FOU Zone A: Season Of Blackmail

By Stephen Ubanna

Barely one month  after the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A under the close watch of Usman Yayaha, a deputy Comptroller ,Operations and Lagos Roving, Headed by Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller, Patrol Team, intercepted an SUV4, 2019 model, along the Mile 2 and Apapa road, no importer appear to have shown up to claim the exotic vehicle. The Value News cited the vehicle parked at the Command premises on Friday, April 9, 2021.

The FOU, Zone A, Team, which had intercepted the vehicle on March 17, 2021, may have acted on information.  The Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, which has the Ondo state born Comptroller , Francis Okun,  as  the Area Comptroller , has two terminals under his control  where importers with their agents  could take delivery of their vehicles. The first terminal is at the Tin-can Island port while the second terminal, where most of the infractions, are committed by the agents and their Customs Collaborators is around mile 2, axis.

Intercepted And Detained SUV4 At FOU, Zone A

 The FOU, Zone A, account, reveals that the intercepted the exotic SUV4, vehicle, which many believe has a market value  of over N10 million was released  from the major terminal at the tin-can Island port. This may have given the aggrieved touts, masquerading as Licensed Customs Agents at the PTML could snatch the vehicle from the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team to forestall them from transferring it to theirIkeja office. They were said to have also made efforts to snatch an AK47 of one the Team members but it mistakenly fired and hit one of the touts  or agents at the scene.

In the midst of the Pandemonium the FOU, Team, may have regrouped to pursue the touts or agents who had  snatched their intercepted vehicle over alleged underpayment of N3.5million and re-snatched it around Sunrise, along the Mile 2, Apapa Express road and quickly transferred  it to their Ikeja office, where it is currently detained.

But Awwal Mohammed Yakubu, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and PTML, Command spokesperson, may have spoken the mind of Okun, the Command Area Comptroller that ‘’after all the vehicle was intercepted by the FOU, Zone A, Team around the Lagos waterworks at Mile 2’’, an indications that the vehicle may have been released at the mile 2 Terminal and exited at the gate. The question on the lips of most people was that : if the vehicle  had exited from the mile 2, terminal gate, where was the tout or agent  hit by the Customs Patrol Team bullet? Your guess is as good as mine.

oKUN: PTML Comptroller

  The  injured tout or licensed Customs agent, who was said to have had a bandage on his leg  was said to have accompanied the leadership of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents, ANLCA, PTML chapter, to FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, premises to resolve the crisis. The ANLCA, Leadership , were said to have admitted  that preliminary investigation shows that  there was an underpayment of  over N3.5million on the vehicle which is still under detention.

 The Command Authorities, out of human sympathy may have given N100,000.00 to support the victims treatment instead of allowing him to bleed to death. The touts or agents at the PTML, may have taken advantage of the financial support to the  victim to claim that” if the Customs Operatives had not  fired gun shot  at the crowd which  hit the victim,, why did  they make the funds available for his treatment”.

A senior officer who spoke to The Value News on Condition of anonymity disclosed that the N100,000.00 spent  on the victim to support his treatment was on Humanitarian ground’’.

 The Value News Magazine gathered that the importer of the SUV4 or and the alleged agent who was said to have cleared the vehicle have engaged the services of a Lagos based Lawyer to take  up the issue of the detained vehicle with the Customs Interventionist  unit instead of showing up in person to pursue the release.

 It was gathered that the Lawyer had visited the Command with the intention of having audience with Yahaya, the acting Area Comptroller. It could not be ascertained whether the Lawyer succeeded in seeing the Customs Comptroller but there are indications that he may have met Jack, the Command Operations and Lagos Roving.  But the outcome of their discussions remained a closed guided secret.

Contrary to insinuations in Agents circles that the Lawyer would get the SUV4, 2019 model, out from Customs detention without the payment of the N3.5 million under payment, they got it wrong.

The Lawyer may have known that they need to thread with caution to facilitate the release of the exotic vehicle to avoid losing it to government. Going by the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 2004, the importer has 30 days grace period to take  delivery of the detained  SUV4 by settling  all outstanding  duty payments. Given that the vehicle was detained on March 17, 2021, it means that if by April 14, 2021, the importer fails to cough out the N3.5 million outstanding duty payment for the vehicle, he would forfeit to the government as the detention order would be converted to seizure based on its Condemnation by a competent Court of Law. Informed sources told The Magazine that the importer of the SUV 4, and the Agent  who fear that that they he may lose the vehicle to government because of the difficulty of raising the N3.5 million underpayment have tried to use their contacts in Customs circles and some powerful Agents to reach to FOU, Zone A, Comptroller to plead with him  for help and the release the vehicle to them.

But the matter may have gone beyond the Customs Comptroller as Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and the  Customs Spokesperson, who may have  spoken the mind of Ali, the Comptroller,  has made  it clear to those that cares to listen that the vehicle would not  be released until the importer pay the N3.5 million DN, to the last Kobo.

AC.Jack: Blackmailed By Bodija Market Traders For Carrying Out His Legitimate Duties

In a related  development warehouse Operators  around  the Bodija market and the traders, at Ibadan, Oyo state, Capital,  who had their  lock up shops  used in safe keeping of smuggled foreign  rice from the neighbouring West African country of Benin into the  Nigeria market appeared to have declared war on the Assistant Comptroller Jack led Patrol Team that raided the warehouses and traders  shop in the early hours of Friday , April 9, 2021.

Acting on information, the Team, had tracked 50 vehicles, loaded with foreign par boiled rice produced from the Asian country of Thailand from Iseyin and Ogbomosho borders, and terminated their journey at the Bodija market lock up shops and the warehouse around the market where the Team was said to have recovered over two thousand bags of foreign rice  of 50 Kg each equivalent of  four trucks load. It was reliably gathered  that four trucks were  hired  to load  the 2000  bags of rice of 50Kg each which was said to have been transferred to the Command , Ikeja premises.

Protest Grounds Ibadan After FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team Invasion Of Bodija Market

The team was said to have found over N500,000.00 in the shops  naira which was said to have been  handed over to the station officer for documentation. But the traders, who are well connected  in security circles including Customs were said to have declared war on the Team by insisting they broke into their  Safe  and removed their Sales, which may described as the proceeds of the smuggled foreign rice business.

  The  question on the lips of most people was: how did they find their way into the shops? .This is because when the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team, member who s broke into the shops at the Bodija market completed their assignment of evacuating  the smuggled rice found in the shops,, they locked it back a Seal placed on the door with a warning, that no trader should dare  enter into his or her shop including the Sealed warehouses without  getting clearance from the Customs Authorities.

. The CEMA,  Cap 2004,  was very  clear on this  that any person who breaks the Customs  Seal  to enter a premises, warehouse or shop, is a punishable offence which attracts a ‘’10 years  imprisonment’’. The Bodija foreign rice dealers may have had had at the back  of their mind that the blackmail would force Yahaya, the Command Comptroller to deal decisively  with the Patrol Team members that had raided the market  but were disappointed.

 An insider  informed The Magazine that the Area Comptroller,  who has a high rating at the Customs Headquarters  because of his aggressive anti-smuggling drive in the south west Geo-political region had waited in his office for much of last to receive the aggrieved traders but no one showed up.  The trader may have known the Consequences of their action  of breaking the Customs Seal to find their way into their shop that they have to shelve the plan. There is no gainsaying the fact they may have ended up in detention and finally dragged to Court for their blackmail  to drag the name of Customs to the mud and breaking of Customs Seal.           

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