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Smuggling thrives on Kebbi, Sokoto borders to Niger, Benin

Smuggling Rice

Dole Kaina is a beehive community in Kebbi State in the Dandi Local Government Area of the state with two international borders. One of the border towns is the Dole-Faransi, where what could be called an ordinary drainage facility separates two nations.

Arewa PUNCH visited these two border towns and reports that truly, it was a beehive of activities at both the Dole Kaina and the Dole Faransi in Kebbi State which both have the opportunity to host the two different nations border towns.

Our Correspondent observed that both names – the Dole Kaina and the Dole Faransi are names carved out from the Hausa language for the community which shares its land border with the Niger Republic and sea border with the Benin Republic.

Incidentally, both countries are French speaking nations.

During the Arewa PUNCH visit, children of the community were seen engaged in different forms of activities, oblivious of the stranger in their community.

They spoke and communicated fluently with one another in both the Hausa language as well as the French language.

That afternoon, the atmosphere in the community was a very calm one such that the first-time visitor will almost mistake the communities for different environments.

The Dole-Kaina, as a border community, is also located in the Dandi Local Government Area of Kebbi State with one of its borders adjourning Lolo and Illo in Dosso State of Niger and Benin Republics.

Similarly, Dole-Kaina, which is about 20 kilometres from Kamba and about 220 kilometres from Birnin -Kebbi is an island community where paddy rice from the Niger Republic villages are usually smuggled into the country by agents of the Rice Mill Companies in Nigeria for parboiled rice production.

Our Correspondent thus had a first-hand observation of how this smuggling activities occur.

Arewa PUNCH Correspondent had disguised as one of those engaged in the business and therefore had the privilege of engaging with some of the players in the multi-million naira spinning smuggling business across the border communities.

Hajia Memuna Bala, an      indigene of Dole Faransi in Niger Republic but based in Dole – Kaina, in Nigeria, where she sells foods and snacks described the relationship between Dole Faransi and Dole Kaina, as very cordial and most perfect.

She made this disclose in the face of the recent diplomatic ruffles and face off between Nigeria and the Niger Republic.

Speaking without Our Correspondent in Hausa, she noted that the diplomatic brouhaha which happened between the Federal Government of Nigeria with the support of some of the other member states of the Economic Community of West Africa States on the one hand and the Niger Republic, Mali and Burkina Faso – all of which are clustered in the West African region and also member states of the ECOWAS on the other hand nothing to do with them.

According to her, the community does not even know or feel the effect of all these sanctions or diplomatic rupture and stand off between the two countries, especially Nigeria and Niger Republic.

“My name is Hajia Memuna Bala, although I am not from this country (Nigeria) by origin, but I can tell you categorically that having a relationship with these two communities is the best anyone can feel.

“As you can see, here in Dole-Kaina, we don’t discriminate against each other. It is the same thing in Dole Faransi, in the other country.

“Most of us have done inter marriage to the extent that you will find it hard to believe it that we are not of the same country. I can wake up and go to the other country (Niger Republic) or come here at my own time. No one will harass you by asking for any documents whatsoever.

“So, all the wahala (trouble) does not concern us here. We don’t even know what is happening, and our people don’t want to know. Yes, we hear about these fights and quarrels with Nigeria and Niger Republic, but that one does not concern us.

“As you can see, we live as brothers and sisters with our Niger Republic and Nigeria people. It is Abuja peoples’ fight, not our own. Yes, we always see plenty of Nigeria Customs  personnel come here, but they know the situation. They come, do their visit and go.

“We have our businesses to attend to, and that is what we focus on, not the big men wahala,” Memuna Bala said.

Truly, Arewa PUNCH observed that the peaceful relationship existing between the two immediate neighbouring countries is one that can be adopted and replicated in the entire parts of Nigeria for peace and unity.

Adamu Usman, an indigene of Dole Kaina, describes the situation in the community as awesome and unique with their choice of living condition.

Usman is a trader in the community. He deals in goods imported from the neighbouring country, but he maintained that  he is at home in Dole- Faransi, in the Republic of Niger anytime he has cause to visit the neighbourhood.

