Customs: Smugglers And Fraudulent Importers Get Their Baptism Of Fire From Comptroller Lawal Of FOU, Zone C

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By Stephen Ubanna

Dare devil smugglers operating between Benin Republic and Nigeria, who had escaped the eagle eyes of Customs anti-smuggling personnel in the south west geopolitical region, to enter the south east jurisdiction of the Federal Operations , Zone C, owerri,  Imo state, and those operating between Cameron, and Nigeria , who thinks that the  deployment of Kayode Oluseimere, the former Area Comptroller who has been  deployed to the Customs Headquarters as Comptroller, Enforcement has opened the gateway for them to carry out their nefarious activities may have to do a rethink.

This is because , Yusuf Lawal, who many see as a greenhorn, to be given such a wide area to oversee which many believe would not not be abe to do it is giving the smugglers sleepless night.  Between November 23, 2020 and December 27,2020, Lawal , who was said to have  rejigged  the Command , patrol teams, inherited from Oluseimere, his predecessor  had proved that he is not a push over. He may have sent a signal to the  smugglers  on  assumption of duties that the battle line has been drawn and that they should expect the worst .

Compt.Oluseimere Hands Over To Lawal, At FOU, Zone C, Owerri

With the mandate given to him, as a Comptroller , heading  an intervention Unit,  Lawal and his men , had gone all out to tighten up security at the border Communities between Ondo  and Edo states as well as  the the Mfun  border Communities between Nigeria and the Central African country of Cameroon including tightening up security at the  Creeks that dotted  most of the states, particular, Akwa Ibom, Cross river, Bayelsa, Rivers, and Detata.

 The FOU, Zone C, Area Comptroller, who may  have heeded the advice of a one- time officer in-charge of the Command Operations to withdraw the Assistant Comptrollers, heading the Patrol  teams back to the office and use them  in other areas of need was said to have replaced  them with the Chief Superintendents despite their pledge of loyalty.

  The fallout was the harvest of Contraband seizures including live Cateridges that had been made by the intervention Unit  within  one month of overseeing its operations   which had been attributed to the Competition among the new Patrol team Leaders and their members to excel.

Taking a cue from other Area Comptrollers of other intervention Units and the  adhoc Teams including those at  the seaports and Airports, who always showcase seizures and revenue profile  their to the public, at a any given time,  Lawal, may have found the need to  to address  Journalists on the Command activities over the last one month on Thursday, January 7, 2020.

The Customs Comptroller was said to had conducted   the Journalists  round the premises to see the seizures at the Owerri premises while the sezures at the outstations in Benin, Mfun and other areas, within the Command jurisdiction were listed out in his speech.

Compt. Lawal, FOU, ZoneC

Given an insider information of the report of the activities of the intervention Unit over the last one month, Jerry Attah, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and the Unit spokesperson had issued a Statement showing  that they had intercepted  5,200 live  ammunition Cartridges of 30GR 70mm. According to him, the 5,200, Live ammunition Cartridges  were  intercepted on December 13, 2020 ‘’concealed with other items  in a Sienna Toyota Passenger vehicle with registration number  DKA 237 DW, along Nwzebyi, IKom, Cross river  state, south-south Nigeria’’.

The seizure of the Live  ammunitions Cartridges was said to have been based on Credible intelligence which was said to have been developed over time by the Mfun outstation officers. He had wondered what would have happened , ‘’if these live cartridges   get t its destination unchecked , considering the fragile security   of the country  and fall into the hands of armed robbers, kidnappers, bandits  or the  insurgents, through their  various sources.

 It was, therefore, not very  surprising why the Customs Comptroller who did not  need to think twice to order for its seizure as it falls under the SHEDULE4, the Common External Tariff, which’’ its importation  is absolutely prohibited’’.   

 Lawal, the FOU, Zone C, Comptroller, who could not hide his feelings may have  had expressed his worries  over the trends  in the smuggling of Small and Light arms into the country  as he had cited the interception of a similar  such arms at the Lagos seaports in 2017 and Kwara , home state of Ibrahim Gambari, a Prfessor and Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari, home in 2018.

 He had also alluded to the recent arms seizure in Kebbi state, north west Nigeria, stressing that the Service which are also playing the national security role ,besides its  anti-smuggling operations and revenue generation for the government are equal to the task.  

Attah noted  that the FOU Zone C,  also seized various other Contrabands including 1,215bags of 50kg each of foreign parboiled rice. Most of the 50kg bags of rice were said to have been  Concealed in   bags of beans , maize and groundnut seeds, ostensibly to play on the intelligence of the officers on the road but the smugglers and their sponsors  were disappointed as the  items still fell into the waiting hands of Lawal men .

 The FOU, Zone C, spokesperson, who had quoted extensibly from the Comptroller’s speech ,had said that the Intervention  Unit also made a seizure of 38 jumbo bales of used clothing, 204 cartons  of tomatoes and four exotic vehicles. This is in addition to   a bullet proof Toyota Land Cruiser , 2019, model, without an End User Certificate, which ought to have been obtained  from the office of Babagana Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA.

Exotic Vehicles Seized By FOU, ZoneC, Including A Bullet Proof

 Among the four exotic vehicles, according to Attah, are  Two Toyota Hilux, 2015 and 2016 , models respectively.   The  Owerri based Customs  Intervention Unit  Patrol teams were said to have also intercepted  some controlled Pharmaceutical  drugs at various locations within its areas of jurisdiction.Valuation experts had put the value of the seized items by the Unit , at about N400million. Many see the Contraband seizures as a baptism of fire for the unrepentant smugglers in the south east.

In a related development,  the Lawal led  Intervention Unit  was said to have recovered N7,557,731.00 for the government   through the issuance of Demand Notice to guilty importers with their agents who had taken delivery of their Containers at the Lagos ports which fell into the hands of Lawal’s men on the road and those released from the south east ports, particular, Rivers port , over alleged false declaration and wrong Classification , resulting in under-payment.

 This is the amount that could have entered into private accounts both for the intensified anti-smuggling efforts of the Unit Patrol teams but saved for the government.  

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