Car Smuggling At Idiroko
Smuggling, especially of vehicles, seems to have gone up at the Idiroko border in Ogun State.
The Nation learnt that the seeming success recorded by smugglers is traceable to the porousity of the border, with numeous bush paths, unlike Seme, which has clearly defined roots and a clear waterway.
Smugglers have taken advantage of the numerous undefined and unmanned routes to ferret cars across to the Nigerian end of the border, beating Customs officers in the game.
A visit to the area at the weekend revealed a lot of routes used by smugglers.
Despite the efforts of the Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi, to boost the morale of his officers and men, smuggling through these routes has remained unabated.
When The Nation visited the area about 6 pm last Friday, some smugglers were moving about 30 vehicles from Owode-Idiroko to Alapoti, Apena, Ketu-Adie-Owe and Atan – all in Ogun State.
The Customs’ Public Relations Officer, Ogun Command, Usman Abubakar, said officers and men of the command were doing their best to stop smuggling.
“I don’t know the area (Alapoti and Apena) you referred to in your statement. But you will agree with me that our border is porous. We are trying our best to bring to reduce smuggling to the barest minimum in our command, Abubakar said, adding: “Last month, we destroyed over 10,000 cartons of smuggled poultry products and 100 cars were seized by our officers from smugglers using unapproved routes.”
Usman also invited this reporter to visit him in the office for an interview.
But another Customs officer, who does not want his name in print, said some smuggling flashpoints had been identified in the bush and other illegal routes in the state.
“With this information you have given to us, we will commence intensive and aggressive patrol in the areas to nip the activities of smugglers in the bud.
“Despite our efforts to control the illegal activities of the smugglers, you must also realise that several factors directly or indirectly have encouraged smuggling, one of which is what the smugglers called unfriendly import policies of the last administration.
“Smuggling of cars, rice and other essential commodities through the illegal routes may continue to flourish, unless the Federal Government reduces the import duty and surcharge on these items.
“Some of the importers who used the ports of neighbouring countries did so to evade Customs duty. That is the major reason they patronise the ports of neighbouring countries. For example, some car importers still prefer to discharge at the Cotonou Port where they pay little as duty and try to smuggle the vehicle into the country. They are trying to avoid the payment of the 35 per cent duty imposed by Jonathan’s administration. It is the same with rice that go to the Cotonou port.
A clearing agent, who works at Idiroko border, Mr Adejare Sylvester, told The Nation that Idiroko border has become the hub of smuggling.
The Federal Government, he said, loses billions of naira as smugglers are exploiting the auto policy to bring in used vehicles into the country.
“Since the Federal Government introduced the new auto policy the rate of smuggling vehicles through unapproved routes around Idiroko border has increased.
“Whereas we have 84 approved border control posts across 4,000 square kilometres, there are well over 1,400 illegal routes across the country, which are not manned. This has great economic and security implications for our nation.’’
Adejare blamed the high rate of smuggling on high duty rates of cars, saying that Customs duty and charges should be reviewed downward by the administration to stop cargo diversion and end car smuggling.
“Unless this is done, the Federal Government would continue to lose huge revenue while car smuggling will continue to thrive at this border with the numerous illegal routes that surround it.
“Smuggling can never be eradicated anywhere in the world. The major duty of Customs officers is to suppress it. Customs officials are not God or superhuman and they are not allowed to use their guns arbitrarily or overreact because everybody is presumed to be innocent until the person is caught,” Adejare said.
Source: The Nation