Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Seme Customs record monumental seizure of artefacts

Seme Customs record monumental seizure of artefacts


The Seme Area Command of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) recently intercepted 18 artefacts at the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. Nigeria’s extreme south-western frontier is popularly, though erroneously, called Seme; and that land borders Krake, the Beninese south-eastern fringes.

Iconic Bini leopards among the seized artefacts.
Apparently, the artefacts were about to be exported, but the customs aborted the alleged illegal trafficking as the objects’ trans-border freighting were not backed by relevant documents. Although contemporary artefacts may be taken outside Nigeria, provided such export is backed by an Export Permit, it is illegal to trade in antique objects.

If the seized objects, all metallic, which have since been transferred to Government Warehouse Seme; are not priceless antique pieces, then they must be excellent imitations. Some of the items’ style hint at ancient Bini Art.

From privileged preview by mauricearchibongtravels, the artefacts; many of them very heavy, appear to be precious shrine/palace objects. The seized artefacts include a pair of leopards, a huge python, a bare-breasted maiden on her knees bearing a present of kolanuts, a Portuguese soldier, and an intricately crafted gong.

From Seme Customs’ PRO, Ernest Ollotah, mauricearchibongtravels gathered that the items were intercepted on 3 October, this year. Mr. Ollotah, a Superintendent of Customs, added that one suspect was arrested in connection with the seizure. However, he could not confirm whether the suspect had been arraigned in court or released.

According to a Chief Superintendent of Customs, Mr. A. Odediran, who is Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Government Warehouse at Seme, the haul is the first since he assumed duty as OC Warehouse, more than a year ago. As at mauricearchibongtravels’ latest visit to Seme, on Friday, 22 November, the artefacts were still in the custody of Seme Customs.

Before our departure from that frontier post, Lagos Museum Curator, Mrs. Edith Ekunke, could not be reached, despite dialling the lady’s number numerous times. Fortunately, we were able to contact the Director of Research, Planning and Publications at the National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM), Dr Musa Seyi Hambolu; who assured that he would get in touch with Lagos Museum curator with a view to collecting the seized objects.

According to Seme Customs Area Controller (CAC), Othman Abdu Saleh, “the artefacts, which were detected and seized during an intensive search operation based on intelligence, is valued internationally at about $16,870 (over N2 million)”.

Meanwhile, Comptroller Saleh, recently declared that the local Customs Area Command “has intensified its anti-smuggling patrol to further prevent acts of smuggling this Yuletide period, when import and transit activities within the land frontier are expected to be on the rise”.

To facilitate his enhanced anti-smuggling drive the CAC has not only directed total deployment of all patrol vehicles, logistics and personnel; he has also ordered the cancellation of all passes and permits for absence to every personnel of the command.

Saleh said these were necessary because “the command could not afford to disappoint the Federal Government of Nigeria as well as Comptroller General of Customs, Dr Abdullahi Dikko Inde, who is committed to the realisation of the full potentials of the service”.

Saleh again: “The CGC has also reiterated the Customs Service Managements’ zero-tolerance to smuggling to all officers and men of the command, while urging them to strictly keep to duty shifts’ roster to ensure round-the-clock full presence of the command’s personnel”.

Saleh said this, while addressing senior officers of the command recently. He also emphasised the need to discharge customs duties at the border without compromise, even as he urged personnel “to rededicate themselves to the national goal”. Aside from the record artefact seizures, Seme Customs also aborted illegal importation of other items, including vehicles, textile, rice, vegetable oil, second-hand clothes, shoes and bags; according to Saleh.

Seme’s proximity to the commercial city of Lagos, “being the busiest border in West Africa and a hub in the Trans West African trade, places a great challenge on customs’ personnel serving at this frontier post. However, challenges are meant to be surmounted and we are professionally prepared” to contain every challenge, Saleh vowed.

Speaking further, Saleh remarked: “We must not be taken unawares at our duty posts either at this period or at any other time as management expects us to be very much at alert. We are expected, at all times, to discharge our duties with utmost vigilance and uncompromising tenacity”.
Concluding, Saleh enthusiastically remarked: “We wish to express our appreciation for the solidarity, co-operation and support from other security agencies in the Seme/Badagry axis. Worthy of note is the invaluable support received from officers and men of the Nigerian Army (242 Reece Battalion), Ibereko and 15 Field Engineer Regiment, Topo; the Nigeria Police (Seme Division); the Department of State Service (DSS); the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other security organs”.

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