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Car, rice smuggling booms as multiple Customs checkpoints return at Idiroko

By Ships&Ports
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Barely five weeks after the directive issued by the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali dismantling all illegal checkpoints across the country, the checkpoints have returned with the Idiroko border in Ogun State having no fewer than 20 illegal checkpoints, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY is reporting.

The Customs boss had in July ordered the removal of all illegal checkpoints beyond 40km radius of the land borders in compliance with the circular of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) chaired by Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo as part of government’s effort at improving the ease of doing business in the country.

Shortly after the directive, all checkpoints considered illegal were dismantled with the customs high command releasing a list of approved checkpoints across the country.

However, few weeks down the line, the illegal checkpoints have gradually crept back with the Idiroko border having no fewer than 20 illegal road blocks mounted by customs officers from Ilase down to Winners as against only four which include Ajilete, Ihumbo, Ayetoro and Atan along Idiroko – Lagos road approved by the Service.

Confirming the development, Secretary, National Association of Government Approved Freight forwarders (NAGAFF), Idiroko Chapter, Oluseyi Agbokere said the ban has not been effective at Idiroko.

He accused officers of the Ogun command of conniving with the police to mount the illegal checkpoints in a bid to extort motorists while allowing free passage to smugglers who would have bribed their way.

“The illegal check points are increasing every day in Idiroko. From Ilase down to Winners you will find more than 20 customs checkpoints on the road. The checkpoints include those mounted by the roving patrol because they are permanently based on the road and this has given other security agencies like the police an opportunity to feed on the smugglers as well. The police also have up to 16 checkpoints from Idiroko down to Sango.

“We see some of the customs checkpoints in the day time but at night you see them come out from nowhere and it has always been like that. But the Controller will tell you that nothing like that is happening but it is a lie because I am a resident of Ajegunle in Idiroko,” he said.

Agbokere also accused officers of the command of aiding and abetting smuggling of contraband items including rice and vehicles through the borders.

He said despite the ban on importation of vehicles through the land borders, no fewer than 200 vehicles are smuggled into the country weekly at the dead of the night with active connivance of officers.

“In the day time, it is very hard before you see anything pass but when it is night, it is free for all and the smugglers take over the day. Trailers with contraband load and move at night every week and each of the carriers carries at least150 to 200 vehicles.

“Since the ban on importation of automobile which is what most of the service providers in Idiroko relied on, activities has been dead. Nothing is happening presently. The only people who are enjoying Idiroko today are the smugglers. Only the Customs and the smugglers are in command at Idiroko. The customs have no other thing to do than to liaise with the smugglers because what they get from the smugglers is what they use in the management of their command apart from their salary.

“When you get to Sango, you see rice everywhere. How do they come in? It is through Idiroko. At night, you will see more than 300 cars going to Sango. Mostly Maxda, Volvo including Vento. Each of the vehicles carries more than 80 bags and this has become a daily activity. The smugglers have a way of negotiating within themselves because most of these smugglers are residents within the local government.

“When Customs showcase their seizures of rice, it is just to make Nigerians believe they are working. Most of the rice that they showcase they arrested are the small ones they collect from petty traders with small bags of rice while the main ones enters untouched,” he said.