Smuggling still rampant in Nigeria’s northwestern boundaries despite border closure


Taiwo-Hassan AdebayoBORDER: Goods being arranged in sacks at now shut Forte Oil station, Illela, Sokoto State, for export to Niger through illegal route.Goods being arranged in sacks at now shut Forte Oil station, Illela, Sokoto State, for export to Niger through illegal route.

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SPECIAL REPORT: Despite restriction on fuel supply to border communities, smuggling, extortion still rife

A Forte Oil retail station is the last of such service facility to Nigeria’s Illela, Sokoto State border with Niger Republic. The station is now closed following a custom policy banning the supply of petroleum products to stations within 20 kilometres of Nigeria’s land borders.

Nevertheless, it is a hub of activity, serving an inverted purpose.

One January morning, dry and cold, packs of Bigi juice were being arranged in tens in sacks, and 20-litre cans containing petrol were there also. Despite the official closure of Nigeria’s land borders, these goods would be transported for higher margins to Kwani in Niger Republic following irregular routes.

PREMIUM TIMES investigation shows that smugglers are still able to engage their illicit transborder trade relying on okada riders and compromised customs and immigration officers who take bribes to allow passage through illegal routes.

The customs in November commenced a controversial cut of petroleum products supplies to stations within 20 kilometres of international borders. The step was to stop the smuggling of petroleum products to Nigeria’s neighbours where illicit dealers could make higher margins after selling subsidised products meant for the  local market.

It was an extension of the wider border closure policy in place since August 2019 when Nigeria took steps explained as necessary to safeguard her economy and security.

Authorities have said the border policy has led to a reduction in the fuel consumption statistics, implying that the volume of products sold illegally across the borders fed into Nigeria’s consumption data.

But while the policy on restriction of petroleum supply to border towns is effective, smuggling still continues, PREMIUM TIMES found in the northwestern borders. The petroleum products were brought from outside the border towns. For Illela, it could be from as far away as Marmona or Gwadabawa.

The okada riders who operate the illegal routes told this reporter – posing as a smuggler who wanted to take petrol to the Niger Republic – that they could carry up to 12 cans and each would cost N500.

“This is because there are three checkpoints to bribe (Immigration and Customs) officers,” one rider said, speaking Hausa. “We will go through the bush.”

Illicit trade

The illicit trade seems a routine flow as the Illela Forte Oil retail station has become a hub for okada riders to arrange the goods for sale across the border.

In Katsina, where Nigeria also shares border with Niger Republic, the situation is barely different.

Okada riders, stationed about 30 metres to the base of the immigration and customs operatives at Kongolam, about 18 kilometres to President Muhammadu Buhari‘s hometown of Daura, would haggle price with clients transporting goods to Niger.

BORDER: One of the routes used by okada riders for illegal movement to Niger captured from far distance. A rider returns Niger Republic after an illegal movement of goods.

They also follow illicit routes.

Two okada riders, Mutari and Shefiu, said they could help smuggle petrol to neighbouring towns through bush paths for N300 per can.

“That is if you have many cans like up to 10,” said Mutari, with Shefiu further explaining that “normally a can is carried for N500 if it’s just one or two.”

“Don’t worry, we’ll settle the officers who would allow us to pass,” Mutari added.

In Niger, the okada riders said, a litre of petrol is sold for N250, much higher than the N143 price in Nigeria. It is this high margin that motivates the smuggling of the products to neighbouring countries.

BORDER: Nigeria-Niger border, Illela Sokoto State.

A customs unit leader in Illela, who only identified himself as Mukaila, said the border closure policy was effective. He, however, admitted that smuggling could still be taking place.

“There is no perfection,” he said. If you are lucky, you are free, but if you are caught, it is 21 years in prison.”

Meanwhile, the impact of the petrol restriction policy is not considered significant in the border towns.

Shefiu Mohammed, who sells petroleum products in bottles at Illela, said since the ban in November, he has been selling a litre of petrol at N200. It used to be N150 and N143 at stations.

