In this interview, the Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone B of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Albashir Hamisu, explains plans to raid markets and warehouses in search of smuggled rice.
What has been your major challenge since assumption of duty in the zone?
They are many and are enormous, including operational vehicles. Even though the service under the leadership of CGC Hamid Ali is trying within the limited resources to provide us with operational vehicles, we need more. Another problem is the lack of cooperation from the general public. The customs cannot operate alone; and with the way smugglers are becoming sophisticated, we need information from the public so that we can team up and face the smugglers.
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Another issue is that of intra-agency relations; which we have taken very seriously. I can say that the collaboration is excellent now with the customs strike force, the border drill, the area command and the customs intelligence unit; we are now united to face the monsters as a force.
Smuggling remains a big challenge in the country; how are you tackling it?
We are more united than we used to be and our mode of operation has changed. In the past, as a federal operations unit, I would want to do it alone and take the credit, but now we work together to secure the borders. Now we are ready and working together as a team to ensure that smugglers are faced squarely, and we do that by enlightening the general public and also sharing intelligence with other security agencies.
What about the issue of importation of rice despite the ban and border closure?
You cannot bring smuggling to zero level, but we are doing our best to tackle it. We have plans to start raiding markets and warehouses where smuggled goods are kept to make sure that illicit commodities are not circulated. You can imagine the good policies of the federal government for agriculture and industrialisation where farmers and manufacturers are given loans to encourage local production. But if smuggling continues, these farmers and manufacturers will end up losing their investments and it will make it difficult for them to pay their loans. Therefore, we’ll do our best to ensure that importation of rice is reduced to the barest level.
What was the duty paid value of seizures made by Zone B in 2020?
The duty paid value for 2020 in the zone stood at N2,052,238,058, and in addition, we received directives from the presidency at intervals to transfer seized items which have been properly condemned by competent courts through the customs headquarters for relief to IDPs. These items include food items like rice; soap; used clothing; mosquito nets and beddings.
Can you share your records of performance for January, 2021?
January, 2021, was very good for the command. We recorded 111 seizures with the duty paid value of N97,041,197. The breakdown is as follows: 792 bags of 50kg rice, 55 bags of 25kg rice, 525 kegs of vegetable oil, 131 cartons tin tomatoes, 127 cartons of tobacco, 170 cartons of spaghetti and 379 cartons of pharmaceutical products.
Others are 27 units of different vehicle models, 100 cartons of insect repellents and 2,000 packets of 2000 cannabis.
What is your message to smugglers?
Smugglers do not relent and so my message to them is that we are thinking ahead of them. I will like to advise them to have a rethink and not invest their money because it would be a waste as we are not sleeping, we will follow them to their bedrooms just like my CGC Hamid Ali said.
For my men, I advise them to reap from the advantage of a robust welfare package approved by the CGC. Our take home pay is good, promotion comes timely and transfers are done within limits. So, there is the need for all officers to give their best by ensuring that this country is rid of illicit goods: arms, rice and all other prohibited goods.