By Desmond Mgboh
There is a huge assault on smugglers and smuggling activities across the expansive border- towns of Northern Nigeria. The fresh offensive, which has been sending jitters to many smugglers themselves and down to their allies beyond the borders, came in the wake of a numbers of arrests and seizures by a strike force set up by the Comptroller General of Customs. (CGC). The special squad has been giving smugglers a bloody nose in the region.
The recently inaugurated Strike Force team, headed by a Deputy Comptroller, Nigeria Customs Service, (NCS) Olorukoba Ussaini took just a few weeks to announce its presence in many of its mandate areas, with records of arrests, seizures and other forms of positive engagements with stakeholders in a bid to put an end to the reign of smuggling in the Northern belt.
In big and small towns like Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, Katsina, Kebbi, Kaduna, Zaria, Yobe and Maiduguri at the moment, the tales of their heroic exploits have been well appreciated by the members of the affected communities. Nobody, not even the smugglers themselves, needs any reminder that it is not the same atmosphere and would no longer be business as usual.
A statistics of seizures and arrests by the operatives, which was sighted by Daily Sun indicated that the Zone B Strike Force, in just a while, had impounded a total of 745 bags of foreign parboiled rice at different locations. They have equally arrested a total of 622 bales of clothes, plus three sacks of second-hand clothing intended for the Nigeria markets.
Also impounded by the Strike Force, in the period under review, were 564 kegs of 25 litres of vegetable oil, 258 cartoons of tomato pastes and 208 parcels of cannabis Sativa (Indian hemp) which have been handed over to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) for appropriate actions.
It was further observed in the document that the team had impounded a total of 821 cartons of spaghetti and foreign noodles, 35 cartoons of mosquito coils and 370 kegs of 25 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise known as petrol, which were all illegally intended for the Nigerian markets
This was in addition to several cartoons of unregistered drugs that were impounded on their way to the different cities of the North and beyond, a number of which had been handed over to the appropriate agency for further investigation and action.
That was not all. A few days ago, the Strike Force was in the city of Kano. And the smugglers certainly knew and felt their presence in a special way. At the end of their operation, the Strike Force paraded 208 bags of foreign parboiled rice, 53 kegs of 25 litres of vegetable oil and 35 cartons of fake mosquito coils.
Also paraded were nine cartons of foreign soap, 94 cartons of foreign spaghetti noodles as well as a huge quantity of fake and unregistered drugs that were picked up before they were delivered into the huge Kano market.
Speaking at the event, which took place at the Bompai headquarters of the Nigeria Customs Service in the state, Deputy Comptroller Olorukoba Ussaini noted that the feat could not have been attained if not for the courage and determination of his officers, who are equally determined to rid the region of smugglers and their activities.
He explained that in line with their mandate, the personnel of the Customs would do everything humanly possibility to bring to the barest minimum the worrisome act of smuggling in the region. He asserted that smuggling represented nothing but a dangerous threat to the Nigerian economy and the survival of the country as a whole.
Ussaini stated further, “We are aware that the year is coming to an end and smugglers would generally want to take advantage of the season to flood the Nigeria market with their fake and unregistered goods. But then, my advice to them is simple: Either they change their ways for the better and start a legitimate business or they relocate from the zone as they would be chased and smoked out of existence”.
“The Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has equipped and sufficiently motivated us to do everything within the law to stop smuggling and create a conducive environment for the triumph of legitimate businesses. I assure you that that would remain our central focus.”
Ussaini remarked that members of the strike force were not deterred by the wave of banditry, violence and insurgency in some parts of Northern Nigeria. He informed that operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service were at present discharging their responsibilities in several high-risk locations and border towns in many parts of the region.
“Wherever the smugglers can go to bring in their prohibited items or to escape our arrests and seizures, our officers would be right there, in the same bush or in the same bad roads, to simply pick them up and get them to do the right thing,” he declared.
Ussaini also lamented that in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe and the rest of the world, the illegally imported second hand clothing posed a huge health risk to Nigerians. He cautioned that the used clothing from Europe and different parts of the world could be a conveyor of transmittable diseases, even as he advised that Nigerians should watch whatever they decide to buy these days.
He appealed to the people of Kano State and to Nigerians in general to support the present efforts of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, which he claimed were all geared towards ridding the country of smugglers or to bring their illegal and dangerous activities to the barest minimum.
Remarking on the new development, a major stakeholder in the state, Baba Aliyu appreciated the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hammeed Ali (retired) for the motivation and support that he had been extending to the Strike Force in the North since its establishment. He noted that such motivation and support had subsequently put the operatives in high spirits. In his words, at his current pace, so much would be achieved in so short a time.
He appealed to the affected communities, especially those that are situated at the border-towns, to always give their cooperation and support to the officers of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) in the discharge of the duties, adding that the right information on the movement of the outlawed and prohibited goods was very crucial to the success of these operations.
He asked the smugglers to give up their acts and start pursuing lawful businesses.