This is a letter we got in our mail written by a Nigerian Customs Service insider to Comptroller-General Colonel Hameed Ali on the smuggling menace in the country. The writer, who goes by the name ‘Nigeria Customs Service informant’ calls for action in some formations. We have edited out some names because of libel. But we hope the no-nonsense retired colonel, will heed the advice contained therein.
We are beginning to love you for your responses although belated but a wise man once said, better late than never. We are invigorated to keep sending these mails by the recent activities in NCS. All of a sudden, the slumber seems to be waning. So if these mails will be the antidote for banishing the sleep of death that has overtaken the hierarchy of NCS, which has invariably almost killed investors in the rice value chain, then we will do well meaning Nigerians the favour to keep the prescription flowing endlessly.
The new approach by replacing the CG Taskforce with Strike Force is appreciated. Although we are not ecstatic about it because as far as we are concerned, it is just syntax and semantics. It is just a baptism or name change. The real deal is the sincerity and commitment to do the right thing. However, this change of nomenclature is welcomed and we pray it yields fruits expected and different from that of the taskforce.
CG, we want to tell you for free that the Comptrollers in the commands in Lagos State seem to have received stern warning not to tolerate smuggling. Please, give a stronger warning to the Comptrollers in Ogun State especially and also Niger, Kwara, and Katsina states. Ogun State stands out because the major kingpins that spearhead smuggling resides in the state. The state seems to be very cosy and conducive for the likes of D, M, MB, DS and his wife who are the major kingpins in order of superiority.
Now these people do not really get their approval from the Comptrollers around i.e. Ogun and Lagos States. They get their nods from Abuja. Once the approval comes, they simply settle the Comptrollers on ground. That is how the smuggling business rolls.
So once Abuja gives the nod, these Comptrollers in the states with border towns will then approve their own separate rackets so that they are not left out since the major settlement would have gone to Abuja. We know all these things but have opted to just press you plainly until now that we are ready to even drop names.
There is one Officer S (will get his full name asap) that is the executor. He is the go between and operates mainly in Oja Odan, Kpakpa and Idiroko. It is he that Abuja communicates with and then the Comptrollers in all these areas where smuggling go unhindered simply comply. They cannot do otherwise even if they wanted to. But since Abuja is not on ground to supervise it, these Comptrollers simply escalate it hence the prevalence of smuggled imported rice for over three years. So you can see what we know what we are saying when we said that this smuggling has the support of powers high up there and fingers are pointing at you and the president.
However, if really you (as the direct representative of the president) are not aware of the sleaze going on under your nose, it is further indictment of your gullibility and so we do not sound disrespectful, we will not say incompetence but we would say you clearly are not on top of your job. We apologise if this is rather harsh but it is the unfortunate truth. A wise man said if two brothers go in for a family meeting, the only way you know they have been forthright is when one storms out of the house fuming. If both of them come out laughing, then you know one or both of them have been largely compromising and afraid to tell the other one the bitter truth.
There is even a new angle to it that is threatening to make smuggling even more deep rooted. The members of other forces are now green with envy because Custom officers in the space of months in these smuggling-prone areas now live flamboyantly. They own hotels, cars, state of the art houses, and generally live lavishly because of the returns they get from smuggling. So the new fad is that soldiers, police and other men of the force now escort smuggling vehicles. The Custom officers whose secret is now in the open are forced to look the other way or accept minimal settlement in the selfish but ‘overall’ interest of men of the force promoting espirit de corp.
With this new trend, we can all imagine where it will lead us. Once they all taste the forbidden fruit, it will be almost impossible to do anything because even the big bosses of these other force will be brought in and for the sake of filthy lucre, our borders will remain porous and economy eternally threatened.
Maybe it is time to get an inter-agency strike force to combat this menace apart from an outright declaration of a ban of imported rice. This is our own two cents for now.