The Comptroller-General, Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), has been urged to lead senior members of the Service, a detachment of senior police officers and the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) from Abuja to visit Seme and Idi-Iroko borders. Such a visit, it is believed, will enable him see how security officials aid and abet smuggling.
The unpatriotic officers, it was gathered, are assisting smugglers in frustrating and killing the Federal Government’s policy on local rice production by allowing purposely built vehicles to ply the roads unchallenged.
When Akelicious visited Seme and Idi-Iroko borders between Thursday and Saturday, last week, there were over 20 checkpoints between Agbara and Seme border and 16 checkpoints between the old Toll Gate at Sango and Idi-Iroko border.
In spite of the checkpoints, it was gathered that the rate at which rice and other prohibited items, such as frozen poultry products, used tyres, textile materials, used clothings, vegetables oil and others are being smuggled, is alarming.
Akelicious gathered that the illegal activity keep flourishing with the connivance of some unscrupulous officers in Customs, Police, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) and other security agents who work at the border areas.
The smugglers use specilised and purpose-built vehicles to carry out their nefarious activities in the wee hours of the morning, in the evening and sometimes in broad daylight ferrying rice, vegetable oil and frozen poultry products into the country.
Over 300 of such vehicles used by smugglers were seen at various spots at Mile 2, Alaba-Rago Market, Okokomaiko, Ijanikin, Agbara, Oko-Afo, Araromi Ale, Mowo, Aradagun, Ibereko, Ajara, Badagry and Seme border, when The Nationvisited the area at the weekend.
The story of the converted vehicles was the same at Alakuko, old Toll Gate, Joke-Ayo, Ojoore, Iju, Atan, Lusada, Ketu, Adie-Owe, Apena, Alapoti, Ado and up to Idi-Iroko border when The Nation visited the area last Friday.
The specially-built vehicles also littered mechanic workshops and other areas on major roads within the border towns. Their drivers operate with impunity even with the presence of security men, who mounted illegal chek points along the areas.
Some motorists and residents of the border areas, stakeholders in the maritime industry and rice farmers in Badagry area of Lagos said Col. Ali needed to visit the areas to end the criminalities going on there.
The visit, a rice farmer, Mr Sunday Gabriel, said would enable the government to assess the poor and questionable attitude of most security agents posted to man border communities and to assist the Customs in checkmating illegal entry of such goods.
Motorists, specifically accused the Police and the FRSC officials of not doing their job diligently, despite their heavy presence on the two major roads leading to the borders.
The high cost of rice in the country, a resident of Ajara, Mr Gboyega Emmanuel, said may have added more impetus to the smuggling of the staple food as most of the vehicles used neither have number plates, particulars nor head lamps.
More than 25 of such vehicles, loaded with smuggled bags of rice, frozen poultry products and vegetable oil were seen discharging their goods at Lusada Market in Ado-Odo Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State last Friday.
Traders, motorists, community leaders and other Nigerians, who spoke with The Nation, expressed worries over the trend and the sophistication of the smugglers, adding that smuggling has assumed a frightening dimension as the Yuletide approaches. They urged Col Ali to visit the areas because most of the security agents look the other way while smugglers have a field day.
It was gathered that in Benin Republic, a bag of rice sells for less than N8,000, but sells for between N15,500 and N16,500, depending on the quality and size of the the grain, when it gets to the country.
“There is an urgent need for the Comptroller-General of Customs to visit the border towns of Seme and Idi-Iroko and see the high rate at which smuggled rice and other contrabands are entering the country with the connivance of some police officers, customs and FRSC officials.
“One wonders what the police and the FRSC officials are doing on the roads if purposely built vehicles that have no number plates, no particulars, no windscreens and no head lamps are plying our roads unchallenged.
“But the same unpatriotic police officers and FRSC officials that are aiding and abetting smuggling have the effrontery to stop and delay other commuters and motorists going for their legitimate businesses on the road.
“The attitude of most our security operatives along the roads leading to the land borders poses danger to lives and has negative effects on international trade and commerce,” Emmanuel said.
Other stakeholders and motorists spoke in similar vein, complaining about the police and FRSC officials’attitude on the roads.
A clearing agent operating at Seme border, Festus Solomon, and other operators, wondered why it was difficult for security agents, mostly the police and the FRSC officials to impound all the purposely built vehicles the smugglers are using to sabotage the country’s economy.