By Stephen Ubanna
For years, the Apapa exit gate had remained a sort of a market square for the fraudulent importers with their agents who Contravene government Fiscal policies through false declaration, underpayment and Concealment with their Customs Collaborators, who provide easy passage for them at the gate.
The situation was so bad as the exit gate was always chocked up with Container laden trucks struggling to exit the exit the gate or enter the port. The ‘’Can boys’’, are always around to do the runs for their masters at the gate who work closely with the officers at the terminals.
Many believe that the exit gate was always ckocked up with trucks Drivers struggling to exit or enter the port because past and present Area Comptrollers of the Command and the officers of the Enforcement failed to put a close tab at what is happening at the exit gate to ensure trade facilitation
Officers of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, may have taken advantage of the ineffectiveness of the Command officers at the exit gate and the support of their informants who are everywhere at the port environment to intercept trucks laden Containers released from the port which were quickly transferred to the Government Warehouse, Ikeja, for re-examination. Some of the intercepted re-examined and found wanting, the importer was made to pay Demand Notice that runs into millions of Naira.
Even the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force Team A, under the close watch of Ahmad Shuibu, a Deputy Comptroller, who has his Technical men on ground, at the Apapa environment, was also shinning on the ineffectiveness of the Apapa Command exit gate and terminal officers to make seizures of Containers loaded with Contraband goods ranging from Charcoal, teakwood, Textiles and Bags.
The continued interception and seizure of Containers released from the Apapa Premier port may have forced Comptroller Malanata Yusuf, described as an experienced Technical officer in Customs circles and the Command Comptroller to put the situation under check. Informed sources told The Value News that since the deployment Babatunde Olomo, a Deputy Comptroller, from the Customs Headquarters to Head the Enforcement Unit, sanity has returned at the Apapa exit gate as trucks laden Containers are no longer delayed as documents are treated with speed in line with the government policy of enhancing trade facilitation.
Olomo, who many believe looked like someone who could not hurt a fly because of calmness may have shocked many as he has put the situation at the terminals and exit gate under control as officers now know that they must do the right thing to avoid exposing themselves to the Enforcement Personnel who are ready to detain any Container found wanting.
Ian insider told the Magazine that the Apapa Customs Comptroller is always inviting Deputy Comptroller Olomo, to his office to hold meetings which have gone long way to help the unit in the discharge of their duties. It was gathered that on several occasions that he had directed some of his officers to wait for him at the exit without any definite instruction on what to do until he emerges on the scene to get the job done.
Unconfirmed report disclosed that the Unit had intercepted over 100 Containers between last year and now , with ‘’spectacular, seizures’’, ranging from dangerous Pharmaceutical drugs such as tramadol, Codine syrup, including cocain, Tomatoes paste and Foreign parboiled rice which many had expected could only be smuggled into the country from the porous borders. Deputy Comptroller Olomo, could achieve that much at the Apapa Enforcement Unit with the support of the Area Comptroller and his knowledge of anti-smuggling operations at the FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos some years back.
He has also demonstrated to be a good Administrator as the usual crowd of agents that besiege the Enforcement unit daily in the past to pursue their document in order to facilitate their clearing process are no longer theire. A senior officer who spoke to the Magazine on condition of anonymity disclosed that he does notply up documents on his tale as he treats them as referred to him from theComptroller’s office. For the documents he could not treat due one engagement or the other he was said to have delegated to his 2/Cs, to do. The good news is the Customs Deputy Comptroller has a good working relationship with the Legal Team who are making the job easier for him at all levels: documentation and Keeping records.
Given the high level of sanity that had returned to the Apapa Command exit gate, a visitor to the Apapa port would think that the importers with their agents are no longer coming around to take delivery of their cargoes or return their empty Containers.
Although, Deputy Compptroller Olomo, with the backing of the Area Comptroller, has succeeded in putting the Command exit gate under control to ensure that ‘’the right thing is done’’ but the Enforcement Officers still may have to watch it as it is not Eldorado.
This is because the appointment of Mohammed Abdullahi, an Assistant Comptroller, described as a’’ no nonsense anti-smuggling officer in agents and smugglers circles as the FOU, Zone A, Head of Roving by Kehinde Hussain Ejibuno, a deputy Comptroller , overseeing the Command , may put the Apapa Command under serious threat . Being a” goal getter any day any time” would still mobilise his officers to intercept Containers that are exited from the port and which have contravened to government fiscal policies but escaped the Command Enforcement Officer s eye to prove that nothing has changed at the port.
Maritime analysts believe that he knows much about the Apapa environment because he had various time led Teams on operations at the port environment where he made spectacular seizures in the past like arms released from the port. Nigerians are watching to see how Deputy Comptroller Olomo and his boys would make Apapa port safe for the Command enforcement Officers without allowing any of the Interventionist units making seizures released from the Command for now.