Saturday, 19 October 2019

Border Closure: Smugglers Devise New Methods To Beat Customs

convey rice, oil, turkey on motorcycles, through the sea

....Local rice scarce, costly –Traders

Notwithstanding the heavy policing and thorough security checks at the land borders, aimed at ensuring compliance with Federal Government’s closure order, smugglers are still plying their illicit trade, as they have now devised new methods and new routes to convey their products, especially bags of rice, turkey and vegetable oil. 

Investigations by Saturday Telegraph reveal that the illegal dealers in the commodities now engage the services of motorcyclists and canoe operators to convey bags of rice and cartons of vegetable oil from Benin Republic to Nigeria. An undercover operation by our correspondents, who were embedded among the smugglers, exposes the covert and deadly operation of the men of the underworld, showing how they bypass the borders by going through the sea and land using remote villages. On the sea, our reporters witnessed how a team of smugglers paddled their canoes in very dangerous manner, along the Cotonou- Badagry beaches, passing through places like Gbetrume and Inagbe to beat the eagle-eyed Customs officials. Some of the smugglers are also armed in the process as they ferry their illegal products in a combat steady manner, as narrated by one of the smugglers.
Witnessing smuggling operations
Pretending to be smugglers, our reporters had approached some canoe paddlers for help to take their wares to the other side of the sea.

Agreeing to carry out the dirty job, but not without a fee, one of the traffickers, advised our reporters to brace up for the show ahead. The canoe operator, who spoke in pidgin English, while claiming to be the ‘captain’ of the boat, said he is not new in the business, as he had been conveying people across the sea over the years. Not wanting to lose their money in case of any eventuality or a confrontation with naval officers, which could make them abandon the job, the traffickers opted to collect their money before embarking on the journey. 

“Na gbege we dey go now. We never know whether we dey come back or we go yamutu, make you just ready and make you give us our money before we comot”, he said in adulterated language. The journey was however hitch-free as the canoe operators eventually stopped at place where some ‘okada’ riders took over the job. On land, the smugglers move their wares through Igolo, a border village and its neighbouring hamlets to pass through Owode and Idiroko in order to bypass Seme border and reach their destination.

The risky process of the new method has however led to the increase in the prices of the grains and oily liquid, as bikers now collect N100 per bag as against the N50 that was in force before the closure. In the same vein, bikers that hitherto convey between three and five bags on a single journey, now load up to six bags to do brisk business. As such, a single journey that used to cost the smugglers not more than N200 now makes them cough out N600 per route. This has no doubt added to the rising cost of the commodities, as it has made the price unbearable for consumers and end-users of the products to purchase.

Involvement of Customs, giant coys’ staff

Further investigations show that some Customs officials as well as drivers and haulage staff of some big and international companies are involved in the ongoing illegalities. Our correspondents did not only see how big trucks were allowed into the country, but also witnessed how they smuggled bags of rice,turkey and vegetable oil, using the cover of their business empires. On the particular day, convoy of trucks belonging to cement, paint, shoes and other manufacturing companies were seen packing the smuggled products into their vans. 

One of our reporters, pretending to be a smuggler, had approached some of the drivers, who narrated how they have been ‘helping’ others to convey their goods across the border, before agreeing to take her bags of rice across the border for a fee. One of the 

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