The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Monday unveiled new measures targeted at curbing unbridled smuggling of prohibited foreign products, particularly rice, into the country as part of its sustained efforts to boost revenue and enable local manufacturing and processing companies optimise their operations.
The measures include the deployment of drones, through collaboration with the Nigerian Air Force, for a more effective surveillance of the nation’s borders to complement land monitoring initiatives of the Service.
The Deputy Comptroller-General, Enforcement, Investigation and Inspection, NCS, Aminu Dangalidima, gave this hint during the issuance of 30 additional Toyota Hilux patrol vehicles to the Strike Force team of the Service.
The 30 patrol vehicles bring to 50 the total number of vehicles released to the team this month.
Dangaladima said that with the release of the vehicles, the Service was in a better position to check the activities of rice smugglers.
He explained: “The issuance of the vehicles is part of the Federal Government’s support to curtail smuggling of prohibited items, especially rice. With this robust support coming from the Federal Government, the Nigeria Customs Service is in a better position to deal ruthlessly with the enemies of Nigeria’s security and economic prosperity.
“With these vehicles, our response time at the scene of any smuggling activity will be swift and decisive”, the DCG added.
He cautioned officers of the Service who would use the vehicles not to compromise their professional integrity in the discharge of their duties.
Dangaladima disclosed that in addition to the supply of the vehicles, the Service is working with the NAF to deploy drones for border surveillance as a strategic option of reducing the activities of smugglers at the borders.
The DCG clarified further: “We are using technology to check smuggling and this is part of it. We are even thinking higher than this. We are thinking of having drones and we are also thinking of trying to bring in the Air Force.
“We are also trying to have the un-manned aerial vehicles and others that can assist us; and all these are in progress”, he added.
According to him, once the Service is able to reduce the activities of smugglers, its revenue generation potential will be enhanced.
“We will be able to boost revenue generation once we are able to block leakages,” he assured.
It would be recalled that government had last week threatened to close Nigeria’s borders against one of the country’s neighbouring countries, which it pointed out had been largely responsible for smuggling of rice, to mitigate the menace of rice smuggling.
The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, who gave the hint in Abuja, said that the decision to close the land border had become imperative in order to encourage local production of rice and sustain the nation’s economy.
The minister lamented: “Our other problem is smuggling. As we speak, a neighbour of ours is importing more rice than China is importing.
“They do not eat parboiled rice (in that country); they eat white rice; and they use their ports to try and damage our economy. I am telling you now because in a few days, you will hear that the border has been shut; we are going to shut it to protect you, us and protect our economy”, Ogbeh added
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