By Zika Bobby
Customs Area Controller of Seme Border Command, Aliyu Mohammed, has said that taking stolen vehicles from Nigeria to other countries along the Lagos-Abidjan corridor has become impossible. He said over 67 units of exotic cars with duty paid value of over N1.3 billion stolen from Nigeria have been recovered through the Customs collaboration with the Interpol arm of Cote d’Ivoire
Mohammed said thieves and smugglers, who now find it difficult to exit Nigeria with stolen vehicles, now use other routes but are eventually caught through Seme. According to him, the border has become very difficult for smugglers, as there is round-the-clock surveillance on import and export activities, which requires scrutiny on any vehicle leaving the country.
“Vehicle thieves cannot come to Seme because they know we are equipped with the technology and manpower to apprehend them. Even when they do it through other routes, we have a way of catching them.
I also monitor movements of people and vehicles from my office. I see rice being brought in every hour of the day and vehicles being seized when necessary. Our Interpol operation is in sync with our Controller-General’s zero tolerance for illegalities,” he said.
Officer in charge of the Seme Interpol Unit, Idris Leckey, said the Interpol collaboration, which entails intelligence gathering and sharing, has been paying off ever since the first sting operation code-named Operation Adwempa was carried out on February 16, 2016. The operation, according to him, involved representatives from Germany, France and many other countries and has significantly led to a reduction in car theft through the nation’s borders.
He explained that at the Cote d’Ivoire end of the thieves’ journey, Interpol officers seek clarification from Seme Customs Interpol desk before allowing any vehicle with Nigerian number plate proceed along that corridor.
He said most of the seized vehicles were discovered to have traveled with fake registration numbers and forged documents.
He added that there is collaboration with the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and Lagos Vehicle Inspection Service to quickly verify whatever claims put forward by those in possession of the stolen cars.