BORDER: Goods being arranged in sacks at now shut Forte Oil station, Illela, Sokoto State, for export to Niger through illegal route.

He said he now sources the products from Gwadabawa, 50 kilometres away, and even farther towns such as Marnona.

The unceasing illegal transborder trade is not limited to the country’s northwestern borders, PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported.

However, in other border towns, the petrol supply cut has exposed residents and visitors to exploitation from security operatives and hardship, our week-long investigation showed.

“We can’t claim of 100% effectiveness” – Customs

Joseph Attah, spokesperson for customs and joint border operations involving other agencies, said people involved in smuggling would still devise strategies to beat border security measures despite the closure.

“We can’t even claim 100 per cent effectiveness,” Mr Attah told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday night. “If we have 99 per cent, the remaining 1 per cent can be exploited by smugglers because we are talking about a criminal act and human beings. ”

Nigerian Customs Officials

He blamed sabotage, stating that, “some Nigerians serve as informants to the smugglers. They will be watching movements of customs and be calling smugglers ‘they have gone that way, quickly cross now.’ These are people whom we are acting for their security and benefit.”

“There is isolated case (of smuggling) here and there. We can’t claim 100 per cent and that’s why there is law and security agencies to deal with crimes.”

78-year-old jailed 5 years for raping teenagers


Agency ReportA Gavel used to illustrate the storyA Gavel used to illustrate the story

An Abeokuta Chief Magistrates’ Court on Thursday sentenced a 78-year-old man to five years’ imprisonment without a fine option, for raping two minors of the same parents.

The Chief Magistrate, I.O. Abudu, convicted Ayomikunleyin Adekunle following his guilty plea to a two-count charge of sexual abuse.

Mrs Abudu held that the septuagenarian did not feel remorse for his action but was smiling while admitting guilt.

Earlier, the prosecutor, Bukola Abolade, told the court that Mr Adekunle committed the offence sometime in October 2019 at No. 3, Gbokoniyi Ojere Road, Onikolobo, Abeokuta.

Ms Abolade said the defendant sexually abused the two sisters (name withheld) aged 15 years and 13 years.

According to the prosecutor, Mr Adekunle was a friend to his victims’ father who died six years ago.

“The defendant confessed that he was sleeping with both the elder and younger sisters; when he finished, he gave them N500 each, claiming he was assisting them to eat,” he said

The prosecutor noted that the offence contravened Section 33 of Child Right Law of Ogun, 2006.

(NAN)

Terror Raid: Police admit one officer killed, name two deceased suspects


George OgalaPOLICE OPERATIONS AT ANSARU TERROR CAMP, KUDURU FOREST, BIRNIN GWARI [PHOTO: Twitter @Policeng]POLICE OPERATIONS AT ANSARU TERROR CAMP, KUDURU FOREST, BIRNIN GWARI [PHOTO: Twitter @Policeng]

The police on Thursday admitted the loss of an inspector following a raid on a hideout of suspected terrorists in Kaduna State Wednesday.

Chief police spokesperson Frank Mba said Thursday night that Muhammed Abubakar, a member of the elite police special forces, was the only casualty recorded in the dawn raid that left at least 250 suspected criminals dead.

The police said those killed included members of outlawed Ansaru sect, bandits and other criminals supposedly using Kuduru forests as a hideout.

Mr Mba’s statement came a day after he told PREMIUM TIMES that no officer was killed.

He also said that two officers who were in a police chopper that was allegedly shot down by the suspected terrorists only sustained minor, non-life-threatening injuries.

But on Thursday evening, amidst raging suspicion that the police account of the operation left more questions than it answered, Mr Mba said the police lost a dedicated inspector.

He also provided names of two suspects out of the over 250 he said were “neutralised” during the raid on Wednesday morning.

Haruna Basullube, a suspected cattle thief, and Bashir Leta, a suspected bandit, were the only two “high-profile” deaths named by the police on Thursday night.

