Customs Intensify War On Smugglers

Frank said, though the Federal Government released about N50 billion to some of the manufacturers in the industry some years ago, the money was like a drop in the ocean as many of the manufacturers were in debts as at that time, adding that with ongoing discussions, respite is seen coming to the sector as the current administration is very concerned about state of the industry.

Many believe that in order to shield the economy from these negative effects of smuggling, it is time the government rise up to the challenge of putting in place effective measures for the patrol of the nation’s borders.

The use of modern technology including Closed Circuit Television cameras and satellite-based surveillance systems at the borders will go a long way in curbing smuggling activities.

It is important therefore, to ensure that border patrol officials are well-equipped, well-trained and well-remunerated to be able to discharge their duties effectively.

Moreover, the use of carrot and stick approach that gives due recognition to hardworking and honest Customs staff while punishing corrupt officials who connive with smugglers will boost staff morale.

To be more effective, the special task force against smuggling comprising other security agencies should be strengthened by involving representatives of other key stakeholders especially the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria.

As a commitment to ensuring that smuggling is reduced to barest minimum, the NCS said that at the end of year 2018, the reinvigorated anti-smuggling operations of the Service yielded a total of 5,235 seizures with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N61.5 billion.

The seizures, he said, include arms, ammunitions, more than 59 containers of tramadol and other controlled drugs and 320,709 bags of foreign rice, Indian Hemp, vegetable oil, vehicles, textiles, unprocessed wood, used tyres, poultry products, compressors, Pangolin scales among others.

Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs and spokesman disclosed this in a statement made available to SUNDAY INDEPENDENT conserving the revenue generated last year to the Federal Government coffers.

The statement  quoted the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, as saying that the feat was made possible by the “dogged pursuit of what is right rather than being populist by compromising national interest on the altar of individual or group interests.”

According to him, NCS generated the sum of N1.2 trillion and confiscated smuggled items worth N61.5 billion in 2018. The amount represents an increase of N164.8 billion or 16 % over the N1.04 generated in 2017.

He said: “The increasing annual revenue generation from the service in the last three years is the result of reform programmes, which include but not limited to upgrade on the electronic systems from Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS) 1 to NICIS 2, which has blocked leakages.

“Strategic deployment of manpower, strict enforcement of extant guidelines by the Tariff and Trade Department, robust stakeholder engagement resulting to increased compliance and increased disposition of officers and men to put national interest above selves.”

“Though smuggling remains a challenge, the service’s three layers security strategy continues to make smuggling unattractive to would-be smugglers. While the service continues to deal decisively with smugglers, fellow citizens, especially border dwellers and port users are advised to support NCS by reporting any smuggling activity to the nearest Customs formation.

“Together we can protect our economy and security by joining hands to fight smuggling and ensure that appropriate Customs duty is paid on every dutiable import.

“Accordingly, we appreciate compliant stakeholders that have supported the service in 2018 and call on all Nigerians and especially international trade actors to help make 2019 better for the nation.

Recently, at the end meeting in Lagos, DC Attah maintained that suppression of smuggling remains the most challenging aspect of Customs functions as anti-smuggling operations according to him, are seen differently by different people.

“Regrettably, many people still see smuggling as business not crime. In fact, smuggling is not just crime, but mother of many crimes and criminalities,” the Customs image maker said, adding that violent crimes are perpetrated with dangerous items such as arms and drugs smuggled into the country.

He said that apart from its negative impacts on national economy, “smuggling has devastating effects on security and well-being of any nation.

He lamented that as the Service strive to fight smuggling, it is confronted with the following challenges:

Porous borders, non-cooperative attitude of some border dwellers, willingness of some Nigerians to help smugglers mob Customs operatives, Lack of proper implementation of the ECOWAS protocol on transit by our neighbours and use of motorcycles and animals to smuggle through difficult terrains.    

Smugglers kill Customs Officers

Last week, the Ogun Area Command of NCS said it lost one of its officers while another sustained serious injury when suspected smugglers attacked their patrol vehicle.

Abdulahi Maiwada,Public Relations Officer of the Command said in a statement on Monday that the incident occurred last Sunday at Asero Road, Abeokuta while the officers were on routine patrol.

According to him, the Officers had intercepted eight reconstructed vehicles fully loaded with smuggled rice and kept in a hideout at the Asero area of Abeokuta, but in an attempt to lawfully secure the said items, the smugglers and their accomplice allegedly ambushed the officers “in a deadly manner”.

“Unfortunately during the encounter, one of the officers, a Customs Assistant I, Hamisu Sani sustained grievous injuries and paid the supreme price in active Service.

Also, an Inspector of Customs, Tijani John Michel, sustained serious machete cuts and responding to treatment in the hospital,” the Customs spokesman said.

Maiwada said two suspects have been arrested by the police, while the eight vehicles loaded with smuggled rice were impounded and taken to the Customs office in Abeokuta for further investigation.

“While we commend the patriotic role of our sister agencies and law-abiding citizens, we wish to categorically state that we will deploy all necessary apparatus to ensure that the perpetrators of this devilish act are brought to book to face the full wrath of the law.

“Finally, the re-occurrence of such form of hostilities and intimidation by smugglers and their accomplice on our officers and men will never distract us from vigorously discharging our statutory functions,” Maiwada added.

It would be recalled that last year also, in Sango Ota area of Ogun State, a Customs Officer was abducted by suspected smugglers and believed to have been killed as his whereabouts remained unknown after several months.

Speaking on the effort of NCS in curbing smuggling, Anefi Mohammed, Vice Chairman, International Freight Forwarders Association (IFFA), Ports and Terminal Multipurpose Services Limited (PTML) chapter said the Nigeria Customs Service is doing its best.

“Mind you, we have porous borders all around us in this country, and most of these goods are smuggled through these porous and unapproved routes, not necessary that the NCS is being compromised.  A lot of these smugglings are being perpetrated through the land borders.

“Most of the ones coming through the sea ports and airports are intercepted. That is why you saw the seizure of large quantity of arms in Tincan Island Port penultimate year and Tramadol last year. So, the custom officers are doing their best. They need to be motivated”, he said.

The post Customs Intensify War On Smugglers appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.

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Author: Our Correspondents