Contraband and piracy:Intensity, Routes, Tricks Uncovered
Available statistics show trafficking climbed to 25 percent in the Region year before last.
The art of outsmarting the Customs with imported goods is recurrent in the South West Region. Its coastal inlet/outlet stretching over a good part of Cameroon’s 402 Kilometre coastline along the Atlantic Ocean makes the area even more vulnerable to dealers in contraband and pirated goods.
The dealers escape the vigilance of Customs, Trade and Security officials using the creeks to land their goods and meander into the hinterland. Even where there is no ocean like in Manyu Division, merchants sail through River Manyu and beat through the forests to smuggle their goods into local markets.
The South West Regional Delegate of Trade, Bipane Abanda Denis, explained to this reporter in his Limbe Office that the intensity of such trafficking hit a 25-percent height in local economic exchange losses in 2015. As such, during a recent semester control, pharmaceutics, cosmetics, brewery and bakery products of dangerous consumption were seized. “Such confiscations were made in local markets of the various localities of the Region notably Limbe, Mamfe, Kumba, Tiko, Idenau, Mundemba and elsewhere. Such goods are destroyed under the supervision of Administrative authorities after educational publicity”, the Delegate buttressed. The clandestine routes spread from the sea as well as land surface-boundaries.
Ordinarily, goods from the industrial giant nation of Nigeria penetrate Cameroon through the Ekok border customs post in Manyu Division. From there the goods transit through the North West Region to the West and Centre Regions of Cameroon. Also, the goods through Ekok descend to the major distribution centres of Kumba and Douala from where the other peripheries are supplied. With the advent of the bitumen roads linking these areas, trade has but intensified from both ends.
However, as explained to this reporter in Ekok, traders often conceal goods in goods, make false declaration of what they are carrying and even escape the vigilance of control teams. In spite of these tricks the customs and the staff of the Trade Ministry have learnt to shoot without missing the bird that flies without perching. “Either the contraband goods are caught at control points or in the market shops, the truth remains that traffickers never go free for ever”, an official explained.
In Meme Division, Mbonge is one of the Trade routes to neighbouring Nigeria and the rest of West Africa. From the Mbonge creek port a considerable quantity of goods flood the markets of the Division to include Ekombe, Kombone right down to Kumba. Even part of Muyuka in Fako Division is supplied the various Nigerian-made goods much of which find their way in Cameroon through the Bakassi creeks without proper duties and tariff. During the rainy season the road to Mbonge becomes nightmarish but that is the peak period when traffickers smoke their smuggling pipes. They employ motorbikes and inundate the markets with both contraband and pirated stuff.
This locality in Fako Division some 20 kilomtres from Limbe has over the years served as inlet and outlet port to West African countries. Its opening to the Atlantic sea and thus the Bakassi peninsula is a propitious route to flood West African goods through Limbe, Tiko, Buea, and Douala from where some of the goods transit to the Central African countries. Idenau, a German name from colonial days, is a port of great importance in the South West Region. Traders from Benin, Ghana, Liberia and obviously Nigeria bring in textile, tin foods, cosmetics and plastics which appear choicer for local markets but which are either expired or counterfeited.
Ekondo Titi route
Ndian Division hosting the six Bakassi administrative Sub-Divisions has one of its creek ports in Ekondo Titi. Like the other ports, Ekondo Titi is manned by the customs and Trade services. It is one of the inlets of many foreign goods. As one of the predilection routes what fills the shops in many South West markets passes through Ekondo Titi. While a senior staff of the customs affirmed this, he equally underscored the tricks of many traders who would not want to declare their goods faithfully. Many of them use hidden creek routes of Ekondo Titi to import even motor spare parts from Nigeria and other electronic gadgets.