By Godwin Oritse
Seme border, over the years, has become a household name for one reason: It is the only international land border that contributes substantially to the country’s socio-economic development.
This mindset corroborates the statistical documentation of economic activities that have thrived through the Lagos-Abidjan corridor both in terms of human and vehicular movements.
Being a renowned border that links most of West African countries within the sub-region, and its pivotal role in the economic development of Nigeria and West Africa at large, the corridor has attracted international and local travelers. Meanwhile, this international attraction has dire consequences of thriving illicit activities like smuggling, drug trafficking, human immigration/trafficking, terrorism and money laundering amongst others.
Unfortunately, the Seme border had been perceived over the years by the public for its negative trans-border crimes than being the legitimate site for trade, movement of people and the link it has with other West African countries.
Globally, the Customs administration of any member country of the World Customs Organization (WCO) is strategically deployed to the seaport, airport and land borders to carry out its mandates (revenue generation, suppression of smuggling and trade facilitation among others).
The international designation has led to the Customs administration of each member country of the WCO playing the leading role when it comes to the management of all entry points.
This had caused the perception in the Nigerian public that all activities and other engagements emanating from the entry points, be it legal or illegal, were orchestrated by the Customs Service.
The same negative perception about the service applied to the Seme border not minding the fact that an efficient border management is a matter of effective collaboration with other border security agencies, hence, despite the leading role of the Customs at the seaport, airports or land borders, they don’t operate in isolation.
However, this write up intends to address recent dynamics at the Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Service which is a reflection of integrity, due diligence and ethical standards.
The Customs Area Controller at the Command, Compt. Mohammed A. Aliyu, seems to be operating in strict adherence to the reform agenda of the Comptroller General (Colonel Ibrahim Hammed Ali, ret.); this is evident in Aliyu’s operational strategies which are determinedly within the service mandate with national security in mind. The Command has also succeeded in stemming the impunity and flagrant abuse of the Federal Government policies by smugglers, who used to operate at the border with reckless abandon and at the risk to officers’ lives.
A traveler through the corridor will bear witness to the fact that smuggling is being confronted headlong and there is no longer room for impunity and economic sabotage at the Seme route. Enforcement of government policies at the Command is total as seizures of different contrabands are hauled into the warehouse in a perpetual manner.
The commendable performance reverberates in other West African countries as the Command’s collaborative efforts with its counterparts in those countries wax stronger daily. The synergy has yielded the arrest of many items including over 50 stolen exotic cars at Republic of Cote d’Ivoire under Interpol collaboration.
If this performance could attract a commendation letter from the Cote d’Ivoire government to the Comptroller General of Customs as a way of appreciating the synergy at the regional level to eliminate cross-border crimes, it is worthy of note that the Nigeria Customs Service is undergoing a transformation that deserves the commendation from the citizenry rather than criticism borne out of selfish reasons.
The Seme Command is always getting intelligence on the berthing of prohibited consignments in the neighboring countries and targeting Nigeria as the final destination. The surveillance has led to the arrest of 32, 000 bags of smuggled rice with duty paid value of ¦ 530, 000, 000 and attests to the Command’s uncompromising stand to working in conformity with the reforms of the CGC.
And as a revenue generating institution, the border Command, apart from enforcing government fiscal policies, has generated ¦ 1,576,153,186 into government coffers, which represents 78% of the monthly revenue target allocated to the Command from January to March. The Command also made 270 seizures with duty paid value of ¦ 235,648,447 during the same period.
It will be recalled that there was a smuggler’s ‘Wonder Car’ parked at the Customs Headquarters that was trending in the social media, with the concealment of goods with duty paid value of over N40million seized at the Seme border. It is pertinent to note that this dangerous concealment (amongst others) is routinely intercepted at the axis.
Changing the negative public perception to the Customs’ workforce is a task the present leadership is instilling in its officers and the modus operandi is to comply with international best practices and travelers treated with dignity, high degree of respect, transparency and professionalism.
The Seme Command is conscious of this fundamental fact and is guided by it in the way officers are deployed and instructed to adhere to the seven operational golden Cs.
It is therefore not out of place to say that the Seme border in the eye of the public is undergoing a positive transformation despite the fact that often times few erring officers are always seen among the committed and patriotic ones.
The Command makes bold to say that discipline permeates the rank and file now, while cross border crimes are abhorred among officers.