The Nigerian Customs Service has said that the porous nature of the country’s borders is a major obstacle to their efforts to stem the influx of smuggled items.
The agency noted that smuggling is a global phenomenon and that even ”if all arms of Customs are posted to the borders, smuggled items would still find their way into the country.”
Jerry Attah, the spokesperson of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, said over the weekend that there could be a level of connivance between some customs officers stationed at the borders and smugglers.
“Federal Operations, Ikeja, is an anti-smuggling arm, asides anti-smuggling, we are more of police of Customs,” Mr. Attah said.
“We checkmate the activities of other Customs command. You will agree with me that our borders are very porous, and because of the porosity of these borders, that is why you still see smuggled items in the country.
“There might be issues of negligence, there might not be issues of negligence but there is the issue of porosity of the borders. Some of these smugglers take advantage of the porous borders. We are not saying all Customs officers are saints because out of every 12, there is always a Judas.
“That is why the management of Customs, in recent times, have dismissed those erring officers and we are still looking for those bad eggs in the service to be dismissed as well. Information from the public will help uncover those who are compromising the standard of the operation.
“I can tell you categorically that those smuggled items find their way in through unapproved routes. If you joined all the arms of Customs officers in the country, there is no way we can man all the borders, that is the fact.”
Last week, the Nigerian Customs Federal Operations Unit said they had seized 31 exotic cars worth N1,429,953,941 between 1st and 31st of January this year.
The vehicles, evacuated from car marts and an undisclosed residence, were seized due to non-payment of customs duty, according to the Controller FOU, Mohammed Uba.
They included four Rolls Royce, one Jaguar, one Bentley, one Porsche, two G Wagons and other exotic cars.
“In continuation of our anti-smuggling operations, we have taken these vehicles because of non-payment of duty,” Mr. Uba had said.
“No matter what these smugglers do, we will not stop evacuation of vehicles which had contravened federal government policy.
“We will keep them until their appropriate duty is paid or be forfeited to the government.”
Asked about the cars seized by the agency last year, Mr. Attah said some of them have been confiscated as nobody had come forward with relevant customs papers.
“The cars seized earlier, nobody has come forward for it. The Controller gave them option to provide relevant customs papers which nobody has provided yet. So, we have taken the vehicles to court for condemnation after passing through the 90 days process. Some of the vehicles condemned by the court are auctioned through our e-auction portal.”
Parts of the seizure made between 1st and 31st January also included 8,400 bags of 50 kilogrammes foreign parboiled rice, used compressors, air conditioners and tyres.
Second-hand clothings, Indian hemp and jerry cans of vegetable oil were also seized.
According to the Customs Unit, the total sum of the seized items in January alone is worth N1.6 billion.
The agency said the goods were intercepted along Lagos and Ogun roads after being smuggled from land borders.