ANLCA says FG was misinformed into banning rice importation through land borders


The Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, Seme Border chapter has said that the Federal Government through the Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) was misinformed into banning rice importation through the land borders few months after the ban was lifted by the Comptroller-General of Custom, Hameed Ali on assumption of duty.

The Association which made this disclosure through its chapter Chairman, Alhaji Barr. Bisiriyu Lasisi Fanu in an interview with our correspondent at Seme Friday recalled that Seme command of the Nigeria Customs Service and other Customs commands along the border line made enormous revenue which accrued to the federal government during the short period the ban was lifted.

Fanu who disclosed that the government may have more information as to the reason it rescinded its decision to lift the ban on the importation of rice through the land borders described the decision as an unwise one as it continued to endanger the lives of the customs officers who he said engage on gun duel with the smugglers on daily basis.

He however observed that even with the placement of the ban once more on the importation of rice through the land borders, the customs officers had never compromised in carrying out their anti-smuggling function at the command as they continued in their resolve in arresting and seizing bags of rice smuggled into the country through the border area.

While pointing out that the Customs Area Controller of the Seme Border Customs Command, Comptroller Victor Dimka has zero tolerance for smuggling, he however argued that the information that all the rice smuggled into the country passes through Seme border saying that most of the rice smuggled into the country comes through other borders locations like Shaki, Idiroko, Kwara and so on.

According to him, “But you do know for sure that the Controller we have here now has zero tolerance for smuggling and in more than two or three occasions, they have gone out to bring in a number of full truckloads of rice. Yes! At the beginning of the year, when the Comptroller-General of Customs was appointed as the CG, he lifted the ban on rice importation through the land borders and the revenue that came in from rice was so enormous that we felt that that would continue to be, to bring down the issue of people trying to smuggle in rice, risking their money passing through the bush.

“But with misinformation, I call it misinformation because whereby you imported through Cotonou, maybe two thousand bags of rice, you don’t expect that two thousand bags of rice to go into Lagos, at least, if you have about one thousand, six hundred that come into the country, of course, yes, you have generated money. That was the case but PAAR must concern the issue of rice was the reason why they said rice must not come in through the land borders.

“Yes! The Seme and Idiroko commands realized great revenue as a result of the one month or two months the lifting of rice importation through the land border lasted. But the customs officers have not compromised; they still make arrest of rice every now and then. Even if you carry one bag or two bags of rice in your vehicle going now, they will stop you. We have had cases of customs and smugglers having fracas and shoot outs. Of course, some officers will die and some smugglers will die. It is as a result of fighting smugglers along the borders. The man Dimka has zero tolerance for smuggling; that is number one.

“As far as we the stakeholders are here, government have their information but the decision is not a wise one because, one, they put the lives of the officers in danger, they put the lives of the people into danger trying to smuggle here and there and as a result of this, there is always a fracas between the officers and these people and the first time they tried lifting this ban, we generated money. I have just made an example of someone importing two thousand bags of rice and you discover that one thousand, six hundred paid the normal levy, you have made money, that is beautiful because you don’t expect the whole two thousand bags to go into Nigeria, other neighbouring countries, you have Ghana, you have Togo, other West African countries go to the same Cotonou and buy rice. So, it is not all the two thousand bags that you imported to Cotonou, that arrive Cotonou that you will expect in Lagos.

“But from what they recorded based on rice importation, I mean the figures they had then, Seme has generated a lot of money and they have done very good. If government will have a rethink over it because day in, day out, there is always a fracas on the roads, either through the waterside or through the bush, the officers are there doing their job but lives are always involved’.

He continued,” Let me tell you one thing, all eyes are on Seme just because Seme is closer to Lagos, you don’t have Abuja road in Seme. When I mean Abuja road, any other road that is not through the border, it is sandy, you cannot load truck and put it on that road. So, the road we have is this Seme border-Mile 2 expressway of which the zero tolerance is there.

“Look at places like Shaki, Idiroko and other borders, they have several routes that most of these things pass through but all eyes are on Seme which is a bad impression. But Seme is doing its best to make sure they curb smuggling of rice into the market. If you investigate properly, you will discover that most of them don’t pass through this line. The type of vehicles that convey them, sometimes if you are going to Lagos you see them on the road, they can come in through Ibadan and take Toll gate, Berger and they come to Alaba to come and offload and all impression is that they are coming through Seme, it is not true”.

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