BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Pursuant to achieving a seamless border policing and monitoring that will also attract results, the Coordinator of the Joint Border Patrol Team (JBPT) Sector 2, Southwest Zone, Deputy Comptroller S.F Shuaibu Tuesday embarked on familiarization tour of all customs commands in the zone to solicit collaboration, understanding and support.
The JBPT Sector boss who flagged off the tour at the office of the Zonal Coordinator, South West, ACG Mohammed Jibo at Ikeja after his brief summary of the activities of the JBPT and his plan to visit the customs command controls and leadership for synergy and cooperation, the Zonal Coordinator, ACG Jibo readily gave his blessings and charge him to bring his utmost best to bear on his current assignment.
Shuaibu went on to visit the Lilypond Export Command, Tin Can Island Command, Apapa Premier Command, PTML Command and Western Marine Command, all domiciled in Lagos. The following day, Wednesday January 31, 2024, the anti-smuggling chief and his entourage which comprise of his principal officers, resumed the collabo tour at the Seme Area Command, from where he proceeded to Idiroko, headquarter of Ogun 2 Command and from there to the Oyo/Osun Command at Bodija Ibadan; where he drew the curtain.
Addressing the Customs Area Controllers, individually, Shuaibu who have traversed the various enforcement special units, sometimes at the leadership level said as a child of necessity, the JBPT under his watch does not wish to act in silos and desires to operate on the same page with all customs formations, noting that the his assignment will be much easier in its execution if the commands, stations and units cooperate and synergize; rather than work at cross purpose.
He said, “My visit is just to come and tap from the vast knowledge of the CAC and to seek his support, collaboration and synergy as my mentor, senior and colleague. I don’t need to do much introduction about the JBPT because as a senior colleague, my Oga has known about it ever long before now, even though I’ll just mention few things.”
The JBPT Coordinator informed that whereas the JBPT was inaugurated in 2019 and inclusive of other security agencies, namely the Nigerian Army, Air Force and the Nigerian Navy; the DSS, DMI, NIA, Immigration, Civil Defence Corps, Police and others, he explained that operatives of some of the agencies have disembarked from the joint operation for obvious reason.
“As time went on, some of the borders were asked to be opened and again, some of the agencies that were in collaboration with us were recalled back to their primary departments. But we still are in synergy with them, we still have what we call a tripartite platform. Whatever activities that we carry out, we still communicate with them.
“We come here, hoping to tap from your reservoir of knowledge and then to seek for synergy, collaboration and support, from time to time; because all we do is anti-smuggling and re-channelization of what were not properly channeled.”
Speaking on its successes so far, he said, “We have so far recorded successes in the line of our duty, made seizures of items like contraband rice, petrol known as PMS, frozen products and sometimes vehicles. It is natural that even though we have and will continue to record successes, there may still be some grey areas, the fight like l said includes anti-smuggling against illicit drugs, arms trafficking, trafficking in humans, smuggling of contraband essentials like rice, frozen items as the case may be.
“Those items are supposed to be channeled through the proper entry and documentations for the payment of duty and fee. So the purpose of the mix is to act timely and professionally, that is why the immigration officer among us can look at and detect illegal immigrants. We will now look at them…those that are supposed to be returned back to their country are returned, victims of child trafficking are moved, we unite them with their families, and so. So, majorly, our duty here is to solicit for your support and collaboration so that we can work in synergy and on the same page; so that what we are doing is not different from your overall objective.”
Shuaibu also disclosed that the leadership of the JBPT is now domiciled with the Nigeria Customs Service, as against the initial arrangement where the joint operation was under the control of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President.
Responding the Customs Area Controller commended Shuaibu for his bold move and pledged individually to collaborate with and support him and his team. The CACs separately attested to Shuaibu’s capacity to deliver and described his dedication to duty and meticulous work plan as exemplary. Below are the responses of the CACs.
Compt. A. Y Odunsanya, CAC Lilypond Export Command
The customs area controller , Lilypond Export Command, Compt. A. Y Odunsanya thanked Shuaibu for the visit and assured him that his concerns about illegitimate trade is mutual, noting that the export command will be more than willing to share intelligence with the JBPT on trading in endangered species.
Thank you very much DC Shuaibu. I have no doubt that you are going to bring your wealth of experience into the current position you find yourself. I know you have designed your duty very well when you worked with us in Apapa. Coincidentally, again, we both moved from Apapa to headquarters. Coincidentally, again, we are both in Southwest now. So I have no doubt that everything you do there will be superlative.
We are here to cooperate with you to make you to succeed in policing things like re-export of item you mentioned earlier. The collaboration will be there. The synergy will be there. We have our export processing terminal spread across here. This place is now an export processing terminal designated by Nigerian Ports Authority. We have three others, apart from that, we have domestic export warehouses…and some people have warehouse recognized by NPA to bring goods from the North, and that is where they will do the packaging or the repackaging, weighing, stuffing and fumigation, things like that. When they are ready to meet customs, they call us. Our officers go there to examine the goods and to see that they are not offensive goods.