“I have more of my friends in Dole – Faransi than I have here in my village. This is due to the fact that I did my elementary school over there and now that I’m an adult, I go there to buy goods.

“It is a good thing to be associated with people here. You can hardly get a better community in this country where we relate without any rancour.

“We have everything in common, including marriages. Most of our people do inter-marriage as our culture is the same, and the major means of communication here is the Hausa language.

“Even in the area of farming or other aspects, we are one big family. No security personnel either from Nigeria or Niger Republic can harass you under the guise  of place of origin.”

When asked the residents  require the ECOWAS passport as obtainable by the law to move from either of the countries into the other and around, he simply said nothing of such is required either in Dole Kaina or Dole Faransi.

“What do we need that for here?” He asserted. “We don’t need any passports here before we can do whatever we believe in.

“I told you earlier that we are one big family, even among the security personnel from both nations, they have their spouses from the other country but no one hardly knows of such.

“So, if I may answer your question correctly, we know ourselves very clearly here, so we don’t need any passports to move around.”

Also speaking, Usman Dole-Kaina, a  journalist who is based in Birnin-Kebbi, described the environment as one of the most peaceful communities in the country.

Usman, in his comment, said that the community remains the best in the country in terms of hospitality, especially to its immediate neighbours.

“My brother, this place is fun to be if you give it a trial. We are proud to be from this community and will do everything to ensure the sustenance of the love and affection we have for ourselves.

“Ever since I was born, I grew up to know that we are one big family but from two great nations with everything in common.

“We share everything in common here, including security of our lives and property and schools. Let me tell you something for free, I’m based in Nigeria while my wife is based in Niger Republic with some of my children who bear Niger Republic birth certificate.

“While some of us here have inter-marriage between ourselves, some of us have their spouses working in different places in and around the country.

“Apart from the Niger Republic border, we also have another border here in this same community connecting us to Benin Republic through the river.

“Here, do you know we both benefit things together. If I go to the hospital across the border, I will be attended to with immediate effect. The same goes for them if they come here.

“Those in Dole-Faransi also use the same electricity we use here in Dole-Kaina, even when politicians distribute palliatives or relief materials either here at the Nigerian end or the Niger Republic, we both benefit from the gesture accordingly,” Usman told Arewa PUNCH.

A visit to the border town at Dole-Kaina river port, which serves as a link to villages in both the Niger and Benin Republic was a totally different sight to behold as several batches of wooden cannons and engine-powered speed boats were seen at the river bank.

It was observed that tons of bags of paddy rice loaded on wooden cannons were being imported into Nigeria through the river.

Large quantities of petroleum products identified to be the Premium Motor Spirit popularly called petrol and the Automotive Gas Oil -AGO – known as diesel were seen being exported from Dole -Kaina to different villages in Niger and Benin Republic which share borders with Nigeria’s villages that are not motorable except through water transportation.

Some of the containers used in ferrying the products included iron drums, the thousands of  25-litre jerry cans which were sighted at the river bank waiting for upwards transportation.

While speaking with Our Correspondent, a cannon paddler, Abdullahi Umar,  explained, “We do convey paddy rice from Lolo, Illo, and other villages from Niger and Benin Republics to this place. We were told that agents of Rice mills in Kebbi State are purchasing it for their production.

“Sometimes, we can carry a load of a trailer and as you can see, the one they are offloading over there, (pointing at a long truck) it may contain about 600 or more bags of paddy rice, depending on the size of the boat.”

Continuing, he narrated, “While they farm rice in those area, they do not have rice mill in milling the paddy rice to a normal one which is why we use the available opportunity for our people to mill and make more profits”

Meanwhile, some residents of the Illela Local Government Area of Sokoto State, especially those within the border town between Nigeria and Niger Republic have commended the Federal Government and the Nigeria Customs Service for reopening the border stations across the country.

A resident of the community, Mallam Nuhu IleIla, who spoke with Our Correspondent over the development, described the move as a heart-warming decision.

He stressed that the re-opening of the border stations, especially the ones at Illela in Sokoto State and the other one at Dole-Kaina in Kebbi

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