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Customs seizures

Rice smuggling up on land borders as 15 Nigeria-bound vessels berth in Cotonou

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Investigations carried out by Business Hilights Intelligence Unit (BHIU) within the first three weeks in 2018 have shown very marginal reduction in the volume of Rice smuggling along Nigerian borders.

Details of analysis show that high net worth rice smuggling operations are usually done in connivance with top Customs officials manning the land or creek borders.

Though there had been series of momentary arrests of rice smugglers by Customs operatives, studies show that such arrests are done once in a while to show relevance of the Service on the border.

Statistics show that if the actions of the Nigerian Customs against rice smugglers are tailored to succeed, Nigerians would have been completely discouraged in importing the products via Cotonou with the aim of smuggling them through land and creeks.

Only weekend, the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major General Mohammed Babagana Monguno (rtd), alerted the Comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), of the discovery of not less than 20 shiploads of rice in Cotonou, Benin Republic, suspected to be destined for the Nigerian market by smugglers.

The intelligence disclosed that about 15 ships had berthed and were being discharged while five more were waiting to berth for discharge. The rice, believed to be in the popular 50kg bags, will undermine government’s efforts at boosting local rice production capacity if allowed into the country.

Business Hilights recalls that the Federal Government had in January 2017 banned rice importation through the land borders, allowing access for the commodity only through the seaports.

Accordingly, Ali, had last week, sent a signal to all border commands of NCS to be vigilant, warning that there would be unpleasant consequences for customs officers found to have compromised and allowed the entry of the banned products.

Whereas Seme remains Nigeria’s busiest land border frontier with Republic of Benin, Ali listed Idiroko (Ogun State), Shaki, (Oyo State), Babana (Kwara State) and other Northern borders with Republic of Benin across the country.

President Buhari had directed that customs should distribute seized rice to various Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps across the country. In line with the directive, the Customs said it distributed 252,666 (50kg) bags of rice worth N379 billion in the last 22 months to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East and Benin in Edo State.

The donated rice was foreign brands seized by customs operatives from smugglers who attempted to bring in the goods into the Nigerian markets.

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