THE attention of the Customs Area Controller of Seme Area Command, Nigeria Customs Service has been drawn to a publication in Realnews Online Magazine written by one of your reporters whom we doubt has ever visited our border as he claims not to know the actual boundary between Nigeria and Benin Republic. We may not have bothered to respond to the report since it is a mere repeat of the content of some other publications in the past which we have adequately responded to.
We, however, find it necessary to use the report as another opportunity to enlighten the reporter et al on the workings of Customs at the border and correct the misinformation contained therein. The reporter demonstrated his naivety about border reportage by stating that there is no national flag on the Nigeria side whereas the flag is proudly hoisted at both the Customs and Immigration posts respectively.
That Seme Border is well known more than any other border is as a result of the strategic position of the border in Lagos state and also a hub and gateway to the West African sub region. Lagos state as the nexus of the Nigerian economy boasts of a high volume of legitimate trade and this economic advantage comes with some challenges, among which is economic related crime such as smuggling which we are adequately prepared for and are confronting head long.
As the busiest land border in the West African sub region in terms of legitimate trade, one cannot expect lesser human and vehicular movements within the frontier. Your story started with an old lie ‘Seme border where Customs, Smugglers strike deals’ showing the picture of Igolo Road in Benin Republic, a distance of more than 40 kilometers from Seme border. The photo used, purported to have been taken at Seme, does not in any way have geographical proximity with Seme border. This betrayed the reporter’s ignorance as the ingredient of research expected of a reporter was missing in the report.
In an attempt to create a false impression that the story was balanced, your reporter embarrassed the Nigeria Customs Service by the mention of the Command’s Public Relations Officer (CPRO) Ernest Olottah, when, in the real sense, the CPRO was never contacted through visit or phone call. If the writer holds any proof to the contrary, we would like to see it (including telephone call log or electronic mail enquiry).
Obviously, the writer threw ethics to the wind and wrote with no attempt to balance the report. No phone call, email or visit was made with a view to get our anti-smuggling achievement at Seme. Facts are sacred and our facts have indisputable evidence.
The reporter’s account of a synergy between our Command and Smugglers is nothing but a fabrication of his own imagination and cheap blackmail. He had displayed lack of knowledge and information on the value of seizure we make. This was evident when he alleged inter alia;
I. That smugglers of frozen foods such as turkey are made to drop a carton per vehicle at a designated check-point after ‘bookings’ are completed.
II. That seized vehicles under our custody are not worth more than N150,000.00.
These are laughable as it once again exposes the inadequacy of the reporter as a lazy, arm chair, and ‘hear say’ dependent writer. The reporter would have served the general public better by recording and exposing the whole process of the said ‘dropping’. The allegation presupposes that most users of the highway are smugglers and the number of seizures made tantamount to the number of the ‘supposed bookings’.
Within the first quarter of 2014, this command had made seizures of 8,065 bags of 50kg rice, 63 vehicles including trucks, jeeps and various cars, and 7,452 cartons of frozen poultry products which have been destroyed accordingly due to their perishable nature while 22 suspects arrested are at various stages of investigation, bail and prosecution. Could the foregoing have been an outcome of the ‘supposed strike deals’? One may ask.
We doubt if the writer knows where our command is situated otherwise he would have taken cognizance of our relentless anti-smuggling campaign.
We are proud of our anti-smuggling records and will advise the writer to seek knowledge about whatever he writes. Our anti-smuggling records speak for itself. We will not only show you records, we are also ready to take you round our seizures and tell you more about how some of our Officers paid the supreme price with their lives while confronting smugglers.
Without claiming to have a hundred percent perfect system, the Comptroller General of Customs has not relented in his drive to sanitize the service of any officer working against our statutory mandate.
Comptroller Willy Egbudin, our Area controller has always emphasized on the Customs management zero tolerance for such vices. Under him, we have continued to burst smugglers antics through bushes and at the waterfronts. We have in a single swoop at different times made seizures of rice worth N12.5Million and N7.5 Million in addition to many others.
While we run an open door policy and the office of the CPRO is always accessible, we strongly advice that the reporter should seek knowledge about the border and not rely on jaundiced view of Customs spiced with misleading internet generated pictures by those caught on the wrong side of the law.
— Mar. 31, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT