Despite Border Closure, Smuggling Booms at Nigeria, Niger Border
Smuggling booms in Jibia, other border communities despite total closure
Despite the closure of Nigerian land borders by the federal government in the last three months, smuggling still persists at the border between Nigeria and Niger Republic, ThisDay’s investigation has revealed.
ThisDay gathered that at the border between Jibia in Katsina State and Niger Republic, smugglers have resorted to the use of illegal routes to ferry in bags of foreign rice, bales of second-hand clothing and other contrabands.
However, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has dismissed the observation, calling for either a photograph or video evidence to prove the allegation. NCS also said it would be impossible for smugglers to operate at any of the country’s borders.
Investigation revealed that while strict compliance appears to reign at the main border post between the two countries, illegal businesses still thrived at some bush paths and sundry illegal entry points where unscrupulous security operatives, work hand-in-glove with smugglers to smuggle contraband goods into the country.
President Muhammadu Buhari had on August 20, 2019 ordered a joint border security aimed at securing the country’s land and maritime borders.
But when ThisDay visited the border town of Jibia at the weekend, it was observed that there were some illegal routes that commercial drivers and motorcyclists were using to transport goods and passengers into the country.
It was gathered that rice smugglers were also taking advantage of the lax security to bring their wares into the country but at much higher price than before.
Some of the illegal routes the smugglers used to ferry in the contrabands from Niger Republic to Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State include Sabon Gari, Dan-Harau, Alele, Makada and Maidabaro roads despite heavy security at the borders.
The smugglers, it was learnt, go through the laborious route of offloading the contrabands few meters away from the official border security post and use J-5 buses, Gulf 4 and 5 vehicles and motorcycles to ferry the items from their hideouts into Jibia for onward transportation to their warehouses in Katsina, Kano, Kaduna, Zamfara, Jigawa States and some other parts of the country.
Residents of the border town told ThisDay that the smugglers were being aided by security personnel, including soldiers, policemen, Customs and immigration officials, who allegedly collected money from the smugglers to allow them a free passage at the 13 checkpoints between Jibia and Katsina metropolis.
A motorcyclist involved in smuggling, who pleaded anonymity, told ThisDay that those of them engaged in the business understood the risks and dangers involved but affirmed that they would not encounter any problem unless they refused to cooperate with security operatives at the checkpoints.
“Unless one refused to pay the bribe for each category of items or when it is time for the officials to sacrifice you to prove that they are working – that is when they will arrest you in the name of smuggling,” he explained.
A commercial driver simply identified as Sule, who specialised in smuggling, said business had been booming for them because they do convey a bag of rice from Maradi (Niger Republic) to Katsina at the cost of N3,000 each.
“We used to charge rice merchants N3,000 for each bag of rice carried from Maradi to Katsina State. Although, we do follow bush paths and sometimes custom officers do arrest us. But once we give them some monies they allow us to pass even though some of them are very stubborn,” he stated.
He, however, lamented that the border closure has contributed negatively to the socio-economic imbalance of the state and the country in general.
When contacted, the NCS Commander in charge of Sector 4 Command of the National Border Drill Operation,