Two other suspects, Mallam Abba, labeled as a Boko Haram commander in Kuduru Forest, and another man named only as ‘Mofa’, sustained injuries.

Mr Mba did not immediately return a request seeking clarification on whether Messrs Abba and Mofa were arrested after being “critically injured.”

Mr Mba said officers recovered 11 AK47 rifles with 730 bullets and other munitions. Thirteen pairs of military fatigues, two cartons and 48 sachet of contraband tramadol, masks, phones and other items were also collected from the scene.

Mr Abubakar was hailed as one of the finest officers in the special forces, “with vast training and operational background, both at home and abroad.”

Born on July 8, 1985, he enlisted into the Nigeria Police on June 1, 2008 as a constable, becoming an inspector before his untimely death in action. He received training in Belarus and once participated in combat against Boko Haram, police said.

Mr Mba said the police leadership consoled with the officer’s family, friends and professional colleagues.

House Republicans Introduce Resolution to Condemn Pelosi for Ripping Her Copy of Trump’s State of the Union Speech


Truth2Freedom’s Blog

House Republicans plan to introduce a disapproval resolution condemning House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for ripping up her copy of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union speech.

A vote related to the resolution is expected in the House on Thursday, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s office, though the measure — a privileged resolution under the House rules — is not expected to pass. Procedurally, the vote is likely to be on whether to table the resolution, rather than on the resolution itself.

The resolution comes after Pelosi, in a dramatic move captured on camera, tore her copy of the President’s speech after he concluded the annual address to Congress. Earlier in the night, the President appeared to snub the House speaker by ignoring her attempt at a handshake.

Later Thursday, Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida Republican who’s a strong Trump supporter and defender, said on Twitter that he was filing an ethics complaint against Pelosi. He attached a letter addressed to Reps. Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat who’s the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, and Kenny Marchant of Texas, the committee’s top Republican.

“BREAKING: I’m filing an ethics complaint against @SpeakerPelosi for destroying @realDonaldTrump’s State of the Union speech,” he tweeted. “Her conduct was beneath the dignity of the House, and a potential violation of law (18 USC 2071),” a measure concerning the destruction of government records.

The disapproval resolution, introduced by Texas Rep. Kay Granger, calls Pelosi’s conduct at the State of the Union “a breach of decorum” that “degraded the proceedings of the joint session.”

“Speaker Pelosi’s actions last night were appalling and shameful. Regardless of her personal feelings, she had a responsibility to conduct herself with civility as the presiding officer representing the House of Representatives. She is not the Speaker of the Democrats, but of the People’s House,” Granger said Wednesday.

“Had I Not Fired James Comey, It’s Possible I Wouldn’t be Standing Here Today”, President Trump


Truth2Freedom’s Blog

President Trump took a victory lap today after years of harassment and abuse from the deep state and crooked Democrat Party.

President Trump did not hold back.
He deserved this day.

President Donald Trump: “This should never, ever happen to another president. I don’t know if other presidents would be able to take it… Had I not fired James Comey, who was a disaster by the way, it’s possible I wouldn’t have been standing here right now. We caught him in the act. Dirty cops. Bad people. If this would have happened to President Obama a lot of people would have been in jail.”

Amnesty International accuses Nigerian govt of manipulating justice system against detained journalist Agba Jalingo


The government won’t listen

Cletus UkpongAgba Jalingo [Photo: TVC]Agba Jalingo [Photo: TVC]

Amnesty International on Thursday accused Nigerian government and Cross River state government of manipulating the criminal justice system in order to keep detained Nigerian journalist, Agba Jalingo behind bars.

The human right group said Mr Jalingo’s detention, besides being a stain on Nigeria’s image, “shows just how far (Nigerian) authorities can go to silence critics.”

Mr Jalingo, the publisher of CrossRiverWatch, was arrested on August 22, 2019, over a report alleging that Cross River governor, Ben Ayade, diverted N500 million belonging to the state.

Mr Jalingo, who is facing treason charges, is detained in Calabar prison. The court has refused to grant him bail.

