Ben Agande – Kaduna
The Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone B, of the Nigeria Customs Service, covering 10 northern states and Abuja has said it seized various smuggled items including foreign rice and with a duty value of N43 Million within one week.
Controller of Customs for the zone, Mustapha Sarkin-Kebbi who disclosed this to a journalist while parading the seized items said smugglers are devising new means to beat the intense patrol of the region by the customs service.
According to him, the porous nature of the borders in the north, coupled with lack of adequate manpower has made it difficult for the customs to fully implement the fill border closure in the region.
“We have continued our anti-smuggling operations across the zone, covering about 10 states, including FCT. We made a lot of intercessions and seizures. This is a truck that my men and officers intercepted around Jega, Kago road in Kebbi State, two days ago.
“From the outside, you see the truck, it is carrying footwears. But from the inside, we have smuggled rice. But concealed 100Kg bags, then the rest they left them as they are. It is just the desperation that they must do this smuggling. With the intensification of the anti-smuggling patrol everywhere in the zone by the Fou, the strike force, the border drill and the various commands, these smugglers are still adamant at continuing with their criminal activities.
“The significance of this is that they have been trying to beat our officers and men along the road. They tried to conceal foreign rice deep inside bags of onions, potatoes, sugar canes, empty jerry-cans and footwears.
“We will not rest on our oars. The policy of the federal government must be sustained and it will be sustained if we continue to stop the smuggling of this foreign rice. The right continues and by the grace of God Nigeria customs house and Nigerians will triumph. We will make sure that these smugglers that are trying to ruin our economy and our security will not succeed” he said.
The customs boss said there were over 2000 illegal routes in the zone and the absence of adequate manpower has made it difficult to effective man the various illegal routes.
The seizures made included 703 bags of rice, 25 vehicles, 530 jerry-cans of vegetable oil, 245 cartons of Spaghetti, 9 bales of secondhand items of clothing, 40 jerry-cans of dual-purpose kerosene as well as 30,000 litres and 288 jerry-cans of PMS.
Speaking on the allegations that the border closure is not being strictly enforced in the northern part of the region, Serkin-Kebbi said there was nothing as such.
“I am not aware of that because I know the border drill exercise has been recording a lot of successes. You know that in the north, unlike the other parts of the country, are so porous. If you check from Jigawa up to Niger and Kwara, there are over 2,000 illegal routes. we don’t have the manpower or the capacity to cover all these routes at a time. These smugglers are also becoming very sophisticated. They monitor our movements. That is why the FOU has been working in the hinterland so that when they evade us at the border, they can always move up in the hinterland.
“I will not say the border closure in the north has not been effective but the porous nature of it has made it impossible for us to cover it 100 per cent,” he said.