Customs: How CGC Strike Force Team A, Intervention Restores Sanity At The Lagos Ports

By Stephen Ubanna

The sensitisation Campaign  embarked upon by Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator , Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Strike Force, and his Principal key officers  at APM Terminal, described as one of the biggest Container terminals in West African sub-region  appears to have started yielding result in less than three months.

Given the overwhelming  evidence on ground showing that that most of the infractions that had been discovered  by the CGC Strike Force, Team A, Information Communication Technology , ICT, personnel, within a few  weeks of assumption of  office  with the reconstitution of the  Teams , across the country, last October,  Ahmadu , overseeing the Team A,  was said to have  considered it necessary to meet with the releasing officers  and those  at the valuation, Import,  Export and  the vehicle Seats at the Lagos ports, with a message: to ensure that that they do the  right thing  to forestall  importers with their agents from shortchanging the government through false declarations and wrong Classification of their imports and exports or faking the year of manufacture of imported vehicles to evade payment of correct duties .

Container load Of Ankara Textile Materials Seized By CGC sTrike Force Team, last DecemberExif_JPEG_420

 The interception of over 20 Containers , mostly ‘’40’’ Containers , loaded with different  prohibited cargoes, ranging from bags Ankara , textile materials to the Asian country of Thailand  par boiled rice speaks  volume. through intelligence at APMT, particular, which is under the close watch of Comptroller  Mohammed Abba-Kura, speaks volume.  

Ahmadu , was said to have read the riot Act  at the import, export and vehicle Seats officers at the Lagos ports  that any officer   found Collaborating  with the importers and their agents to shortchange the government  would be dragged to the office of the Comptroller General for disciplinary action.

 Aware that the CGC Strike Force Team  A, Coordinator and his Team members meant every word  of what he had told them  may have informed  why the officers were forced to sit up and decided to put the nation’s interest first in their dealings  with the importers. This may have informed why the officers at the imports, and  exports  Seats at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin cancan Island, Port Multi-services terminal Limited , PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, phases I and II, including those at the Bonded terminals attached to the seaports  have been   alive to their duties to ensure that only what  is approved  in the government fiscal policy for imports and exports  are allowed to enter or leave the country’s imports.  The fallout was that the Lagos ports terminal officials , particular, APMT,  who may have learnt their lesson , from their experience last year, between October and December , 2020, in the hands of the  CGC Strike Team A, may  not have  wanted  a repeat of such  in 2021.

An eyewitness account disclosed that between January 1, 2021 and now,  importers and exporters  with their agents using the Lagos ports  with their Customs Collaborators with their Customs Collaborators are no longer finding it funny.  The worst hit are those involved in export business. There have been rumours making the rounds over the years that the Apapa port , is where  all sorts of prohibited  items are allowed into  the port for export   to China with the support of  the APMT  export officers who shield the exporters.

”20” Container Load Of Pangolin For Export Seized At APMT Customs Operatives

Shuaibu  and his CGC Strike Force Team                A members may have injected fears on the  Customs officers that no one wants to play into the hands of Hameed Ali, a retired Amy Colonel and the Comptroller Gneral, NCS. The recent seizure  of 162 sacks of Pangolin scales  and 57  sacks of mixtendangered species loaded into a ‘’20’’ Container   with registration  number CSCU 2362640  for export toHaiphong, Vietnam, close to China,   through Apapa port  by the Abba-Kura officers on the Apapa Customs  Command exports bear eloquent testimony of the rot  that has been going on over the years at the APMT, otherwise the Pangolin exporter would not have the courage to dare the Customs Operatives on the export Seat aware that he might lose the Consignment if aught by another Customs Team .

The question on the lips of most people was how the ‘’20’’ Container loaded with the Pangolin scales and 57 other items of endangered species  scales found its way to the port through the Apapa port official gate to be positioned at the APM Terminal to be examined for export despite the tight security  mounted by Federal Operations Unit , FOU, and the Border Patrol, Lagos Zonal office personnel along the MILE 2 and Apapa Express Way which is still under reconstruction. Many believe that there may  have  been an insider Compromise that had facilitated the movement of the ‘’20’’ pangolin Container into the Apapa port.

The exporter may have thought that it is it business as usual at APMT  where  anything goes  that he had taken the risk to beat the tight security at the Lagos port to take the cargo to the port for export to Haiphong Vietnam, where adequate arrangement had been made with the buyers to be ready to take delivery  immediately it arrives the Asian country port of delivery on the agreed date.

The pangolin scales exporters and the oversea  buyers were, however, unlucky as the deal was said to have been  punctured  by Customs personnel at the Apapa Customs Command  export Seat , who were said to be mostly new on the Seat as they were said to have deployed  from other Customs Command to the Apapa Command   during the  recent wave of mass transfer of  officers from one Command to the  other. 

Perhaps, this may have made it impossible  for both the exporter and his agent to penetrate the ranks of the officers to bribe their way to facilitate the export of the ‘’20’’ pangolin and 57 other  mixed endangered species scales to the Haiphong, Vietnam, dealers. Abba-Kura, the Apapa  Command  Customs Comptroller,  had said that  the ‘’20’’ Container of pangolin and other mixed items   were detected  and arrested   on Thursday , January 1st, 2021, ‘’ based on credible information  by the Command export Seat officers’’.

Compt.Abba-Kura: Happy That His Officers On The Export Seat Could Make A Massive Pangolin Seizure In One Swoop

 The Apapa Customs Comptroller  had said   that the exporter  had falsely declared  the ‘’20’’ Container of pangolin scales and other mixed endangered species  scales  as carrying furniture components in an attempt ‘’to evade arrest’’ but the officers insisted on examining the Container.  The outcome of the physical examination of the ‘’20’’ Container was the discovery of the  over N952 million worth of 162  sacks of pangolin weighing ,8,000Kg,  and 57 sacks of   other endangered species  ivory/animal horns and  lion bones.

With the seizure   of the ‘20’’ Container  of pangolin and 57 other endangered species  items, which is in line with the  Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap45,  2004, the Apapa Customs Comptroller has sent a signal to exporters   dealing on such animals which the Convention  of International  Trade  in Endangered  Species, CITES 1973, had  revealed accounts  for as much  as 20% of all wildlife trade across the world, that it is no longer going to be  business as usual.

He has made clear to other dealers of such dangerous  endangered animal species that  as long as he remains as the Comptroller of Apapa Command,  ‘’all efforts  will be geared towards ensuring  that such dangerous  and harmful environmental export  are detected and prevented.  Before now, Pangolin scales seizure was the exclusive preserve of the FOU, Zone A. Recall that in January 19,, 2020, the Command  under the close watch of Usman Yahaya,  a Deputy Comptroller, Operations and Lagos Roving Team , had made a N10.26 billion seizure 147 sacks  of Pangolin scales, weighing  9,504 Kg,  loaded in a two ‘’20’’ Containers,  destined for export to the Asian country of China. The to  pangolin scales of ‘’20’’ Containers  were said to have been abandoned at a warehouse  at an Estate in Isheri , Alimosho local government area of Lagos state.  The informant had confimed  that some Chinese  were planning  to export the Consignment through an undisclosed  Lagos port out of the country.  

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