Keeping watch in spite of gains

The relatively new transit initiative covering the movement of imported vehicles into Nigeria from neighbouring countries through which they were imported, could be said to have brought in some sanity around the border area of Seme and Badagry.

However,  it will demand the responsibility of the Nigeria Customs Service to ensure that the initiative is sustained because it is to its credit; introducing a well-thought out programme to ease international trade and encourage new affiliations for security purposes in the course of national assignments.

It is indeed a healthy scheme as arrived at by the Customs chiefs of five countries namely Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad and Niger Republic after they held a round-table discussion in Abuja sometimes in March 2014.

The initiative, meant to ease sub-regional trade, took off at the Seme border area with the hope of achieving the same feat in other areas where there are Customs formations where they particularly handle vehicle importation operations.

It must be noted too that the initiative was established to bear accountability, transparency and proper evaluation, considering that the system was programmed to reflect the names of officers who are responsible for the transfers and receipts of the manifests and vehicles from both of the countries.

As developed, Nigerian-bound vehicles that are imported from other close-by African countries, as expected, are handed over to the Nigeria Customs Service by the Customs administration of the country concerned after the necessary clearance must have been done.
A visit to the Seme border area tells the story for itself as such imported vehicles that have been cleared through neighbouring ports, move into Nigeria after the necessary procedures. It shows a ‘bye-bye’ to what it used to be when vehicles transiting were moved in convoys.

They were also noted for their movement late at night in order to evade Customs operatives. Of course, such acts were detrimental to the nation’s economy as the Nigerian government was denied the revenue from duty payment.

Besides denying government its revenue, the activities of the smugglers who brought in the vehicles posed high security challenges as they engaged Customs operatives in regular gun battles. At such times, several casualties were recorded even among innocent people who fell victims. Such smuggling activity was injurious to industrialization, particularly as the government was working towards building a viral automotive industry in Nigeria.

Although adequate data of the vehicles being smuggled into the country may have been difficult, the over 120 cars that were handed over at the flag-off ceremony, indicated that a large number of vehicles got into the country illegally daily.

If remarkable gains have been recorded from this effort by the Nigeria Customs Service, barely six months down the line, then this is the time for stock-taking and evaluation.

The authorities of the Nigeria Customs Service must continually keep alive to this effort and improve on the strategy being used.

Accepted, smuggling or other security challenges may not be entirely wiped off, just as it cannot be wished away, therefore, the operatives that are saddled with the responsibility must not sleep on an achievement because perpetrators of the evil act stay watchful and every ready to take advantage of lapses, in the course of any.