By Udeme Clement
Kane Emmanuel Dede is the Customs Area Comptroller, (CAC) Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A, Lagos, where a new technique of smuggling textile materials into the country has been uncovered. He speaks in this interview about the new strategies fashioned out by his Zone to curb smuggling in a bid to prevent Nigeriaâ€™s industrial sector from complete collapse
Could you tell us what the anti-smuggling campaign entails and the benefits for local industries in the country?
The entire anti-smuggling strategy aims at sustaining infant industries to enhance economic growth and development in a larger scale. The initiative is to allow local industries to grow and expand their production capacity to maximise outputs within the short and long-run expectations, in order to create jobs and generate more revenue to boost income flow in the country.
Our strategy involves working against the criminal activities of smugglers who bring in banned items like textile materials, fabrics, shoes, bags and other goods that could be manufactured locally in the country illegally through the borders or seaports contrary to the laws. For instance, influx of foreign textile into the market constitutes a major impediment to the growth of local textile companies operating in Nigeria, which is not good for a growing economy like ours.
How do you detect banned items, especially goods that could be manufactured locally?
Smuggling has become sophisticated by the day, as smugglers often use different techniques to perpetrate this illegal act.Â But, we thwart their efforts by mapping out new strategies to curtail them in all ramifications.
This requires constant patrol and monitoring of the borders, thorough searching of vehicles at approved duty points to ensure that contra-band are not smuggled into the country. It also involves outright seizure of offensive goods, arrest and prosecution of those found culpable in the act. For instance, we arrested a tanker which ought to be used for lifting petrol, loaded with bags of sugar from the border.
Aside from this, we also uncovered smuggling through the bush with motor-cycles popularly known as okada as means of conveyance, the use of luxury buses meant for public transportation to smuggle contra-band, bringing in banned items through the creeks where smugglers re-routed for easy passage, the use of vehicles with wrong registration numbers, the use of vehicles without passengers seats, but with various compartments specially designed to convey contra-band and false declaration among others. Also, the environment determines the trend of smuggling.
Such items are easily detected because we have stepped up surveillance in our operations. Also, we receive special training on the job through intensive capacity building which involves regular training and retraining programmes.
At present, we have the human resource department in the service, which is a new creation. The initiative is to enhance skills training required to carry out various operations within and out side the borders. We also have the Customs Academy, headed by Assistant Comptroller General, who is a PhD holder.
How many culprits have your apprehended in your zone in 2010?
Within few weeks of operations beginning from January ending, a total number of 40 suspects had been arrested and 37of them had been released on bail and three are currently in the cell, while eight cases are still pending in the court. During the period under review, we also recorded a total of 156 detentions comprising of 32 (1X40) containers, eight (1X20) containers and 43 means of conveyance. Some had been released after assessment, investigation and proper revenue collected where necessary.
We are calling on the dare devil smugglers to desist from their nefarious activities to let peace and sanity reign in our economic environment because smuggling is not only detrimental to the overall economy of the nation, but very dangerous to individual development of the citizenry.
During this period, we uncovered another new techniques of smuggling hard drugs into the country. My officers at Olorunda axis, impounded the item in a mazda bus with registration number, Ogun AJ693AAB, fully loaded with carnabis otherwise known as Indian hemp (marijuana) and the total value is estimated to be N15million. The investigation regarding ownership of the vehicle and consequent apprehension of the culprit is on-going. Aside from that, we also recorded 170 seizures with the total Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N295million within few weeks of operations.
The real sector is the engine room of the economy, what measures do you think government should put in place to eradicate smuggling for the industry to thrive?
The truth is that, smuggling can not be absolutely eradicated from the system. It has not been done anywhere in the world. But what government does through the customs is to curtail smuggling, tackling it seriously because of its adverse consequence on the economy. So, our duty is to curb this illegal act as much as possible to enable local industries grow and compete favourably with their foreign counterparts.
After the interception of offensive goods, what follows?
When we impound contra-band, we quickly inform the Headquarters while the seizures are taken to the government warehouse. We go further to prosecute the offenders in court. In FOU Zone A, right now, there are records for a number of convictions and some suspects are still in court.
I personally was in court recently on a case involving N62million fake bank receipt used in clearing goods from the ports, which happened many years ago when l was in investigations department. So, we also do court duties to ensure that culprits are brought to book. We are always alert because we monitor and explore vital sources of information for daily operations.
What do you think the present government should do to improve the service?
Government is doing its best at the moment. That is why we are employed, trained and equipped to do the work. But the major problem is limited logistics. We want government to improve on the area of funding.
The current management is on top of this issue of funding to ensure that officers are adequately empowered to do the work efficiently. The new management is also doing well in the area of encouraging officers through promotion.
You have served in different zones at various capacities and now as the CAC, FOU Zone A, could you tell us your experience?
There are people who do not want to move round in the service, what they do is to restrict themselves from going to different places to serve. But, this does not help or equip them well for the challenging tasks that the service involved. The reason being that they limit themselves by not moving to gather experience associated with working in different zones across the country.
I started from the seaport, after spending three years, I was posted out to enforcement unit, which is the border. After working for a considerable period the Customs management again posted me to Ogun command where l spent five years. While there, I served in Ilara, Ifonyiteto and from there to ajilate and ohumbe still within Ogun state. Serving in those units gave me the advantage to know many things about the service, Nigeria as a nation and to appreciate the people better. Also, moving from one unit to another has been very useful because it makes it possible for me to gather experience that enables me discharge my duties with diligence at all times, several years before I became a comptroller.
I also served in states like Kaduna, Jigawa and Apapa in Lagos. From Apapa, l was sent to investigations department in the head quarters, where the Comptroller General met me, from investigations to air port.
At a point, I served in revenue and administration departments then back to head quarters as acting comptroller, after which my promotion as Comptroller came.
Immediately I was made comptroller, the management sent me back to Ogun Command, where we made substantial seizures. I spent four months as CAC Ogun zone when the management sent me again to Head Quarters, and shortly to Federal Operations Unit zone C in Owerri, from where I came eventually to the premier position of CAC zone A, which I regard as ultimate in the service.