COVID-19: Customs hints on how border drill boosts food bank, frustrates smuggling, terrorism


The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Saturday gave graphical details of how the border drill embarked upon since August 20, 2019 boosted local food production, frustrated terrorism, smuggling as well as other criminal activities in the country.

The National Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah made the submissions while delivering a lecture at an online summit tagged “National Security and Border Management” organised by the Journalists International Forum for Migration (JIFORM).

The JIFORM President, Ajibola Abayomi described the dialogue that involved the NCS and the President, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Comrade Chris Isiguzo as timely and necessary.

He praised the NCS and the PRO for being firm and resolute on decision to secure the Nigerian border against smugglers and other illicit acts despite attempts to blackmail the agency.

Speaking on a presentation titled, “Trade Facilitation, Border Drill and Implications for the Nigerian Economy” at the forum, he argued that the partial border closure was a blessing to the country.

He said the partial closure of the border had so far curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into the country, in addition to other prohibited items.

“Our series of interactions and engagements with the Rice Miller Association of Nigeria since the commencement of this exercise has shown that the border closure has impacted positively. Farmers have been expanding their farms, engaging more hands (job opportunities) as a result of patronage. Coincidentally that decision is helping to curb the hardship brought by Covid-19 pandemic now.

“The global lockdown now means that nationals depend more on locally produced food items since international trade has been negatively impacted by the outbreak of Coronavirus. The consequences of depending on foreign foods at this difficult time of global lockdown is better imagined than experienced”, Attah added.

According to him, despite challenges posed by false declaration of consignment by traders and agents at the border, the NCS has been balancing trade facilitation with national security advising that illegitimate trade not in the interest of Nigeria’s growth.

“If for instance, on the altar of trade facilitation, dangerous items such illicit drugs, arms and ammunitions, are allowed easy passage or goods that should have paid 35% duty rate allowed at 5%, the nation will  lose revenue and be confronted with all sorts of security challenges.”

The customs image maker asserted that commencement of operation codenamed EX-SWIFT RESPONSE with the combination of all security operatives including the Nigeria Immigration Service in South West, South South, North West and North Central was necessitated by the trans-border security and economic challenges.

The activities that snowballed into arm banditry, smuggling, illegal migration, illicit drug trafficking and proliferation of light weapons among others had led to increasing insecurity and economic downturn for Nigerians over the years.

He noted that despite the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) protocol, “our experience has shown that our neighbors do not comply with this protocol rather, they break the seal of containers at their ports and trans-load goods destined for Nigeria. This action is fraught with security and economic consequences on the destination country which is Nigeria.”

The customs PRO valued the estimated seizures recorded within the period under review at eight billion, seven hundred and fifty nine million, fifteen thousand, three hundred and seventy-one Naira forty-four Kobo (N8,759,015,371.44) leading to significant curb of petroleum diversion from the country and 30% drop in total consumption by Nigerians.

The seizures and arrests, according to him included, “697 illegal migrants, 106,280 of 50kg bags of parboiled foreign rice, 1,172 vehicles, 2,997 drums filled with PMS, 16,771 Jerri cans of vegetable oil; 66,000 litre tanker of vegetable oil; 656 motorcycles, 15,089 Jerri cans of PMS and 695 bags of NPK fertilizer used for making explosives among others estimated.

“From statistics available, seizures dropped since the commencement of the partial border closure. This is because the increase in manpower and working tools from the participating agencies made it possible for rigorous patrol of all nooks and crannies of the porous borders. This sent fear down the spines of smugglers with some of them re-routing their cargoes to seaports, raising revenue from such commands.

“It is important to note that about 90 percent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria today came in through our porous land borders. However, since this partial closure, the acts have been considerably reduced. This means that the arms and ammunition these terrorists and criminal elements were using no longer gain entry into the country through their usual points. In addition, the drugs which affect the health and the wellbeing of Nigerians have equally been reduced”, he said.

On revenue generation of the Federal Government, Attah confirmed that they NCS daily revenue collection before border closure ranged between N4 to N5 billion, NCS now collects N5 to N6 billion daily.

Photo: National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service, Mr. Joseph Attah.

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