By Oyeniyi Iwakun
“Injustice arises when equals are treated unequally and unequals treated equally.”
Government introduces harsh tax and tariff policies on daily basis, they claim the nation is in recession, hence the shortage of funds and necessary resources to give the citizens the desired change. However, regular reports show that government generates huge and impressive revenue daily. Again, politicians are seen riding in expensive vehicles; business growth has become only possible when you belong to the occultic cabal; government officials are exposed for their involvement in billions of dollars siphon and misappropriation on daily basis without any punishment while the commoners wallow in poverty.
Although, it is a known fact that smuggling is a global phenomenon and Nigeria isn’t immune to the menace but the cause for concern is the legitimization of the act in Nigeria which is a product of perceived inequalities.
Customs had recently announced the possibility of shutting down the land borders in a bid to curb smuggling and save government from further revenue losses. While in some quarters, they had applauded the move if implemented, the fact still remains that, it will be an avenue to enrich few corrupt cabals, customs inclusive and open a window for a renewed violent smuggling activities.
A total closure of the land borders may be more disastrous than ever because of the economic disaster that has its major effects and reflections on the common man in Nigeria.
Like the popular African adage “a hungry man is an angry man”. It is unarguably correct that wherever a vast majority of the population especially the youths are joblessness, there is bound to be increase in crime and insecurity.
Nigerian government announced its exit from recession without any physical and direct impact on the common man. The peasants had maintained status quo of abysmal welfare condition for decades even when the so called “recession” rocking the Nigerian state hadn’t come into existence.
A close observation by MMS Plus revealed that smuggling activities have taken another dimension ever since restriction was placed on importation of rice and vehicles through the land border.
Another question is how relevant the decision is in solving the problem of smuggling?
The Seaports that government claims to be confident in poses more threat than the land borders. There has been more recorded influx of arms and contrabands at the ports than the land borders. Aside the visible corruption among customs, importers, terminal operators, freight forwarders and others, the ports also lack functional scanners.
Isn’t it absurd and laughable to say Nigeria doesn’t have the required resources to put in place a functional scanners? But it is better to conclude that scanners are discarded to pave way for fraud and easy illegal importation deals.
It is intellectually apposite at this juncture to opine that before any policy is made, there is every need for the concerned authorities to take into cognizance, numerous factors ranging from the causative agents, effects and future impacts of such decision. Often times, the bottom-top approach is helpful in generating original and people oriented ideas for a sustainable policy for development.
Another interesting question is: What is the cause of the sudden increase in smuggling activities in Nigeria?
Government claimed that the idea behind the initial restriction policy where ban was placed on rice and vehicles importation through land borders was also premised on the need to ensure that the right revenue is generated by government but in reality the policy seems to be ill-conceived because smuggling activities are at a doubled rate thereby faulting the idea.
How will government now resort to implementing a defeated idea?
Obviously, such policy will never be sustainable in a nation swallowed by corruption and abject poverty. The causative agents for the sky- rocketed rate of smuggling as argued earlier cannot be isolated from poverty among the Nigerian citizens. Imagine, a bag of rice was inflated from seven thousand (7000) to (17000) naira and the same thing applicable to other goods. The unfriendly economy ordinarily is a propeller for the search for cheap and affordable goods.
Of course, the first law of nature is survival and everyone wakes up first to think of what to eat. One then will definitely device every means possible to ensure that one’s sacrosanct need which is food is settled not minding to encroach on people’s territories, infringe on the laws of the land or trample people’s rights.
The Public Relations Officer (PRO), Ogun State command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr. Abdullahi Aliyu Maiwada while speaking with MMS plus had narrated a recent experience with smugglers who approached customs with machetes and cutlasses forcing the men of NCS to retreat and hide in the forest while their patrol vehicle was damaged beyond repair. He explained that smuggling activities have assumed a new dimension because the smugglers now move in hundreds with bikes loaded with not less than Five (5) bags each.
“It is a major cause for worry because we seize rice everyday yet they device new ways of doing their illegal activities. Our ware house at Abeokuta and Idiroko are filled with rice seized from these smugglers”. The PRO said.
His Seme counterpart, Taupyen Selchang also narrated similar experience of daily seizures of rice and vehicles that tried to beat the system.
MMS Plus investigation revealed that these acclaimed seizures are very small quantity of what is being smuggled into country everyday
It therefore becomes imperative for government to look inward and improve the standard of living among the citizens. Smuggling especially consumables might be inimical to the economy but so far the smugglers make ends meet and the citizens find Smuggled goods affordable they will continue to patronize and encourage it.
Government must build confidence in the citizens by truly fighting corruption that is obviously more existent at the top, among civil servants and enforcement agencies if smuggling would be truly curbed. Arms cannot be Smuggled by commoners who haven’t any connection with top government officials, political bigwigs, security chiefs and others.
The little revenue government claims to generate including those recovered from looters should be utilized transparently so that the pains and gains of the society can be shared by all.
Tariffs and duty payments on goods should be made very affordable and far better when compared to other African countries.
Above all, it is better for government to reverse the erroneous prohibition policy by lifting the ban on land importation of rice and vehicles so that the necessary revenue can come into government coffers rather than unnecessarily causing foods scarcity and shortage and enriching few individuals.
Copyright MMS Plus.
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