If convicted, he could face up to life in prison or the death penalty, Amnesty said.

Amnesty is among the several organisations within and outside Nigeria putting pressure on the Nigerian government to free the journalist declared a prisoner of conscience last year by the human right group.

“While Agba Jalingo is detained for his critical opinions, both Cross River and federal governments are collaborating, through the manipulation of the criminal justice system to keep him behind bars,” the Amnesty spokesperson, Sanusi Isa, told reporters in Calabar.

Other officials of Amnesty present at the press briefing were Damian Ugwu and Ayoola Emmanuel.

Amnesty said Mr Jalingo’s trial falls short of international standard of fairness and has exposed the weakness of Nigeria’s criminal justice system.

“Twice Agba Jalingo was denied bail. We are concerned that Agba Jalingo’s trial falls short of international standards of fairness, especially because the court has allowed witnesses to be masked and the trial to be held in secret.

“The flawed charges and sham trial of Agba Jalingo have exposed the inadequacies and manipulation of the Nigerian criminal justice system and an unacceptable contempt for human rights and the rule of law,” Mr Isa said.

“Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State and the government of President Muhammadu Buhari must stop filing bogus and politically motivated charges against critics and start listening to what they have to say.

READ ALSO: Sack service chiefs, senators tell Buhari

“The case of Agba Jalingo is just one of many cases of blatant violations of the right to freedom of expression and media freedom in Cross River state and several parts of Nigeria. Joseph Odok was also unlawfully detained and later charged with terrorism solely for expressing critical opinion on social media.

“This pattern of repression in Cross River state flagrantly violates the Nigerian Constitution of 1999 (as amended) and international and regional human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to which Nigeria is a state party.

“The Cross River state authorities must stop the repression. The authorities must respect, protect, promote and ensure the right to freedom of expression and media freedom,” the group said.

Amnesty said it would continue to “push” for Mr Jalingo’s “immediate and unconditional release.”

It said it would also work with other NGOs to hold the Cross River state government “to account for the increasing assault on human rights”.

Governor Ayade recently broke his silence on Mr Jalingo’s case, saying it is the federal government, and not Cross River state government, that is detaining the journalist.

“In court, it is Federal Government versus Agba Jalingo, not Cross River State,” Mr Ayade told reporters on January 27 at the presidential villa, Abuja, where he went to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.

“He’s in court for treason, a state does not have power to try anyone for treason, it’s not me.”

Mr Ayade said the journalist’s arrest and trial are in connection with Omoyele Sowore’s #RevolutionNow protest.

Mr Jalingo, the governor said, wanted to overthrow the government of President Buhari.

Mr Ayade described Mr Jalingo as his “brother”. He said he had been rendering help to the detained journalist until he (Jalingo) turned against him and began “blackmailing” him because, according to him, he was unable to give him some money he requested.

“Please don’t get it wrong, Agba Jalingo is not just from Cross River State, he’s not just from Obudu, where I also come from, he’s my brother.

“Please ask Agba Jalingo, that CrossRiverWatch, the first person to give him money to set up the office was myself. His official vehicle, it was me. I don’t have to list all of these, he knows that I have funded and supported him, but journalism stops where blackmail becomes part of your strategy.

“Today you need something, then Ayade is a good man and you start writing all the good things, but if I take my phone and show you our WhatsApp communication, you will call me a godly man. Today I need money to set up a computer school, tomorrow I need money to feed my birds, the other day I need to be INNOSON’s sole distributor in Cross River State, I do all that.

“But when I don’t get a thing right you go to the social media and write something as careless as Governor Ayade has taken N500 million to Russia. You impugned my father’s name, my character, my family name, for just a personal request that I’ve not met, out of many that I have met,” Mr Ayade said.

The governor, however, said he was working behind the scene to get Mr Jalingo released from detention.

