By Sulaimon Salau
Being a renowned border that links most of the West African Countries within the sub-region, and its pivotal role in the economic development of Nigeria and West Africa at large, it is a known fact that the Lagos-Abidjan corridor has attracted both legitimate international and local travelers across the frontier.
This international attraction is also accompanied with its dare consequences of illicit and illegal activities like smuggling, drug trafficking, human immigration/trafficking, terrorism and money laundering, amongst others.
Unfortunately, on this part of the climes, Seme border which is an approved international route was known and seen over the years by the public for its negative trans-border crimes than the legitimate means of trade transaction, movement of people and the link it has with other West African Countries.
Globally, the Customs Administration of any member country coordinated by the World Customs Organization (WCO) is strategically deployed to the seaport, airport and land borders of all member countries as an institution to execute its mandates (Revenue generation, Suppression of Smuggling and Trade facilitation among others) of which Nigeria is not an exception.
As a global phenomenon where Customs are the custodians of all the entry points to a country, the international designation has led to the Customs Administration of each member country playing leading role when it comes to the management of all the entry points, especially in terms of their statutory responsibilities.
The reoccurring incidents along the route has twisted stakeholders’ perception about the service and eroded the public mindset over Seme border not minding the fact that an efficient border management is a factor of effective collaboration with all the relevant border security agencies of any country.
However, the Customs Area Controller of Seme Command, Compt. Mohammed Aliyu, appears to be operating in strict adherence to the reform agenda of the Comptroller General of Customs, Ibrahim Hammed Ali.
Recent events have showed that the command has succeeded in stemming the impunity and the flagrant abuse of the Federal Government policies by ardent smugglers, who used to operate at the border with dexterity and reckless abandon at the risk of officers lives.
Customs Public Relations Officer, Seme Area Command, Taupyen, Selchang Kashang, said travelers through the corridor will bear witness to the fact that smuggling is being confronted head long and there is no room for impunity in illegalities among saboteurs at Seme route now.
According to him, the total and aggressive compliance level in the enforcement of relevant government policies is a thing of admiration in the command as seizures of different contrabands are reeled in to the warehouse in a perpetual manner.
He said the exceptional performances are felt in other countries as the command’s collaborative effort within the sub-region wax stronger daily.
Kashang said the synergy has yielded an unprecedented feat in the arrest of many items including over fifty stolen exotic cars at Republic of Cote d’Ivoire under the Interpol collaboration.
“If this performance could necessitate a commendation letter from the Cote d’Ivoire government to the Comptroller General of Customs as a way of appreciating the synergy at the regional level to rid of cross-border crimes, It is worthy of note that the Nigeria Customs Service is undergoing a positive metamorphosis that deserves the commendations of its citizenry than mere criticism born out of selfish reasons from the Nigerian public.
“The command is always gathering classified intelligence on the berthing of some consignments in the neighboring countries that are prohibited and restricted into Nigeria, and targeting Nigeria as her final destination.
“Our strategies to work on such information are only disclosed when the information are effectively treated. The command therefore remains resolute in the enforcement of the Federal Government policies across the frontier.
“The surveillance of the command over the year has led to the arrest of over 32,000 bags of smuggled rice with a duty paid value of over ₦530 million attest to the command’s uncompromising stand to working in conformity to the current reforms in the Nigerian Customs Service,” he stated.
Kashang added that the border command apart from enforcing government fiscal policies have generated the sum of ₦1.5 billion into the Federal government coffers, which represent 78 per cent of the monthly revenue target allocated to the command from January to March. The command, he said has also made a total of 270 seizures with a duty paid value of ₦235 million for the same period under review.
“It would be recalled that there was a smuggler’s “wonder car” from the headquarters customs crew that was trending in the social media, with concealment of smuggled goods with a duty paid value of over 40 million naira emanated from Seme border. It is pertinent to note that this dangerous concealment (amongst others) are routinely intercepted at the Seme axis.
“Changing the public perception towards its workforce is a task the present leadership is instilling among its officers and in the modus operandi of the service to comply with international best practice, considering the fact that the corridor is a gateway to the most populated black country in Africa, hence the need for international travelers to be treated with dignity, high degree of respect, transparency and professionalism.