Few months after the Nigerian government re-opened the nation’s land borders, stakeholders blame corruption and compromise on the part of security agencies as major reasons contraband goods still sneaked into the country during the closure.
In separate interviews with Financial Street on Wednesday, they asserted that the 16 months border closure should not have been, as it did not achieve its set goals.
Kingley Ifeanyi, a rice trader in Lagos, said that smuggled bags of rice still came to the country daily despite the border closure, even as he accused officers of the Nigeria Customs Service of compromise.
“We still bought bags of rice directly from smugglers from Cotonou daily. We know where to meet them and buy at a cheaper rate and sell to final consumers. We even bought frozen foods. Despite the border closure, our markets were still flooded with frozen imported poultry products. Who is the government deceiving? All you need is to sort the people that matter and your goods will still arrive,” he explained.
A lady, who gave her name as Jamiama, disclosed that motorcycles were used for smuggling during the border closure.
She added that the smugglers, who bribed Customs officials, knew the time to operate freely.
“Forget that thing they are saying about border closure. Which border did they close? I still bought foreign smuggled bags of rice somewhere at Igbolerin, close to Okokomaiko, at a very cheap price. Even tomatoes and frozen foods are sold there. Customs will only arrest you, if you didn’t ‘settle’ very well. Even in communities like Owode, seven out of every 10 motorcyclist Okada you see would be carrying, at least, a bag of foreign rice each,” she said.
But Mr. Tunde Adu, a resident of Idiroko, believes that the border closure was successful in some aspects.
His words, “The closure was successful to some areas of operation like prevention of entry of light firearms. But for rice and frozen poultry products, not much changed. The organised smuggling of these products across the Western borders is still striving. If the Customs leadership is in doubt, they can inbox me to confirm this. It is not just an opinion, but a fact.”
Another lady, who gave her name as Anastasia Anthony, said, “Western borders were well manned; it is the northern borders that are weak. In fact, there are reports of soldiers assisting smugglers to move items across the northern borders. As for light arms, I doubt if their smuggling has reduced. Otherwise, Boko Haram and bandits will not have such abundant supply of weapons.”
Meanwhile, a freight forwarder, who craved anonymity, said only the Customs boss, Col. Hameed Ali, and his lieutenants would say “the needless border closure” was a success.
“Under the vaunted closure, smuggling activities assumed a higher dimension, aided and abetted by the drill managers who made huge merchandise of the whole charade,” he stated.
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