The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Ogun State Command, seized 47,601 bags of foreign parboiled rice, 461 vehicles, among other items from smugglers in 2020, Peter Chado Kolo, the Area Comptroller, said on Wednesday.
Kolo made the fact known at the Idiroko headquarters of the command, where he highlighted the achievements of the service in the state from January 2020 to January 2021.
He said that the command seized 6,138 bags of foreign parboiled rice and 51 vehicles from smugglers in January.
He said the command also seized 22,050 litres of petroleum products during the period.
Other items seized by the command include tyres, second-hand clothes, illicit drugs (tramadol and cannabis Sativa), palm oil, assorted soap and cream, the comptroller said.
Kolo said items seized from in 2020 were worth N2.27 billion, while those seized in January were worth N113.81 million.
Smuggling is prevalent on Nigeria’s international borders and often involves youth striving to survive under harsh economic conditions.
Ogun State is on Nigeria’s border with the Republic of Benin through a town called Idiroko but there are numerous illegal routes through which contraband and illegal items are smuggled into Nigeria, HumAngle learnt.
Smuggling activities have engendered incessant bloody clashes between customs officers and smugglers in towns close to the border and often resulted in the loss of lives.
While the NCS accuses residents of communities around the border of aiding smugglers to beat the law, the people say the smugglers should be engaged at the border before they enter Nigeria’s territory.
On Wednesday, HumAngle reported the death of one person and seven others injured in a clash between customs officers and smugglers.
Kolo said the command had recorded casualties in clashes with smugglers.
“On several occasions, our officers while performing their lawful duties come under sustained harassment and attacks from daredevil smugglers and their supporters/sympathisers who use pump action rifles, AK-47 rifles, local charms and other dangerous weapons. This sometimes results in casualties on either side or both.
“For instance, on the 12th of October, 2020, one officer, AIC Solomon Alagye, was killed and another officer of the Service CAI (T) Taiwo Odeyemi, is still missing up till today after an attack on their patrol team on the 3rd of December, 2020, by these criminal gangs.
“We wish to reiterate that the sustained attack on operatives of NCS and other sister agencies will not deter us from the continued performance of our legitimate duties in Ogun State,” he said
The officer said the command had adopted a non-violent approach toward tackling smuggling, including using dialogue and sensitising the youth and students.
“The command will continue to dialogue, engage, sensitise and educate the public on the social/economic implication of smuggling as well as performing the statutory function of enforcing compliance in line with government fiscal policies,” he said.
The comptroller appealed to “parents and guardians residing in border communities to prevail on their children, wards and youths to desist” from crimes such as smuggling and attacking security agents.
He also solicited support from traditional rulers and urged them “to educate their subjects on the menace of smuggling.”
Kolo further urged the rulers to warn their subjects against “incessant attacks on security operatives discharging their statutory duties as that will no longer be tolerated.”
He acknowledged that unemployment and the lack of infrastructure development in border communities could be responsible for youth involvement in smuggling.
The comptroller said community leaders in the area had requested NCS to create a quota for youths in the border communities during recruitment and promised that the request would be forwarded to the management of the service for consideration.
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