Smuggling Worse Than Armed Robbery---Customs

 The Nigeria Customs Service has rated smuggling as more dangerous than armed robbery. It says that while robbery affects a few individuals, a smuggler can bring in a consignment that can destroy millions of people. The service said this on Monday in Lagos when it’s National Public Relations Officer (PRO) the Mr. Joseph Attah appeared as guest on our Shipping Position Live on Star FM. According to the Customs spokesperson, it is regrettable that many people do not see smuggling as a crime, they only see arm robbery and killing as crimes.  Substantiating the service’s position, he said:  “What we discover is that most people do not take smuggling as a crime. Go out to the streets and ask people to mention five acts of criminality  in the society, you will hear things like, robbery, rape, killing; you will hardly hear someone mention smuggling’’. ‘’Whereas an armed robber can only take you and your family, a smuggler can bring in something that will destroy millions of people”, stated.According to him, smuggling is a big crime that gives birth to other crimes. “People must begin to appreciate the fact that smuggling is a big crime, it is a crime that gives birth to other crimes. So people should begin to appreciate smuggling as something that should not be welcomed and smugglers are enemy of the state’’, he appealed. Mr. Attah also added that in the effort to fight smuggling, the Service has opened a platform called Customs Community Relations, where it engages citizens and stakeholders.“Regarding issues of smuggling, first we started by sensitizing people, engaging our stakeholders, we have what we call Customs Community Relations. We have this forum going on almost on a monthly basis in all our commands, we deploy the social media, we have programmes on television to make people begin to appreciate the fact that no nation will progress economically and boast of considerable level of security if smuggling is allowed to strive” Explaining the rationale behind customs operatives storming markets, warehouses and automobile markets in charge of smuggled items, Attah stated that the Nigeria Customs Service is covered empowered by law to do so. ‘’What some Nigerians don’t know is that the law governing the Nigeria Customs Service which is the Customs and Exercise Management Act empowers customs operatives to operate anywhere, anytime there is reasonable suspicion that smuggled items are there”.  “For instance, Section 147 of CEMA empowers customs to break into a shop, enter premises and evacuate smuggled items. Section  158 of the same Act empowers customs officers to patrol all parts of Nigeria, what that means is that you cannot cross border and do patrol; you are in another country. As far as it is within the geographical expression called Nigeria that section empowers the customs to do that’’.  He applauded the present administration of the service led by Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) for its strategy that has changed the service. According to him, Col Ali has a clear understanding of hi mandate.  “It is a combination of strategic and tactical decisions by the management of the Nigeria Customs Service. You know that the present Comptroller General Customs, Col Hameed Ibrahim Ali, assumed office with a three mandate that is to, Restructure, Reform and Raise revenue, and two years down the line, the result is that the service can comfortably meet its target and even surpass it a month or sometimes two months. This is because of a number of strategic decisions we are talking in terms of repositioning the service, redeployment of personnel. You will recall that December last year till January this year, there were some mass movement of officers, deployment here and there. Officers that have overstayed were redeployed this is to take care of issue of over familiarity which can sometimes lead to compromise. Let just say officers that have actually overstayed their welcome at certain commands whose continuous stay will lead to issue of over familiarity and you know over familiarity to some extent will weaken your position and stand against somebody who is going against the formulation of the law’’.