The Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone B, of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mustapha Sarkin-Kebbi, has disclosed that smugglers in the zone used over 2,000 illegal routes, even as he added that the zone made seizures worth over N43 million within one week.
Addressing reporters recently, on the seizures made within the period under review, the Customs boss said the zone needed additional manpower to cover and patrol the illegal routes in order to fight the smugglers to a standstill.
Following speculations that the border closure is not strictly enforced in the North, the Comptroller said: “I am not aware of that because I know the border drill exercise has been recording a lot of successes.
You know that the northern borders, unlike the other parts of the country, are so porous. If you check from Jigawa up to Niger and Kwara, there are over 2,000 illegal routes and we don’t have the manpower or the capacity to cover all these routes at a time.
These smugglers are also becoming very sophisticated. They monitor our movements. That is why the FOU has been working in the hinterland so that when they evade us at the border, they can always move up in the hinterland.
“I will not say the border closure in the North has not been effective but the porous nature of the borders has made it impossible for us to cover it a hundred percent.
According to him, “I invited you here to witness some of our anti-smuggling successes in the last one week. We have continued our anti-smuggling operations across the zone, covering about ten states, including the FCT. We made a lot of intercessions and seizures. This is a truck that my men and officers intercepted around Jega, Kago road in Kebbi State, two days ago.
“From the outside, you see the truck, it is carrying footwear. But it was carrying 100 kg bags of smuggled rice. It is just the desperation that they must do this smuggling.
“With the intensification of the anti-smuggling patrol everywhere in the zone by the FOU, the strike force, the border drill and the various commands, these smugglers are still adamant; they are continuing with their criminal activities.
“The significance of this is that they have been trying to beat our officers and men along the road. They tried to conceal foreign rice deep inside bags of onions, potatoes, sugar canes, empty jerry-cans and footwears.
“We will not rest on our oars. The policy of the Federal Government must be sustained and it will be sustained if we continue to stop the smuggling of this foreign rice. The fight continues and, by the grace of God, Nigeria Customs and Nigerians will triumph.
“We will make sure that these smugglers that are trying to ruin our economy and our security do not succeed,” Sarkin-Kebbi said.
The seizures made included 703 bags of rice, 25 vehicles, 530 jerry-cans of vegetable oil, 245 cartons of spaghetti, 9 bales of second-hand clothing, 40 jerry-cans of dual purpose kerosene, as well as 30,000 litres and 288 jerry-cans of petrol.