Increasing smuggling and other related acts have been drawing more attention in the county in recent times, most especially when its prevalence rate is analyzed side by side the effects on the economic and political growth of the nation. Investigations have revealed over time that most cargoes arriving the ports in neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and others are Nigerian bound cargos. These consignments after being properly cleared in these countries with reasonable contributions to their economic growth, would eventually still find their ways into the Nigeria’s markets through illegal and unlawful avenues otherwise referred to as smuggling.
However, it has been observed that while several strategies are being devised by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and other government agencies to combat the menace of smuggling, little or no arguments are raised on the root causes of smuggling in Nigeria with a view to finding lasting solutions to it. This is evident in the fact that as NCS records several seizures on daily basis, so also are smuggling activities on the increase while contrabands still continue to flood the Nigerian markets.
Speaking recently on the causal factors of smuggling in Nigeria, Deputy Comptroller General (DCG), Enforcement and Investigation, Aminu A. Dangaladima described smuggling as one of the deadliest monsters currently fighting the nation and its economy, while identifying the cause as the desire by some greedy businessmen and unpatriotic citizens to illegally maximize profits from business transactions at the detriment of government or simply put, the nation’s economy and security through evading the necessary checks; disobedience to restrictions or bans on certain goods; and not remitting the designated fares to government coffers.
The Customs boss explained that since Nigeria has a lot of unapproved or unmanned border routes, which are 2000, these set of individuals who operate as syndicates take advantage of the loopholes to smuggle goods into the country even as he observed that residents of border communities are also complicit in this act, in that, they harbor the smugglers and even shield them from arrest.
DCG Aminu explained the relentless efforts by the NCS especially under the leadership of Comptroller General Of Customs (CGC) Muhammed Ali to facilitate trade and suppress smuggling to the barest minimum in tandem with the statutory responsibilities of the Service. He noted that the recent introduction of task force has yielded remarkable results in the anti-smuggling battle.
While acknowledging that smuggling is a global phenomenon, he is of the view that the battle against it can easily be won through adequate support from the stakeholders and other members of the public especially, those residing around the border communities.
The Customs boss advised that Nigerian leaders should start living by example via patronizing Nigerian products like rice and textiles since the essence of restricting the importation of some goods is to develop local industries. This, he argued would encourage other citizens to emulate.
In his opinion, the Head, Banking and Finance department of Nasarawa State University, Prof Uche Unwaleke argued that smuggling is incessant in Nigeria among other developing countries because of huge tariffs imposed by the Federal Government on goods importation. This, he said has encouraged most importers to utilize the Ports in the neighbouring countries who operate on relatively low tariffs. This explains the indiscriminate smuggling of these goods into the country.
Prof. Uche believes that since the underlying rationale behind every business is profit making, once the nation’s policies aren’t friendly in this regard, people would continue to tow the path of smuggling because of the profits they are likely going to make. He said these accruals have made it worth risking for the smugglers even as he advocated that there should be a review in government policies where low tariffs for goods importation would be introduced.
He said, “the highest tariff on goods importation in the whole West Africa sub-region is paid in Nigeria. This has often forced people to use the ports in the neighbouring countries where these charges are extremely low and then they in turn smuggle the goods into Nigeria.”
The university Don posited that rather than the introduction of those high tariffs, government could encourage local production and patronage via public enlightenment of citizens on the importance and benefits of patronizing locally made goods.
He also suggested that Customs should embark on regular sensitization of people living around the borders, synergize and engage them on ways to suppress smuggling having educated them on the dangers of smuggling even as he urged the government and concerned enforcement agencies to implore the use of modern technological equipment in curbing the act as it is obtainable in advanced nations.
The Managing Director, Dangote Cement, Engr. Joseph Makoju differed in his opinion on the causative agents of smuggling as advanced by Prof. Makoju as he argued that no nation in the world has ever developed through resting its economic policies on importation.
According to him, part of the strategies adopted by developing nations to build their economies is placing restrictions on some goods importation and imposing high tariffs. This he said would help build local industries, create employment opportunities, enhance market control and strengthen the nation’s economy.
What the government has done in terms of restrictions placed on some goods such as rice and relatively high tariffs is in the interest of the nation Engr. Joseph posited. Speaking further, he said it is one of the best strategies to discourage importation and panacea to building a formidable and sustainable atmosphere for economic growth and development of the nation.