Customs: New Security Measures At NPA, Apapa, Exit Gate Blocks Areas Of Leakage; Too many ACs At APM Terminal, Competing For Relevance

By Stephen Ubanna

 Between 2016 and 2020, Patrol team officers of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone, A, Ikeja, Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre stationed at strategic locations between Mile 2 and the Lagos ports of APapa and Tincan Island had made mockery of the operations of the Lagos ports of Apapa by regularly intercepting exited Containers which are transferred to their premises for alleged contravention of government fiscal policies.

   Some of the intercepted Containers which had been subjected and transferred to their premises for another round of physical examination were said to have actually be found to have contravened the government fiscal policy  as they were  found to have contained concealed arms and ammunitions, tramadol and other dangerous drugs, fairly used tyres and fairly used clothing, among others.

Take for instance in 2017,  a container load  of  49 boxes of  661 pump Actions  and bullet proof doors   and other Contraband merchandise goods   that was said to have been released at the port   was intercepted and seized by the FOU, Zone A, officers  on the way to  unknown  location at mile 2  , Apapa expressway.

In 2018, the Interventionist Command had interceped 40 x 40ft Containers of pharmaceutical products with a Duty Paid value of N7.31 billion, released from the Apapa port. The  Premier port Customs Command  may have opened the door for the FOU, Zone Operatives  to zero into its operations  due to lack of proper 100%   physical examination of cargoes  shipped into Nigeria through the port .    

 It was an era where some senior Customs officers who were found to have been involved in releasing such cargoes have been invited to the Command premises for questioning. There were instances when some of the invited the officers   had begged profusely for forgiveness with a promise never to be involved in releasing such cargoes that had contravened the government fiscal policy I future.

 A retired senior Customs officer, who had served in the Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, had told the Value News online Magazine that the situation was so bad that even Nigerian police Force, NPF, personnel, stationed on the road had on several occasions intercepted some containers believed to have contravened the government policy, detained it before rerouting it back to the port but no action was taken against the officers involved in the racketeering.

Adeniyi: CG, NCS

 Between 2022 and now , the situation appears to have changed for better as there  appears to have been a complete turnaround at the  Nigerian Ports exit gate, Apapa. The Apapa Command Head of the exit gate appears to have rejig his team to effectively control the movement of trucks laden Containers to avoid the rush hour that have often resulted in the usual improper vetting of importers with their clearing agents’ document. A close observer, who disguises as an itinerant trader at the gate had informed the value News that the agents tricks of rushing the exit gate officers with their trucks in the evening hours had reduced to the barest minimum.

The source had said that much of the credit should go to one Frank Oyeka, a Deputy Comptroller overseeing the NPA, exit gate, who was said to have introduced some level of discipline at the gate which was said to have forced the Authority personnel to sit up and ensure that the right thing is done, meanng  that ‘’ if you don’t have port pass, you don’t have any business at the port premises’’.

 The Divisional Port police officer, DPO, oversseeing security at port may have come out fully to complement the efforts of the NPA and Customs personnel to do their job as one of the port police branded vehicle is stationed at a strategic location, where the truck laden Containers from APM terminal usually, pass to the exit gate where their documents are vetted and signed for final exit.

Many who knew that Customs Deputy Comptroller who knew him as a thorough bred officer at Federal Ocean Terminal, Onne port, where he was the officer in-charge of the exit gate, had described him as a no-nonsense officer who was said to have made the clearing agents who were used to compromising the officers at the terminal to get their Container marked for release and only to be stopped ta the exit gate.

There was an instance of an   unconfirmed NPA, staff who was said to have loaded some Analgin drug which was said to have been prohibited by the Nigerian government    in the booth of his car at Onne port some years ago but was discovered and recommended for seizure. The alleged NPA, staff was said to have pleaded for forgiveness but that could not change the position of the Customs Deputy Comptroller overseeing the port exit gate from recommending for the seizure of the intercepted vehicle.

Compt. Olomu: Area Controller, Apapa Command

  Indeed, Deputy Compt. Oyeka, may have carried the same revolutionary zeal to the NPA exit gate at Apapa that importers with their clearing agents had found the need to now make correct declarations and make appropriate   duty payments before approaching the exit gate to present their documents for final vetting and release to avoid playing into the hands of DC. Oyeka, who is ever ready to recommend to the Command Area  Controller, Compt.Babatunde Olomu, to  approval to the Demand Notice, DN, issued  or seizure of the Consignment if need be.

Informed sources told the Value News that Compt. Babajide Jaiyeoba, now retired, had found DC. Oyeka , a resourceful and reliable officer to man the NPA exit gate that he could go to sleep without fear of the officers  been compromised.  

The source that the Customs Deputy Comptroller who is working closely with Wale Adenuga, another Deputy Comptroller. Described as a valuation expert, to tidy up knotty issues issue arising from the valuation of any suspected Consignment had been resolved amicably and the importer made to pay the balance duty payment outstanding.

 While the situation at the NPA exit gate has been sanitized as the officers have been alive to their duties which had made the FOU, Zone A,  Ikeja, officers stationed staioned at strategic locations on the road and awaiting to intercept  Containers allegedly released from the Apapa port  for Contravening the government  fiscal policy  to be idle may have  forced them to look at the direction of the Tincan Island, Portport Terminal Multi-services Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Phaes I and II including other bonded terminal terminals around  Lagos and its environs an the Land border stations to make their Contraband seizures.

Many believe that why former Comptroller Jaiyeoba and his successor, Compt. Olomu, who had given to DC. Oyeka and his officers at the exit gate the necessary support to do their job as expected, much still need to be done at APM terminal, which remains a market square for all.

Without  the efforts being put in by  Ibrahim Turaki, a DC, described in Customs circles as a revenue mobilizer, to effectively  control the activities of the importers with their agents, to ensure that the right thing is done, many things would have gone wrong. An insider had said that that there are still some loopholes that needed to be plugged by the Authorities.

The loopholes may have been created by the too many Assistant Comptrollers, ACs, who had turned themselves as scavengers at the terminals collecting import documents from agents and moving from office to another to facilitate their endorsement and subsequent release from the port.

The Value News findings shows that there was a time there was no fewer than 25 ACs, working with the DC. Turaki at the terminal, considered too many when some Area Commands do not even have up to five ACs.

APM Terminal: Home of too many Idle ACs

 Although, the number was said to have been pruned down to 23 ACs, at present but some clearing agents who spoke to the online Magazine, would want Compt. Olomu, the Command Area Controller, who they believe still have much job to do to further reduce the number of the ACs at the APM terminal to a manageable figure for the DC, who appears to have been over working himself as the ACs are still bringing much of the jobs to him to address in his office.

They would want to the Customs Comptroller to  take up the matter with Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, MFR, Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, described as a man of integrity, who knows  what to do at every point in time  to avoid putting much pressure at the exit gate  officers  or the DC. Nwanze led Enforcement Unit, which already have much job at hand.  They noted that there was no basis for the too many ACs at the APM terminal when there are other Area Commands where their services will be much needed.  

At present there are some Commands where Superintendents with little or no experience are holding sensitive positions, like Operations, because of dearth of ACs to occupy the office. Let us hope that Compt. Olomu, described as a no nonsense officer in Customs circles, would rise up to the occasion to reduce considerably the number of ACs at the APM terminal believed to have been posted there  for their own pecuniary gains.       

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