How Comptroller Uba Created Opportunities For Jobless Nigerians At Seme Border

Comptroller Mohammed uba Garba.

… … Introduces policy that stopped Years of illegalities at Seme

Comptroller Mohammed Uba needs no introduction as far as Nigeria customs Service is concerned. He is a no nonsense Officer and a core disciplinarian. He doesn’t paint words and his yes is yes once it has to do with Customs procedures,processes as well as cargo classification. He is a very committed, proactive and pragmatic fellow in his decision making. Comptroller Mohammed Garba Uba is a team player, who cooperates and works cordially with his management teams. he is also the man behind the smooth operations currently taking place at Seme, the busiest and hottest border station in the whole country.

In this exclusive interview , he spoke to Maritime Security News and News Emperor on some issues,his achievements and how he is running the Command while commending his boss , the Comptroller General of Customs,CGC, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) on his laudable and vision with achievements for the Service,  man whom he said, has taken the Service to its glory land.

Q: let’s look at your antecedents and what you have achieved both when you were at FOU, now that you are at the helm of affairs at Seme border and what it was before you came?  

A: You know nobody beats his drum,nobody praises himself.It is other people who see what you have done, they are in a better position to talk about it. When I resumed duties here at Seme in August, 2018, i have to study the environment and know the nature of the place, ask questions from the old timers, looked at the conventions and all that. I held meetings with the traditional rulers, experts, stakeholders and operators, like the freight forwarders and I realized that there was a serious gap missing for over 20 years. That the Customs administrations and administrators have not been able to impose or implement the international laws on cargo traffic. What does the law say concerning that? The law states that goods destined to other country must be handed over to the Customs administration of another country, meaning, from one Customs administration to another Customs administration. And before my arrival at this Command, it was not done. Goods meant for Nigeria were being trans -loaded in the Benin Republic side before coming to Nigeria. This is contrary to the international law on cargo traffic.

So i made sure i stopped that and enforced that law. i also created a law to stop those illegalities and our Beninsours counterparts have no option than to comply. And we have since realized the importance of that. So along that line, i  have enforced the, develop our own park on the Nigerian side. The development of that park on Nigeria side brought a lot of opportunities for Nigerians. Before the development of that new park, Nigerians were not allowed to go and work on the other side of Benin Republic’s truck park, only their nationals  can work there.Even ordinary battery chargers, food sellers, mechanics, freight forwarders ans so on and so forth, they were not allowed. So, this individual local trading has not been transferred to the people of Nigeria. If you go to the Nigerian side of new park now you will see Nigerians productively engaged in economic activities, satisfying themselves and they are now having sense of belongings. That is what we have we have been able to achieve at Seme at the moment.

Q: In the area of anti- smuggling activites, how do you see your achievement so far? 

Comptroller Mohammed Uba meeting with the villagers at border station

Ans: Okay, in the area of anti-smuggling like I have told you earlier, the secret of my success in this area is that at the beginning, I visited the traditional rulers and communities within the border stations. I also invited the stakeholders and had meetings with the freight forwarders and clearing agents likewise the villagers and their youths. I asked them of the challenges confronting them and was able to know that some of them may not even understand what we were talking about. Maybe because of the age-long relationship between the two countries, cultural and historical relationship and what they have been doing and not necessarily understanding that some of the trade they engage  in are illegal trade. So we brought it to the fore, for them to understand at the stakeholders meeting that smuggling is evil,it destroys the economy, brings unemployment and so many other things. At the same stakeholders meeting, I was able to explain to explain to them that government allows legitimate trade. Even if the trade is informal, what the government needs is the statistics for planning and development purposes. I explained to them too that government in its wisdom, for instance, allows legitimate trade and the exportation of some made-in- Nigeria goods free without payment of any duty. Most of them were not aware before now. We brought that one to the fore and luckily some of them have embraced that aspect of economic. We also brought to their notice that government also gives 30% of the value of the goods exported. Apart from the fact that government does not collect money (duties) it also gives 30% value of that export.

Q: That 30% value of your export, is it given in cash or kind?

Ans: It is not in cash but in form of credit facility that the government gives you, and it is to help you as a trader to get foreign reserves and get economic survival. And also it increases economic productivity and industrialization. also for those who can come together and form excise factory, government also gives them what is called Tax Holiday (TH) for a certain period of one or two years. What that means is that whatever you produce, excise duty is not collected. Excise Duty is a form of tax for locally produced goods. So government will give a period of Tax Holiday, so that you will be able to grow and employ people. This is to ensure that you are productively engaged in economic activities. Because of this initiative some of them have left their illegitimate and age – long trade ( smuggling) Smuggling is a business they have been doing and so much believe is good and well for them. So when they have this type of information , it goes along way to reducing smuggling activities at Seme border.

Q: In one word, how would you describe smuggling or how do you want people to see it?

Comptroller Garba Uba showcasing seized items before the newsmen at Seme Border

Ans: In one word, smuggling must be seen as the centre of all devilish activities. In fact, it is like the mother of all crimes. Because of the ill effects associated with smuggling activities. it is responsible for the destruction of our industries, our economy, bringing in unemployment, disease, starving government of its revenue,necessary records and statistics for development purposes. And since government is not a profit making organization, this is what they need. Government needs statistics and records for planning, for security purposes. Whatever is coming in or going out of the country, the government wants to know, so that it will have control of the economy . This is what smuggling is and what it sets out to achieve, destroying the economy.

How do you see border crime and its control?

Ans: Yes the border crime and the trans-border crime and trans-border crime control. The joint efforts by security agencies, constant interactions and relationship among these agencies have helped us to achieve the stated objectives.

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