The Customs Area Controller, Ogun Area Command, Comptroller Waindu Multafu, has decried the unpatriotic attitude of smugglers who persisted in making rice smuggling a matter of “life and death’’.
Multafu made the remark in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Lagos.
He said that there were so many creeks around the borders, adding that the smugglers were using small canoes to take the rice across rivers.
“Rice has become a staple food. It is the most smuggled item because of the financial benefits accruing to the smugglers.
“People smuggle rice to avoid payment of Customs duty,’’ Multafu said.
“There is no place in our warehouse to put rice again. Though, we are making efforts to dispose the ones we have in the warehouse,’’ he told NAN.
Multafu said that the command was doing what was right and expected of the officers and men of the command.
The controller said that the command generated over N3 billion in the first quarter of 2016, adding that the amount exceeded what was collected in the corresponding period of 2015.
He noted that the command would block all revenue leakages.
Multafu, however, said that the economic meltdown had affected business activities at the border posts as it affected the seaports.
According to him, because of the current exchange rate, it is not profitable to smuggle an item like vehicle.
The controller, however, said that the smugglers still floated vehicles across rivers on wooden planks.
Multafu warned that any attempt by smugglers to obstruct the activities of the service would be met with resistance.
He said that the service would not be deterred and would continue to make seizures.
“We make seizures everyday; their (smugglers) vehicles and their motorcycles,’’ Multafu said.
According to him, a situation where officers are attacked, matcheted and had their nails removed by smugglers will not be tolerated.
“Once in a while, if it happens that we are on the defensive, we have to use our guns. Idiroko is the most notorious of border posts in West Africa.
“I cannot say how many of our officers were killed right from Seme up to Idiroko and Imeko.
“The lands are accessible to any would-be smuggler, The terrain is another obstacles to smooth operation because everywhere is road,’’ he told NAN.
Multafu said that there was no constraint in terms of crossing the border, adding that there were three major entrances – Idiroko, Ohunbe and Imeko.
He said the commands also had out-stations like Ijoun, Ifoyintedo and Ijofin to curtail any smuggling on foot, machines or through the waterways.
According to the Controller, Ohunbe, Oke Odan and Ilase are some of the notorious places located along the road to Ajilete.
The Controller said that when he resumed at Ogun Command on January 2016, he called for a stakeholders’ meeting, thinking that both parties could not continue to be at war always.
“After some days, they (smugglers) over-ran two of my officers with motorcycle; one is in a private place of healing and another in an hospital in Kano.
“One time, we made seizures at Ajilete. They barricaded the road, matchetted our officers and took away two of our rifles.
`I constrained my officers from not shooting
“The last time, in the process of bringing the seizures from Ajilete, the miscreants blocked the road,
“Our officers secured the seizures and in the process, there was a shoot-out and we recorded some casualties,’’ Multafu said.
“We have intercepted a lot of motorcycles being used in smuggling. They used a kind of vehicle that can carry 80 bags of rice.
“As long as the service has been authorised to entrench and implant Federal Government’s fiscal policy on anti-smuggling activities, we will continue to carry out our responsibility,’’ the controller said.