In this command, we don’t tolerate trading in endangered species, we don’t compromise on it. It is a capital offense for anybody to be involved in facilitating such trade. And if you have any intelligence to be relayed to us in that area, we will welcome it, because we know we work in synergy. You are my officer, this officer is from immigration; we are all working for the national security, we are all working for the safety of our country. So I am happy to meet you people this morning and I am happy to let you know that we are here to give you maximum cooperation, especially as regards to where we have our own authority, which is export.
Compt. Dera Nnadi mni, CAC Tin Can Island Command
While welcoming Shuaibu and his entourage, Comptroller Nnadi also highlighted the importance of the JBPT which he said is not unique to Nigeria but a global practice that seeks to strengthen loopholes and achieve strategic policy initiatives and national security concerns.
The Sector Commander and members of his entourage, principal officers of the Nigerian Custom Service, Tin Can Island Command I want to most sincerely welcome my brother, my colleague and my friend and one of my partners in the integrity team to Tin Can Island Port Command. I am not surprised that the joint border team chose the command as one of the ports command that have to be visited.
There is this erroneous understanding by most of us that the port is not a border. The seaport, the airport and the land borders are all borders. So, my brother, you are welcome to Tin Can Island border. But there is also something that l want to draw our attention to and that is the motto of the World Custom Organization, which is ‘borders divide and customs connect.’ Your coming here today is a further consolidation of that motor that we need to connect with the rest of our stakeholders who are members of this port community. And I’m glad that you still retained part of our partner agencies, the Nigerian Immigration Service, who have remained with us even when other components of the Joint Border Patrol team have been recalled to their various offices.
I recall that in 2019, when the Joint Border Patrol was set up, it was a response to a growing need then to protect our borders based on identified security threats that was not just limited to smuggling, but also included issues of insurgency, issues of environmental health, issues of food security. For those of us that may wish…I would suggest that we get a copy of the National Security Strategy, particularly the 2014 edition, so that you can have a better grasp of when there is need for agencies to collaborate to attack and face the multifaceted issues of security in our borders.
What we are doing with the joint border patrol is not unique to Nigeria, it is a global process that is channeled to what is called the Homeland Security in the US. However, even with the Homeland Security, the US Customs for instance is in charge, and so, as a lead agency, l am not surprised that the leadership of the joint border patrol have been returned to the DCG Enforcement, Investigation and Inspection.
I congratulate you for taking up that mandate and l know that working along with our sister agencies, you will deliver appropriately and as expected. In doing this, let me remind all of us that though this place is a border, Executive Order 01 instituted by the Office of the former Vice President retained by the present Vice President, remains in force, and what that order says is that ‘all our borders, all our trade corridors must be removed from every encumbrances against trade.’ For us at the port corridor it is even more imperative that such barriers don’t even exist at all not to talk of removing them. Why this is important is because you are operating in an environment that is international in nature. Import/export is an international business and when you are conducting such business in Nigeria, the impact of your action or inactions reverberates in other climes. So when a vessel comes to Nigeria that vessel has a discharge period, while it is discharging, it is been awaited at other ports where she will also load or discharge cargo. So every delay associated with that vessel in our own port will result delays in other ports. Therefore, l wish to crave the indulgence of your team to continue to support us in our efforts to achieve ease of business in our ports.
This visit is to foster continuous collaboration with officers of Tin Island Command Ports, especially the controller. Our door is very wide open for you at any time.
Compt Jayeoba, CAC Apapa Command
Comptroller Jayeioba told his quest that his task of border policing has become more significant given the developments in francophone neighbouring countries, Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso, following their exit from ECOWAS.
“Securing the borders also achieving a lot of goals beside the customary anti-trade challenges, currently we have regional cooperation challenges, and the achievement so far recorded has made the difference in controlling operation at the border. And we support all of those things that are going to make a difference, because look at us, look at the countries that we don’t even know, we include that into our culture.
So tightening up the border is also going to help us in terms of economic development. When we look into this, we discover that most of our developing countries are not happy with the operation. In the country, we have new opportunities as the Secretary General said in his address about climate change. And like the commander earlier said, the Joint Border Patrol is not new to all of us. The only thing that is new to us is that we have now reduced the number of those working under the Joint Border Patrol. With internal responsibility, and what is that responsibility? We have three countries previously under ECOWAS who have opted out. This simply means there is a lot of work for us to do, we need to secure our borders around those three countries of Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso. They are a country that has decided to go the military way and in such a situation, there are bound to be lots of…let me say use of arms and ammunition. And so the Joint Border Patrol needs to do a lot of work as it affects securing the Nigerian border with those countries particularly Niger.
The PRO earlier said that our command is the flagship of the Nigerian Customs Service in revenue generation. We do that because the country is secure. If, God forbid, it is the other way around, nobody will generate any revenue. So I want us to see ourselves as part of the overall objective, and I do want to be part of it by ensuring that we do everything we need to do to secure our borders. When we do that, even the task of collection of revenue, we need to do it peacefully, the achievement of the Joint Border Patrol cannot be overemphasized. So I want to charge us that we have a lot to do, a lot is involved now and we need to ensure that we do everything. And when I say everything, I mean everything. I’m not talking to us here. I’m talking so that we can pass the message down to those of who are not here. Those of us here are aware, we are enlightened enough and we know the implications of not having a secure border. But it’s the boys in the house, so please let us cultivate the habit of, one, proper supervision of these boys. Two, continuous education, let them know that any influx of, even if it’s one single arm, into the country can derail the entire system.
