By Adegboyega Oni
The closure of the nation’s land borders by the federal government of Nigeria in the last one month has attracted a lot of divergent opinions from different quarters of the country. Everyone is now an expert in the field of customs operations as experts in economics have argued that the closure would boost the nation’s economy while the laymen, mostly people who are actively involved in cross-border businesses, have simply glossed over the benefits and simply dwelled on the shortage of rice on the tables of Nigerians never minding the economic danger rice importation has done to the nation.
Essentially, the border closure by the government is geared towards boosting the nation’s economy, particularly the local production of agricultural goods such as rice a staple food but which is majorly smuggled into Nigeria. The closure is also aimed at boosting and giving fillips to the nation’s security architecture to stop criminals and bandits from neighbouring countries gaining unfettered access into our country.
It is very unfortunate that this effort to a greater extent in some quarters (opinions) is not being appreciated; it is like corruption fighting back the system. If the neighbour countries particularly Benin Republic is wailing because of the impact of the closure on her economy, Nigerians should not join Benin Republic in discrediting the closure further but rather stand with our government.
Rather than Nigerians supporting our government over the issue, the tones of many opinions and commentaries especially in the social media over the closure have been offensive, even castigating the policy and its executioner – the Nigeria Customs Service. Most of the comments are sinisterly designed towards discrediting the closure as an anti-people policy in order to force the government to open the border and have smugglers return to business.
The most worrisome of the comments is the high level of attack and blackmail being unleashed on the Seme Customs personnel. They alleged that customsmen collect bribes while allowing smuggling and smugglers to continue in their nefarious businesses despite claiming that the border has been closed. A tweeter report (name of the author withheld) posited that Seme Customs officers and men were busy in the open collecting bribe of N100,000 on big cars and N50,000 on small cars, and that he would go back to snap the bribing act.
According to the tweeter report, I am still around that border don’t worry I am compiling my report. I am hoping to snap every transaction(s) between those customs and the smugglers. These customs are not hiding it, but they don’t allow trailers loaded with smuggle goods to pass, that I can defend them. But cars, cheee.
If Buhari did not know, he should know now that borders are not close oo. I was at Seme border, you give customs money and pass, depending on your car. Big car N100,000, and the smaller ones in price is N50,000 and no receipt. All those customs at borders are making huge money daily
Is this tweeter report believable? Can customs officers and men be senseless, if truly they were collecting bribe, to allow any unknown person to come near and take a photograph of their activities and to even issue a receipt for bribe? Never has anyone claimed to have paid bribe and got receipt for it. This is definitely not possible.
This period is a tough and trying time for the officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service as smugglers won’t give up but rather are more defiant to use all the weapons in their arsenal to rubbish, denigrate and fight Customs to a point of demoralization so as to jettison and advise government to discontinue the closure in order for them to have their way back to the borders and continue their nefarious activities.
According to Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba, Customs Area Controller of the Seme Command, ‘’no amount of blackmail by aggrieved persons who may have lost their smuggled vehicles to Customs would ever stop or frustrate the command anti-smuggling officers from doing their work of checkmating the cross-border smugglers.’’
The Command in the recent times had recorded seizures of various contrabands including rice, vehicles and others. The nation has been saved a lot of revenue which would have gone into pockets of unpatriotic importers and dare-devil smugglers whose mission is to cripple the nation’s economy never minding its effect on the well being of the citizenry.
The statement credited to Comptroller Garba is encouraging not only to the Customs officials but also to Nigerians who should join the Customs in the fight against smuggling.
In our opinion, this is time for Nigerians as law-abiding citizens to think of their future economic growth and solidiarise with the Nigeria Customs Service in the fight against smuggling towards attaining the economic prosperity by the nation.