By Udeme Clement
Seme, the border between Nigeria and Republic of Benin is the busiest border in entire West and Central African Sub-region. Seme is where Customs work with their eyes, ears and minds open 24 hours. They must be alert to ensure that aside from blocking, prohibited goods, arms and ammunition that can jeopardise national security, individuals on government’s wanted list do not pass through the border. All consignments coming into Nigeria through Seme must go through strict scrutiny and thorough scanning process, at the Scan-system Unit beside Customs office.
Policing this border is extra-ordinarily challenging, as Sunday Vanguard during a visit to Seme observed that the border has a difficult terrain with swampy areas all over the place. Many houses in the surrounding communities were seen flooded, making movement in the environment extremely difficult, even with jungle boots.
Inspite of these challenges, the current Customs Area Controller (CAC), Comptroller Victor David Dimka, who has worked in key positions as the CAC, Federal Operation Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’, Lagos and FOU, Zone ‘C’, Owerri, said they are battled-ready for smugglers.
Dimka has stepped up security surveillance in the entire Command. Infact, anyone who sees the movement of the CAC repeatedly between his office and the scaning unit, will know that activities at Seme are no longer business as usual. Sunday Vanguard gathered that the Command under his watch recently intercepted, three bullet proof vehicles with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N58.7million. The vehicles include a black Jeep Escalade with registration number GGE 225 BM, a black Toyota Land Cruiser (VKR) with registration number LSR 906 AG and a black Mercedes Benz Bus with foreign number.
This spectacular seizure came few months after the same Command arrested live ammunition smuggled into the country through the border, even as over 30 suspects have been arrested under the supervision of the current CAC. He said that the arrests were made possible through increased security measures in the Command.
During the visit, it was also observed that the multiple checkpoints, which were everywhere on Seme road had disappeared. On what happened to them, the CAC said, “When I took over, I realised the issue of multiple checkpoints with unapproved routes unmanned.
I posted officers to all the illegal routes where we had constant information on goods that came from unmanned routes within the border. When we blocked those routes, people started paying duty and gradually they became used to having one checkpoint, due to deployment of officers to unapproved routes. Most times, I go to bed by 3 am and that does not mean I can sleep, because I must watch through cameras.
My phones are always on in case I have an urgent issue to tackle. As the Chairman of all security agencies in the border, I can reach out to other security agencies at any time.”
He went on, “Smuggling is a global issue but we must show strong commitment to tackle it. If not, illegal trade will continue to undermine government’s economic policies to grow local industries.”
The Command also raked in N1. 1.billion revenue for the month of September, 2016, and over 76 seizures with DPV of N67.7million. The CAC explained that the amount generated surpassed the sum of N883. 7Million collected within the same period in 2015 with over N245.3million. “This outstanding performance justifies our determination to succeed. We must continue to remain undaunted and cannot be deterred in performing our statutory responsibility no matter the challenge”, he stressed.