And when they understand that and closely follow their activities, they will discover that they can achieve the mandate of securing our border. When government places ban on rice, for example, it is to ensure that the country is secured in terms of food. So that we don’t bring in anything into this country that can harm us; and to also encourage local farmers to grow what we eat. And by doing that, it’s going to boost their economy and the rate of crime will be reduced. I know, by virtue of our assignments, we meet them in border stations. Let us continue to educate them. Unfortunately, most of these youths see themselves as potential smugglers. So we need to convince, to educate these youths that they need to engage in legitimate ventures. That is the only way out. So once again, I want to wish you well, my brother, because like I said earlier, it is a very great task. And you are coming in at a time when there is a lot of things to do. So please let us ensure that we educate our boys. Let us ensure that we also keep our hands clean; and ensure that together we have a safe nation.
Compt Timi Bomodi, CAC Seme Command
Also welcoming and responding to Shuaibu and his entourage in his office, the Seme Customs Controller, Comptroller Timi Bomodo say the JBPT is critical and noted that the being the busiest trade corridor in the region, the command will continue to accord the JBPT all cooperation and support it requires to succeed.
Bomodi disclosed that the CGC is has almost concluded plans to allocate housing units to officers and men of the command, which he notes will be inclusive of the operatives of the JBPT.
“As you mentioned in your speech which is absolutely true is the fact that structures put in place by government are put in place to enhance the security architecture of the country and to complement ourselves in our different areas of responsibilities. Over the few months l have been here, l have received tremendous support from officers from the sector in which we recorded quite a good number of seizures. For me, the more the merrier, it is not possible for one agency to do all that needs to be done within the border area.
Will continue to give you all the necessary assistance that you need. Seme Krake is a very sensitive station, as you know, the Lagos-Abidjan corridor is the busiest corridor in the whole of this region and trade cuts across Nigeria, Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana all the way to Cote d’Voire, and because of the kind of activities that takes place here, given the fact that Nigeria is a strategic and the biggest economy along the corridor, we have to do all we can to facilitate trade in the axis. Trade facilitation is to me, the number one priority, we know we have the responsibility for policing the border, anti-smuggling activities and all that, but we also have a huge number of responsible traders who know how important this corridor is to the businesses that they do. And because we know that these are responsible citizens who carry out their legitimate businesses, we owe it to them to make it a lot easier to optimize the use of this axis and to encourage them.
But l think that the emphasis of government now is not just on import, which as you know is been impacted by certain economic factors, we have to start looking at exports and the kind of impact we expect it to have on the economy. The more Nigerian businesses are able to move their products into neighbouring West African countries, the more the likelihood that we can begin to generate much needed foreign exchange which will go a long way to stabilize the economy, provide jobs for Nigerians and of course, make it an attractive destination for foreign direct investments.
Issues of cross border crimes that makes businesses here difficult are issues that have to be addressed jointly and by ourselves; and other security agencies. We have regular joint security meetings here, it cuts across all the agencies of government domiciled here and we look comprehensively at the issues that affect us, both as individual agencies and collectively as representatives of the federal government agencies at the border.
We are obligated to provide whatever assistance you may need. We are also obligated to ensure that the security and safety of your men…because we are hosting your officers that are here, it is also assured, to the extent that current management led by our dear CGC have started to look at welfare issues with reference to befitting accommodation for officers and the expansion of already existing facilities at the command level. I know that when the time is ripe…we are at the point of commissioning almost 150 housing units for officers and there are lot more, with the current capacity and ongoing works, we have well over 300 apartments ready for our officers and men to occupy.
At that time it will be a lot easier for your officers to also benefit. I want to wish you all the very best you have had in your outstanding career, especially in the area of enforcement. And your reputation precedes you, we know what you are capable of, you know the capacity of your officers and men and we have no doubt whatsoever that your current journey at the joint border patrol will be a success.”
DC Shuaibu joined the NCS as a Cadet and was commissioned in 1992. He holds a Master Degree in Environmental Resource Management from Lagos State University and hails from Nasarawa State.
He served in various commands and units at various capacities in anti-smuggling operation and was a onetime Commander the defunct CGC Strike Force Zone A, one time DC Enforcement in Apapa Command and recently as the Staff Officer, Headquarters.
Interestingly, Shuaibu had before now served as the Commander of the Border Drill Sector 2 at the time of the inauguration in 2019, and hence he is not new to the dynamics of the JBPT.
With his vast experience and wealth of anti-smuggling knowledge, Shuaibu comes across as a round peg in a round hole; exactly as attested to by his superiors during this very impactful tour.
On his entourage was AC Adamu, State Axis Leader; representative of the Nigerian Immigration Service, AC M.M Abdullahi, acting Sector Commander; AC Z.B Kasumu, Ilashe-Idiroko Team Leader; AC BOO and CSC B. Sabo, OC Operation Ogun State; among others.