Explainer: Fisayo Soyombo Takes On Nigeria’s Smuggling Scene

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Explainer: Fisayo Soyombo Takes On Nigeria’s Smuggling Scene

Nigerian investigative journalist, and founder of the Foundation For Investigative Journalism, Fisayo Soyombo in his latest report, Undercover as a Smuggler has uncovered a smuggling ring in Ilaro, a small town about 50 km from Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital by smuggling 100 bags of rice into the country through one of Nigeria’s border with  Benin Republic without resistance from security operatives and with the support of Nigerian Customs Service. 

Fisayo Soyombo is no stranger to investigative journalism. From his days at  The Cable,  he has amassed a reputation with his many investigative stories. Undercover as a Smuggler is his latest work geared towards exposing the Nigerian smuggling pipeline after several complaints about the porosity of Nigeria’s borders with the Benin Republic. 


How Nigerian Customs Aid Smugglers 

Nigeria’s extensive yet unsuccessful endeavors to combat smuggling are well-documented in her history. In his second tenure, alarmed by the impact of this venture on the economy, former President Muhammadu Buhari implemented a total closure of the country’s borders with the Benin Republic in 2019, primarily in response to widespread smuggling, particularly of rice. However, upon leaving office, he conceded that “only God can guard Nigeria’s borders.” This declaration points to the frustrating efforts to secure the country’s borders.

Published on the 21st of February,  Soyombo in his expose, detailed how high-ranking officers of the Nigerian Customs betray their colleagues to aid smuggling activities after collecting bribes. In the report that has since gone viral,  Soyombo documents how Customs officers are bribed, and how they, in turn, provide smugglers with Intel. 

“They are Customs bosses; you have to be under one of them. You have to let them in on your plans, your movement. They are the ones who tell you the specific days and hours when you can move. Once you have their permission, you have no problem.” he revealed in his report. The bribed officers alert them of these movements, and for a hitch-free movement inform the foot soldiers transporting the goods. 

Soyombo’s smuggling of rice from the Benin Republic wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his acquaintances; Jide, and Alaba. Their support led to the expanded story of one of Nigeria’s most notorious smugglers, Ibrahim Dende Egungbohun, popularly known as IBD Dende. 


Who is IBD Dende?

With not much known about his early life, Ibrahim Dende Egungbohun was born in 1970 in Ilaro, Ogun State. Known as a businessman who deals and exports, IBD Dende as he is popularly called is also a hotelier. He owns the IBD International Hotel, Ogun State. IBD’s business exploits are marked by his larger-than-life stature, fueled by his proximity to power and the influence derived from his accumulated wealth. Dende has cultivated numerous political allies, including President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, whom he openly supported in the presidential election, and was part of Tinubu’s delegation to the COP28 Climate Summit in Dubai. Additionally, he shares a friendship with the current Controller General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, contributing significantly to Adeniyi’s appointment. His social circle extends to the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun, and the entertainment industry, where he is referenced in songs by popular Nigerian musicians such as Olamide and Pasuma. In recognition of his influence, Pasuma dedicated two tracks titled Dende and I. B. D. Dende to him.

Dende’s connections also extend to the media, with one national daily describing him as a “seasoned businessman and hospitality guru” on his 50th birthday in 2020. Despite the image portrayed by the media, Dende’s involvement in smuggling activities has led to multiple arrests. His smuggling history covers food items, cars and currently involves arms and ammunition. He now heads the Inumidun (Smuggling) Squad. Despite these legal entanglements, Dende has consistently emerged unscathed from each arrest. In 2018, he was arrested for smuggling, but the Customs did not specify the illicit items involved, with the then Customs Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, confirming his arrest by stating, “He is our suspect and currently in our custody over his smuggling activities.”


Response to Soyombo’s Exposé

In response to the expose, IBD Dende has petitioned the Inspector General of Police, Kayode Egbetokun stating that Soyombo’s Undercover As A Smuggler amounts to “character assassination with calculated view to achieve damaging effects against IBD Dende and his businesses within and outside Nigeria”.

He also petitioned AriseTV through his lawyer claiming that “The said broadcast/documentary is manifestly falsehood, preoccupied with criminal resentment and hatred neither warranted, necessary, proper nor justified against our client”

Read Fisayo Soyombo’s Undercover as a Smuggler here.