Nigeria’s Election Commission Deregisters 74 political parties


Kunle SanniINEC Chairman, Mahmood YakubuINEC Chairman, Mahmood Yakubu

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has deregistered 74 political parties, meaning that they would not be participating in subsequent elections in the country.

INEC chairman, Yakubu Mommudu, who disclosed this during a press briefing on Thursday at the Commission headquarters, said the action was in preparation for the coming 2023 general elections.

The INEC chairman further said the deregistration followed the poor performance of the parties in the 2019 general elections and court-ordered re-run elections arising from litigations.

According to him, the 74 political parties did not satisfy the requirements of the Fourth Alteration to the Constitutional Electoral Act 2010 (as amended).

It noted that the Actions People’s Party (APP) had filed a suit and obtained a court order restraining INEC from deregistering it.

He also explained that the commission carried out an assessment of political parties to determine their compliance with the requirements for registration.

”The commission was able to determine the performance of political parties in the elections. In addition, they were also assessed on the basis of their performance in the Area Council elections in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), which coincided with the 2019 general election. It should be noted that the FCT is the only part of the country where INEC is empowered by the Constitution to conduct Local Government elections.

”The Commission has determined that eighteen (18) political parties have fulfilled the requirements for an existence based on Section 225A of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) as follows:

The existing political parties now are: Accord, (A); Action Alliance, (AA); African Action Congress (AAC), African Democratic Congress (ADC), African Democratic Party (ADP) and All Progressive Congress (APC),

There are also All Progressive Grand Alliance (APG); Allied Peoples Movement (APM), Labour Party (LP), National Rescue Movement (NNPP), National Rescue Movement (NRM),

The others are Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Young Progressive Party (YPP), Zenith Labour Party (ZLP) and Boot Party.

To hell with your feelings


 BY SHELLY ANN V. JOSEPH

She’s  inspired

I don’t feel like doing it. I’m not feeling it. I’m not in the mood. To hell with what you’re feeling, get up and do it anyway. Stop giving in to your feelings, sometimes if you should wait until you feel like doing something, it would never get done.

Forget feelings, our emotions are not always programmed or aligned with our desires. Instead of giving in to your feelings , let the focus be on creating winning habits. We are creatures of habits, therefore, we are more likely to function , based on a disciplined behavior, over our feelings.

A lot of the things we do, we don’t like, but we do it anyway. There’s a high percentage of people who don’t like their jobs but they do it anyway, because that’s how they make a living. Apply that same concept to other aspects of your life and I promise you, the results will be great. There are a lot of things that you won’t like, hey, I hate to exercise, I hate the feeling, I hate the pain. But, I still do it everyday, because I love the results. I’m not a big fan of my job, I go everyday and I still go above and beyond, because I love being able to pay my bills. So you may not always like the process but if it’s a habit that gets you a desired result, then to hell with feelings.

Your bills won’t care that you didn’t feel like working today. Your health won’t care that you didn’t feel like eating right or exercising. Your dreams won’t come to you, if you decided to quit half way along the journey, because you don’t feel like going anymore. Get out of your feelings, your goals don’t care. Do it anyway, you will thank yourself later.

Four feared dead in bank robbery in Ondo, South West Nigeria


Agency ReportNigeria Police officersNigeria Police officers

The police in Ondo State on Thursday confirmed an armed robbery attack at a bank in Ile -Oluji, headquarters of Ile Oluji/Oke Igbo Local Government area of Ondo State.

Femi Joseph, a chief superintendent of police and Ondo Command’s Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), confirmed the incident to News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in a telephone chat.

Meanwhile, NAN gathered that four persons, made up of two policemen and two others who were yet to be identified, were killed in the bank robbery attack.

READ ALSO: Ondo monarch’s wife, daughters, driver kidnapped

“Yes, there is a report that a group of armed robbers was at a bank in Ile-Oluji, but I cannot ascertain the number of casualties involved in the incident because I have not been properly briefed.

“Though, our men have been deployed to the scene to handle the situation and restore peace and order to the town,” Mr Joseph told NAN on telephone.

(NAN)