By Frank Oshanugor
As Nigerians contend with increase in the proliferation of small arms and light weapons and attendant insecurity, a former Commandant of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corp (NSCDC) Dr. Nnamdi Okonkwo said the attitude of officials of Nigerian Immigration and Customs Services at the land borders was largely responsible for the illegal importation of arms into the country.
Speaking with SECURITY REPORTERS.com in his Lagos office on Tuesday, Okonkwo currently a security consultant and Managing Director of Boyson Nigeria Limited noted that border control starts with authority and control and such authority and control have specifically been assigned to some agencies of government at the borders.
He pointed out that before now, the Federal Government had organised pre-destination inspection of goods coming into the country but at a point it was changed to destination inspection whereby Cotecna was engaged to carry out the destination inspection. Okonkwo noted however, that rivalry had ensued between Cotecna and Customs Service as to who had the power to inspect the goods.
He said however that “since the advent of insecurity in Nigeria, it would appear that the immigration service itself which is an arm that has the authority and obligation to see to the persons crossing Nigeria’s border kept quiet and pretended not to see people crossing illegally. These are foreigners said to be of particular origin.”
“The other group (Customs) who are supposed to take a clear and clean look at their luggage or cargo coming into the country would also appear to have gone to sleep, thereby leaving the nation in a state where everyone is calling the police and army to check insecurity.”
The security chieftain expressed dismay that such careless attitude exhibited by the Immigrations and Customs personnel largely accounts for the insecurity in the country in present time.
He accused Customs of not following the laid down procedures or proposals sent to Government at that time by Cotecna which had indicated that they would be able to do destination inspection of each commodity or cargo that enters the country.
Okonkwo pointed out that due to contending issues at that time, “I was of the opinion then and I wrote to say that policing Nigeria’s borders will be a very good subject matter for Customs because hitherto, they were called Preventive Service – Nigerian Customs Preventive Service.”
“Their duty was to prevent any cargo that was to be smuggled into the country but they overlooked it and were more concerned with revenue. They were concerned with volume of cargo that came in, to enable them know the amount of customs duties payable without caring to know what is under the main cargo or under the various containers.”
He has therefore advised Customs personnel to be more careful, vigilant and diligent in carrying out their functions at the land borders particularly as such borders are trans-trade routes that run across the Sahara.