In a bold shift to evade the relentless enforcement efforts of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) along the nation’s borders, smugglers have increasingly turned to the waterways for their illicit activities.
This development comes as the NCS reveals that approximately 90 percent of illicit drugs entering Nigeria from the West African sub-region now flow through the country’s water routes.
Investigations into this burgeoning trend have unveiled a complex network wherein contraband goods destined for Nigeria are initially shipped to neighboring countries within the sub-region.
From there, smaller boats are employed to transport these illegal shipments discreetly into the country.
Sources suggest that these covert operations often involve the use of small, clandestine jetties scattered across Lagos and other littoral states.
These jetties serve as the secretive points of discharge for these illegal shipments, typically occurring under the cover of night.
What is particularly concerning is the extent of firepower and influence wielded by these smugglers.
They appear to have powerful backing from individuals within the military, government, and diplomatic corps. At times, these smugglers are even accompanied by government officials, who, by law, are permitted to carry arms.
One case highlighting the severity of the situation was revealed by the Customs Area Controller (CAC) of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU Zone A, Hussein Ejibunu. In June, Ejibunu disclosed that his unit intercepted a truck loaded with Indian Hemp in the
Lekki area after the consignment had been offloaded from a boat originating in Ghana.
Shockingly, only one out of six trucks carrying the smuggled item was successfully intercepted by Customs operatives, as the remaining five managed to evade capture.
Supporting the gravity of the issue, CAC of the Western Marine Command, Odaudo A. Salefu, confirmed this strategic shift during a recent press briefing. He disclosed that about 90 percent of the Indian Hemp in Nigeria is believed to originate from the West African sub-region, particularly Ghana.
Legalization of this substance in most French-speaking countries in the region makes it relatively easy to transport it into Nigeria, turning the country into a de facto dumping ground.
Salefu, however, assured the public that the current Comptroller General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi, is taking action to counter this illicit trade.
Under Adeniyi’s leadership, two patrol gun boats have been ordered to be refurbished and will be operational by November.
This significant development will bolster the NCS’s ability to effectively police Nigeria’s waterways, potentially stemming the flow of contraband through this route.
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