Seme Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Bello Mohammed Jibo have rubbished a reported claim that his operatives abandoned their duty posts during the EndSARS protest, leaving the border corridor un-policed.
Presenting an impressive record of his command’s anti-smuggling activities, shortly before, during and after the protest, Jibo announced the recovery of One Hundred and Eighty Two Million, Eight Hundred and Eighty Seven Thousand, Three Hundred and Forty Seven Naira, (N182, 887, 347. 00) from a total of 128 seizures of questionable imports.
He showcased an impressive wide range of the seizures, which includes a number of exotic vehicles, foreign par boiled rice, vegetable oil, vehicles, fuel, medicaments and general merchandise goods, said to have been smuggled from neighbouring Benin Republic through unapproved routes.
The customs area boss also spoke about the menace of multiple illegal checkpoints mounted by different security agencies along every kilometer of the Seme/Badagary expressway, noting that only a Task Force constituted by the Joint Security Agencies at the border can dismantle Seme road illegal checkpoints.
Admitting that majority of the checkpoints were illegal and giving the Nigeria Customs Service and the nation a bad image; he said arrangement is afoot to checkmate the menace through a joint security task force recently constituted to bring sanity to the axis.
Jibo who dropped the hint in Seme during a media briefing said the task force made up of personnel from the Customs, Army, Immigration, Police, Border Patrol, DSS, Civil Defence and other sister security outfits operating in and within the border axis have the mandate to dismantle and engage in routine patrol of the axis to ensure that checkpoints are not indiscriminately mounted.
He said, “The task force was constituted under the predecessor, it has the task of dismantling any illegal checkpoints and maintaining regular patrols to ensure that are prevented from giving the customs and the entire security system a bad name.
“An army colonel is among the team, our DC Enforcement is also part of it, very soon they will begin operation to remove these illegal checkpoints so that the route is sanitized. It is a joint team created by the Seme Border Security Committee, so we are confident that it will succeed in removing these illegal checkpoints that is giving us bad image.”
He explained further that the command’s impressive performance under his watch was made possible through application of strategies put in place, including oiling the existing customs-host community relationship. His words:
“In the wake to the recent EndSARS protest, the Command harnessed the existing cordial relationship with the host Communities at different levels through adequate and robust engagement with the aim of sustaining peace and tranquility within the nooks and crannies of the border area.
“The community was made to understand that NCS is a partner in progress and always ready to facilitate genuine and compliant traders for the progress and economic development of Nigeria.”
Jibo also explained that some criminal elements take undue advantage of the nation’s security system ‘espirit de corp’ relationship to smuggle in vehicles, by hosting military or police emblems in the vehicle interior, precisely on top of the dashboard or hooked to the roof and left dangling conspicuously.
“Because of the nature of our job, se engage in espirit de corp salutation, just to facilitate quicker introduction. It is part of the military and security courtesy, but it does not mean that anyone offering the greeting cannot be questioned to identify himself or items found on him.
“In most cases when they find our eagle eye officers are insistent and want to have the customs documents of vehicles they have affixed plate numbers, they run away. That was how we apprehended this particular vehicle.”
He warned that customs operatives have been trained to show necessary courtesy in the face of duty but to also remain firm and insist on what is right. He was accompanied during the media tour of the government warehouse where the seizures were kept by senior management personnel, including the Command DC Enforcement, Deputy Comptroller Adahunse Rashid and Officer-in-Charge of Gbaji Checkpoint, Assistant Comptroller D. Yakubu.
This is even as the office of the National Coordinator of the Joint Border Drill, codenamed Operation Swift Response and National Security Adviser, Maj. Gen Monguono (retired) and the executor of the Joint Border Drill and Customs Comptroller General, Col. Hameed ALi (retired) have reportedly disagreed on a purported directive for owners of some of the trucks that were trapped in the aftermath of the border closure in Seme and other station stations in August 2019, to start making arrangements to remove them.
Whereas NSA has reportedly directed the removal of the said trapped vehicles and goods ahead of the border reopening slated for December 2020, the Customs boss was reported to have given counter directive, ordering the that on no account should the vehicles be allowed to leave.