By Godfrey Bivbere & Ebuka Oko
Customs Area Controller, CAC, of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Mohammed Uba Garba, has called on the three tiers of governments in Nigeria to develop the border towns if the smuggling in the country must be brought to the barest minimum.
Speaking with Vanguard Maritime Report in his office in Lagos, Garba said the development of these communities as well as enlightenment of the indigenes is the only way to make them stop supporting smuggling activities.
Mohammed who was responding to questions linking smuggling to lack of development in these border areas, explained that it is not the responsibility of the federal government alone to develop the border communities because both the state and the local governments also benefit from the revenue collected by Customs.
He pointed out that while it is not possible to completely eliminate smuggling, some persons see smuggling as the only way to make a living and warned that they should be ready to face the Service because the present management is determined to implement the policies of government fully.
According to him, “The Nigerian state is composed of three tiers of government, the federal government, the state and the local government. Like the revenue we generate, it goes; it is shared among the three tiers of government. That it is the responsibility of the federal government, the state government and local government to distribute these resources to make sure that such communities are developed.
“That some smugglers see smuggling as part of their life, as a way of life, for instance, in Ogun State, in the border communities, you find almost every person is a smuggler.
“In the course of doing our work, if we pursue a smuggler to a town or a place, you will see that nobody supports the Customs officer; the community will rise against the Customs officers, see them as enemies.
“They will claim that they have been in this business long ago and it is the business of their forefathers. So, why are you now coming to tell them that there is a government policy, that this should not be done?”
“When goods are smuggled into our national economy, they affect our industries. The bringing in of such goods affects our industries. When our industries are affected, they will not be able to employ the needed manpower; they will not be operating at a required capacity, which will go a long way in bringing in unemployment.
“And when there is no employment, when people who are qualified to take employment it can be either in private or government, and that they don’t get such opportunity.
“We keep on calling individuals, patriotic individuals, community leaders, traders, members of the press, other security agencies to put all our hands on deck and fight smuggling because it destroys our economy. And we must make sure that our economy survives. “