By Emeka Obasi
Col. Hameed Ali and the Nigerian Customs Service must begin to restrategise as insecurity continues to destroy the narion. This is Yuletide, attention is needed up North to stop terrorists from importing arms into the country.
This idea of lining up from Sagamu to Benin should cease. If the NCS cannot track vehicle smugglers in the South- West borders, travellers should not be punished. It takes a whole day to get to Onitsha from Sagamu because of gridlock caused by unnecessary check points.
I know the Federal Government is broke and looking for money to even pay salaries. The revenue Customs officers collect on imported cars on that long stretch of road may actually be going into pockets. I cannot forget 2016 in a hurry.
I drove from Lagos to my village in Imo State. It was almost bumper to bumper, from Sagamu to Ihiala. We had Police, Army, Customs, Road Safety and even tax collectors. Road side robbers were also perfecting their skills. I can understand the presence of the Road Safety Corps.
The Police too, we need them on the road and the Army. I do not think Customs will die if we move them to their core areas of operation. For now, the border with Niger Republic is free. Col. Ali, the Comptroller General of the NCS is a trained fighter.
I know he is not a coward. Customs officers are also trained in the use of firearms. I want to see them chasing gun runners, from Ilela to Jibiya. Our problem now is more than the few who do not pay duty on vehicles. The real threat is from the North where our borders are free for all.
Instead of pursuing car smugglers from Kankon and Idiroko, I want to see bandits running from customs officers. Stopping flashy cars at crowded checkpoints from Ijebu Ode to Orilewo, Ore to Okada down to Benin and Abudu and farther down to Akwukwu Igbo, Ogwashi Ukwu and Okpanam does not help in the fight against insecurity.
We need to get our priorities right. Customs cannot abandon our Northern borders and stay put in the South. Even if they have to be cleared from the road during festive periods, it makes much sense. Bandits are buying smuggled ammo and importing through the far North.
Something also has to be done about the police. Yes, we can do with the Highway Patrol unit. There should not be more than 10 check points. Presently there are about 47 between Ilisan and Onitsha Bridge head. This is more like a police state. What the police boss should do is to dismantle some of these check points and convert operatives to a special patrol squad.
They do not have to block the Expressway with logs of wood. It is exasperating to find police checkpoints 100 metres apart. Our soldiers should also be mobile. We have military formations all over Ogun, Ondo, Edo, Delta and Anambra States.
There could be checkpoints in Sagamu, Ijebu Ode, Ore, Okada, Benin, Agbor, Asaba and Onitsha. The checkpoints in Abudu, Akwaukwu, Abudu, Ofosu, Omotosho and Ijebu Itele should be dismantled and soldiers manning them kept handy for patrol duty. I heard Works minister, Babatunde Fashola talk of Road Camps on our highways. Beautiful idea. When that is done, some of these security formations will be based in the Road Camps and can be easily deployed in times of danger. It is always hell journeying to the East during festive seasons.
By the time you meander through the legion check points from Sagamu to Asaba, you are faced with another brand of madness on the River Niger Bridge. I have been asking questions, trying to find out if Ndigbo are being perpetually punished because of the Civil War.
I have not found an answer yet. The man who claimed to be an Azikiwe, yahooed every one when he promised to construct a Second Bridge across the Niger. It is strange that the person who has shown more commitment to the Second Niger Bridge project is President Muhammadu Buhari, of all people.
He could decide not to travel by road to the East. Those who have in- laws across the Niger like Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and former Works minister Tony Anenih, failed to do the needful. I think they deserve as much strictures as the Customs.
Oh, I forgot that Dr. Jonathan was a Customs officer. Withdrawing Customs from Southern roads will not create more insecurity. Military and Police patrols will fill the void. We need free flow of traffic. Customs should go use their arms in the North.
There is nothing to fear, it is part of the job. If the NCS cannot use technology to track smuggled vehicles, they should just go to the various entry points and do a thorough job. If what is needed is the political will to tell Benin Republic the truth, so be it. Col. Ali and President Buhari are so close.
Customs may need helicopters to patrol the Northern frontier. They may need increased allocation to purchase advanced firearms. Buhari will not say no. Let us have less checkpoints along the Eastern route.