By Ambrose Obioma Okehi
Following the recent killing of officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), a frontline Maritime expert and the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam has blamed the service for mounting I discriminate, illegal and unauthorized check point on the highways.
The founder of NAGAFF also frowned at such actions that led to the gruesome killing of three officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) by yet to be identified gunmen at Isiokpo in Ikwerre Local Government Area of Rivers State recently.
Dr. ANIEBONAM stated this in an interview with some group of Journalists after his conferrment of the Grand Fellow if the Institute of Transport and Management Technology (ITMT) in Lagos on Thursday.
The elated freight forwarding expert, also expressed some reservations over the issue while granting interview to these group of Journalists (which included News Emperor), as he equally noted that it was terrible and embarrassing and also annoying that incident can still happen because it involved lives of innocent Nigerians and Customs Officers, which ordinarily would have been avoided.
The uighly infuriated NAGAFF boss wondered why the nation would continue to lose such vibrant and able bodied young officers.
According to Dr. ANIEBONAM, what they were doing there as the law did not permit them to mount a checkpoint there.
He said: “The law said that checkpoints should be 40 kilometers away from the border location. If you use the yardstick of border location, the sea as a frontier, is it up to 40 kilometers? The seaport is manned by the men and officers of the customs and every consignment coming out from the port is under customs control. So, what are they doing there? We have been talking about all this and it is like you are talking to the deaf ears. I feel terrible speaking in this manner at this time.
“Let us assume no checkpoint should be mounted, officers must be on patrol not more than 24 hours but you now see a road block that is permanent. Any parent should be worried because it could be your son, it could be your daughter tomorrow for what is avoidable. There is no need for those road blocks within the city of the federation. If there is any need for anyone, it should be at the border location as approved by the management board; that is the truth.
“But if there is any reason because of inherent abuse, then, they should be on patrol because customs has power of patrol freely within the territorial borders of Nigeria but it did not ask you to mount checkpoint. If there were no checkpoint, these boys will not be hacked down.”
He however counseled that the management of the service should enthrone professional standards, inculcate discipline and trust among the officers as solution to this unwarranted killing of innocent officers.
“Some of us feel very terrible but I still want to advise that the lives of men and officers of the customs must be very paramount to the management of the Nigeria Customs Service because customs officers are first officers of the Federal Republic and therefore, their life is sacrosanct, it must be protected.
“People are really frustrated; tell me what these innocent officers have done now. Look at how their lives have been cut short in their prime, some of these things are done out of frustration. You don’t know who they are. From Lagos here to Ijebu-Ode to Onitsha Head Bridge, you have the CGC Strike Force; you have the Border Drill and the FOU, three of them. You can’t even count the number of the checkpoints. Does it really make sense? What is Border Drill doing along Sagamu to Onitsha? Federal Operations Unit, Owerri, Zone C and Federal Operations Unit, Lagos, Zone A is all that is needed. Even at that, it should not be a checkpoint; they could be on the side of the road to take intelligence.
“The CGC Strike Force is an ad-hoc arrangement which is not supposed to last for more than three months. They are there to intervene and resolve an issue and go back. See, I am very angry over the death of these boys. If this thing happened at the border like Idiroko, you will know it is almost a war front case fighting these naked smugglers. It is a different ball game.
“I think the CGC needs to sit up, honestly because things are not going the way we think it should be”, he charged.