ILLELA (SOKOTO STATE)- Some Nigerians in Sokoto, Kebbi and Katsina States have attributed the increase in smuggling activities at the borders, to corruption and other factors.
Speaking to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), they insisted that because of the ‘lucrative’ nature of the ‘ trade’,whoever had the opportunity to be part of it, would hardly resist.
They attributed the rush for Nigerian products, especially petroleum, to their affordable nature because of the subsidy placed on the products to ease the effects of inflation on the populace
NAN Correspondent who visited Illela, Sokoto state, a town sharing border with Kwanni, Niger Republic, said Nigerian products had flooded Niger Republic due to their cheaper rates compared with prices in Niger Republic.
The NAN Correspondent who visited the border, reports that most of the Nigerian commodities were being smuggled through porous border.
Inhabitants of the two Local Government Areas (Illela and Kwanni) share common social and economic activities.
A Petroleum product hawker in Kwanni, Malam Abdulmumini Nahabu, told NAN that he, along with other hawkers, obtained products from Nigeria on daily bases.
Nahabu said the business was highly lucrative previously when the Nigerian Naira was appreciably high in exchange with France money, and he used to obtain between five to 10 pieces of 20-litres jerrican daily.
He said suppliers, mostly Nigerians, used different routes to transport the products.
Mustafa Maiyadi, another petroleum hawker in Kwanni, explained that they relied on Nigerian products due the subsidy that reduced prices, making them cheaper and affordable.
Maiyadi said availability of the products facilitated smooth running of their business activities, stressing that many people, especially youths in Niger Republic, depended on such activity to earn a living.
In Illela, Alhaji Yusuf Ibrahim, a Transporter, told NAN that besides transporting subsidised petroleum products to Niger Republic, some Nigerians transported fertiliser, which also enjoyed subsidy, compared to what obtained in Niger Republic.
Ibrahim said there were two types of businessmen at the border; those ready to follow the laid down regulations by government and those bent on cutting corners to sabotage the government.
According to him, for smugglers whose modus-operandi remains an open-secret affair; it is business as usual.
However, the closure of the border some months ago was a mixed fortune for the smugglers as they had to ‘settle heavily’ to continue their stock in trade.
Malam Musa Isyaku, a resident of Illela, who confessed that the only trade he knew was smuggling, said life was rough and tough for him and residents of the town when the border was closed.
He said as all business activities that depended on free movement of goods and persons across the border, were completely grounded.
Isyaku said people smuggled rice, vegetable oil, soap, drugs and other items into Nigeria, which is still illegal.
He added that legitimate business owners also transport items that are legal, through agents crossing the border checks on daily bases.
” Illela is a home for all, and like every border town, where brisk business thrives; the town, with countless porous routes, has maintained its status as the centre of smuggling activities.
” It is also a lucrative route for immigrants to Europe, through North Africa; the Illela International Cattle Market is a melting pot for animal traders from as far as Chad and Mali, and also enjoys patronage from every part of Nigeria.
“ However, with the current exchange rate of the Nara to the CFA, business is is becoming less unattractive”, Isyaku said.
The Customs Area Controller in charge of Sokoto/Zamfara Command, Abdulhamid Ma’aji ,said the guidelines on border operations remained in force.
“The earlier closure was because of abuse of protocols; what is now expected is adherence to rules and guidelines.
“All items that are tagged as contraband still remain banned; items like rice, groundnut oil and drugs, among others, still remain banned and will not be allowed to enter the country ” Ma’aji said.
He solicited the cooperation of residents of both Illela and Kwanni to ensure total compliance with Federal Government’s directives.
” I want to assure everyone that the Nigeria Customs Service and its sister agencies are ready to be professional in discharging our duties,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kebbi State Commissinner for Agriculture, Alhaji Maigari Dakingari has warned against the smuggling of fertiser meant for poor farmers.
Issuing the warning while briefing journalists, Dakingari, said Government would view seriously, any act of diverting subsidised product to neighbouring countries
The Commissioner said the warning became imperative in view of the fact that it had become a tradition for some unpatriotic citizens to smuggle commodities meant for peasant farmers, to unknown destinations for selfish reasons.
Also speaking, Alhaji Muhammad Aliero, Kebbi State Commissioner for Education, lamented how neighbouring countries took advantage of Nigeria, sneaked and pretended to be Nigerians, and get educated.
“I could recall that during the COVID-19 pandemic when Kano State Commissioner for Education brought about five buses full of children from Kano that, saying they are from our state.
“Over 100 of them were in Dandi Local Government, so, I said let me go and see what’s happening.
“I risked my life and entered the COVID-19 bus to Dandi, met the Council Chairman, the District Heads, and all other stakeholders of Dandi.
“I was wondering who are the parents of these young children but at the end of the day,only one person was from Nigeria; all others were from villages such as Gaya, Tungar Jado, Malboru, Chiyalbabba and other neighbouring towns close to Dandi, but outside Nigeria”, he lamented.
On their part, a cross section of residents of some border communities expressed concern over the diversion of petroleum product meant to serve Nigerians
Malam Aliyu Ahmed, a resident of Kamba, lamented that subsidised Nigerian petrol was being smuggled by some insane Nigerians on daily basis, making dirty money beyond the thinking of sane compatriots .
“This kind of business is not only illegal, but cripples our economy because Government injects huge amount of money, only for few individuals to divert such subsidised items at the expense of ordinary Nigerian,” he noted.
Malam Yahaya Abubakar, also a resident, stressed the need for Government to form a special taskforce that would comprise patriotic and trustworthy Nigerians to minimise the lingering illicit business.
For Alhaji Ibrahim Jibia, a Transporter in Katsina State, Federal Government had the muscle to check the menace.
“When you go along Nigeria-Niger Republic road, through Jibia, you will be surprised to see motorcyclists carrying petrol inside bags or gallons, taking them to Niger Republic.
“And to your utmost consternation, such an illegality is being perpetuated with the connivance of some of our security personnels”, he fumed.
He however paid glowing tribute to the few security agents who had turned down entreaties from smugglers, saying the blessings they received from Nigerians is even much more “valuable” than ‘‘Federal Government’s” recognition’
Meanwhile, Katsina Area Controller of Nigeria Customs Service, Alhaji Wada Chedi, said the guidelines on the reopening of borders will strictly be observed by the Service.
NAN recalls that the Federal Government reopened some borders in the country to boost commerce and trade. (NAN)