The Federal Operations Unit, an anti-smuggling arm of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) may have jolted several Nigerians up last Tuesday, as its officers swooped on contraband traders around Igbesan Creek, Ogun State, fleecing off them, over 11,600 bags of rice, with a street value of over N56 million.
The poor traders therefore, briskly lost over N56 million, simply because they had futilely attempted to avoid paying a duty of N39.4 million. By now, as the head of the FOU, Deputy Comptroller Usman Adamu Turaki celebrated the dedication of the ‘boys’; the contraband dealers mourn their losses. It is the way of life. Sometimes you win; sometimes you don’t. The smugglers (sorry, traders) must have won several times in the past; cleverly outwitting the Customs men in the past and building up a formidable fortune. Until now!
The Customs definition of smuggling may not rhyme with our own. Smuggling, to them amounts, not only to those who bring prohibited goods into the country through unapproved routes; but also those who bring into the country, non-prohibited goods, but failed to pay approved duty. Especially, if you are caught!
Sadly enough, while the unlucky traders may not be the first group to be visited by such predictably avoidable fate, they would inevitably, and more sadly too, not be the last; a reality that should not only intimidate every man of conscience but call for meditative reflection!
Why do Nigerians, old and young alike, love to indulge in smuggling? Could it be because, the country is blessed with largely a creative, resourceful but also adventurous people? Or could it be, because the leaderships have often denied the down-trodden class their dues, and the latter felt inclined to dodge payment of duty (i.e smuggle), so as to demonstrate a show of hidden grievances, disenchantment or disaffection?
The above excuses would not hold waters, firstly because it reduces the reasons for smuggling to class problem; and secondly, because the middle class and even the top echelon of leadership indulge in it.
Otherwise, how do you justify the plausibility for importing a state-of the art cars, costing several millions of Naira, so as to announce to your friends that you have “arrived”, only to have the same cars, impounded, for a failure to pay Government a meager 35 percent duty? A man recently imported a Hummer Jeep, only to hand over the documents to his “cousin” to clear for him. The cousin allegedly brought in a “kelebe” who paid lower duty, ‘settled everybody’ thereafter, and in the process of taking the vehicle out, he was caught and the vehicle was impounded. In a more recent case, a wealthy business man brought in about 24 choice, classy autos in last month, and had all of them impounded, after a failed attempt to dodge payment of duty. Those ones were not poor!
Perhaps, the truth of the matter is that in Nigeria, there is a retinue of un-repentant ‘one-handed’ economists! Perhaps, Nigerians are so much in hurry, that they fail to learn the great lesson of the classical economists, particularly the true scholars of Adams Smith, that an argument was never concluded, until examined from: “on one hand”, and then from “on the other hand”. In other words, each time they argue or pontificate, they should always look beyond the notion of “everything being equal”; because, common sense shows, that everything may not always be equal.
Did the smugglers, who on Tuesday handover their fortunes to Customs think of “on the other hand”, aside from profit maximization? What of the business man who brought in the solid 24 autos? So, are we then surprised that the politicians would freely sell of his houses, to contest election, believing that he would soon acquire bigger and better ones, after election, even in foreign lands? Why are shocked to find a ruler who has been there for more than four years, still depleting his hard earned resources, striving to re-contest, even when the inclement ‘weather report’ suggests he should tread with caution? In Nigeria, we have only one-handed economists!
Ironically, what the traditional African common sense teaches was not even of the ‘two-handed’ economics, but three! The ‘un-tutored’ Africans know that things are in triplicate. It is positive, negative and neutral; the head, tail and the edge. It is male, female and hermaphrodite. Both the Bible and Quoran also emphasize this, as each counsel adherents, to always be mindful of the ‘Middle Cause’, before concluding either on the right or left course. It is the reasons for being magnanimous in victory! Because, one may never know what tomorrow may bring. These are pure African values.
Now, how much of the African values do we still hold? The true African value is the real universal value!
May both the “smugglers” and the “Customs” get wiser! Amen.