was said to have tightened up security along the Lagos end of the Seme land border station , may have forced his counterpart, Aliyu, to be on the offensive against the smugglers in the area.
The Seme Comptroller was said to have drawn close to the Youths and Community leaders in the area who may have furnished him with the tactic of smugglers which involved the use of in- built bunkers into vehicles by smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities.
The recent seizure of the in-built bunker bus used in smuggling rice and textiles along the border route , speaks volume. This is because at Seme are said have been put on the alert to forestall vehicles with inbuilt bunkers from smuggling prhibited goods into the country.
It was learnt the smugglers of the seized bunker bus loaded with rice and bales of textiles, but for the operational experience o could have escaped f Aliyu, the Command Comptroller who was in constant touch with the patrol team stationed along the route of the smugglers. of bags of rice and bales of textile materials were said to have been neatly parked into the bunker which could only be deciphered by a diligent Customs officer on the road.
Given an insider information, Taupyen Selchang, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the Command Image maker disclosed that within the last three months , the Command had made numerous seizures, ranging from Poultry products, foreign parboiled rice, and textile materials valued at about N12.30 million.
Selchang disclosed ever since it became known them that smugglers are reconstructing their means of conveyance for concealment to facilitate easy passage at Customs checkpoints along the road, the Command had reviewed its operational network to thwart their efforts, stressing that” it is yielding results”.
An Insider told the Magazine that the Seme land border could have been a no go area for smugglers but for the fact that the resident officers and the FOU A , Zone officers are said to be working at cross-purposes.
The source disclosed that there is a story building opposite the Igbeleri road where scores of smuggled rice from the Seme axis are stock piled daily. A source told the Magazine that the area is like a big market every evening as customers troop in and out to buy rice or vegetable oil. He disclosed that most Customs patrol teams are aware that such a place exists for stock piling smuggled foreign parboiled bags of rice but there is nothing much they could do about it.
A senior FOU, Zone A, officer told the Magazine that Seme Command officers should be blamed for the lapses over the continuous smuggling of rice or other prohibited into the country though the land border. The officer stated that they are not privy to the examination of cargoes at the Command Examination to know the goods loaded into the truck.
He revealed that the only contact they have with the truck drivers was the SGD form which must be dropped at the Checkpoint for record purposes. The Magazine witnessed the discharging of a truckload of Vegetable oil between Iyana-Oba and Alaba international market Wednesday, April 2, 2018 from a truck. The Magazine attempt to take the picture with his phone was frustrated by thugs in area.
Many believe that the high rate of smuggling rice, Vegetable along the Seme axis may not be unexpected because of the low volume of cargo imports through the land border, which was attributed to scarcity of forex.
Ekene Oyebuchi, a Lagos based business and major transporter at Seme land border confirmed that cargo imports through the land border had dropped significantly as many of their trucks are virtually wasting at the border for lack of goods to carry. Before, Onyebuchi’s trucks were always on the road with go ods including raw materials to deliver to Customers. One of the Companies that was said to be booking for the services of the transporter all the time was the Ibadan based Nigeria-America Tobacco Company. The demand for the transporter services by Customers may have forced him to always place orders for spare parts from the oversea suppliers to always keep the trucks in top form.
A visitor to the Transporter’s Truck mechanical workshop would be surprised at the the level of repair work going on there but the volume of work had dropped because of the drop in volume of cargoes carried.
Perhaps, what may have caused the drop in imported goods through the land border may not be unconnected to the fact that most of the importers using the Cotonou port in Republic of Benin are not compliant to the government fiscal policy measures.
Aliyu, the Seme Command Comptroller may have made things worse for the importers by getting classified information on goods loaded into the trucks from the trans-loading point which forced many of them out of the importing business for fear of losing their trucks loaded goods to FOU, Zone , anti-smuggling officers on the road.