By Stephen Ubanna
This is not the best of times for textile and fraudulent importers with their clearing agents at the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tincan Island as members of the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force Team A, comprising of the operations and Information Communication Technology, ICT, Units, are on their trail.
The CGC, Strike Force Team A, which is Coordinated by Ahmadu Shuaibu, according to informed sources have made appreciable impact on the anti-smuggling activities in the south west, particular,at the Lagos seaports of Apapa, Tin can Island and the Port Multi-services Terminal Limited in the last two months.
T Not that the big time traders may have been taken delivery of the Asian country of China manufactured textile materials, popular, Ankara, from the Lagos ports over the years with the active connivance of their Customs Collaborators and the occasional seizures by the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving Team members, the situation has changed that Shuaibu and new Team members assumed duties on October 9, 2020, after about one week of the reconstitution of the Team by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller, Nigerian Customs service, NCS. As a prelude to actualization the Team mandate, Shuaibu was said to have read the riot Act to the dishonest importers ‘’to turn a new leaf and stop short changing the government by making correct declarations’’.
The CGC Strike Force Team A, Coordinator, and his Operations including the ICT, officers may have known that the continuous importation of Foreign textiles into the country would have an adverse effect on the revival of the nation’s textile industry that is being pursued by the Buhari Administration. . The Operation and the ICT officers were said to have combined perfectly well to identify such Textile and other fraudulent Containers released from the port and intercept them with ease. Aware that the textile import business is not for the poor, they were said to have tightened the noose on the mafia.
Although , the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari had made provision for a N50 billion special mechanism funds for reviving the nation’s ailing textile industries, the textile importers who had continued to flout the government policy to bring the banned Foreign items into the country may have given Shuaibu and his Operation/ICT officers the ammunition to go after their Containers released at the port.
Between November 15 and December 15, an interval of one month, the Team, had intercepted nine Containers loaded with different items released from the Lagos ports within the port environment. The Value News was informed that based on the number of Containers intercepted by the Team and the huge amount recovered for the government from the issuance of Demand Notice, DN, from the guilty importers, Shuaibu, who has at his finger tips every information about the activities of the Team on a daily basis had sought the approval of the Customs Comptroller General, to meet with the press to show case its seizures in the last one month . Recall that he has always given the Team A on its activities of to the Customs boss on a weekly and monthly basis without failing. Of the 4 x ‘’40’’ Containers that had positioned to show case to the press on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, they were said to be loaded with different items ranging from foot wares, Ankara textile materials to Foreign bags. The Magazine learnt that the CGC Strike Force team A, may not have had any difficulty in getting the Customs Comptroller’s General’s nod to meet with the Press because the Team had made good seizures that deserved to be publicized.
Walking like an Army General who has conquered his enemies in a war front, on Wednesday, December 16, 2020, he had taken the selected Lagos Journalists, from the print, online and the electronic media to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, ILT, where government overtime cargoes from the Lagos ports are transferred for safe keeping.
Eyewitness account told The Magazine that the CGC Strike Force Team A, Coordinator ],described’ as a very effective person in Customs circles’’, who spoke extempore at the meeting with the Journalists did not disappoint anyone as he responded all technical questions asked with facts and figures without murmuring .
One of the intercepted ‘’40’’ Container was said to have been loaded with 564 bales of textile materials of the popular, Ankara . He further disclosed that the Team also intercepted a ‘’40’’ Container , which was found to contain 637 bales of Foot Wares while the third ‘’40’’ Container was loaded with Foreign bags with a market Value of about N441 million and a Demand Notice, DN, of about N53million.The Container number, according to informed sources is CMAU 4263564.
The CGC Strike Force, Team Coordinator may have sent a signal to the importers of the Contraband that the cargoes are liable to seizure after being condemned by a competent Court of Law. The CGC Strike Force, Team A, Coordinator who could not hide his feelings had said that ‘’TeCustoms job is basically ‘’intelligence’’, stressing that ‘’ traders who are non-Compliant to the government Fiscal policy would always have problem with the team ant-smuggling officers an e.
Given insider information , about the operation of the Team between January and December 15, 2020, he disclosed that it recovered N2,534,853,404.00 for the government from the issuance of DN. This is money that should have entered into private accounts both for the intervention efforts of the CGC Strike Force, Team A, Operation and ICT officials at the Lagos ports.
The Magazine gathered that out of the amount, the Shuaibu’s Team, alone, with’’ its Committed , diligent and resourceful officers, who at the risk of their lives had recovered for the government was a whopping N1,417,616,031.00, in two months, a feat yet to be matched by a former Coordinator or Commander of the CGC Strike Force Team A since its establishment.
The CGC Strike Force Team A, Coordinator, had attributed the superlative performance ‘’to the use intelligence, physical and its manpower in checkmating the importers with their agents and their Customs Collaborators’’. Advising the importers and their agents to desist from shortchanging the government, he declared, ‘’we are determined, encouraged and mobilized by the Customs Authorities’’ to carry out our anti-smuggling works.
He averred that importers who dares the Team to bring in suspicious Container loads of Consignments into the country and which eventually falls into the waiting hands of the CGC Strike Force Team A, personnel, would be ‘’searched to the bottom’’ to see the last content to ensure that ’’there is no Concealment and that the Consignment complies with the government Fiscal policy’’.
The Magazine was informed that since the CGC Strike Force Team Coordinator took out time to meet with the releasing officers at the AP Moller Terminal, and other terminals including the Deputy Comptrollers at the Apapa Command / the APM, to drum into their ears on the need to ensure that the right things are done at the ports by the importers with their agents, it appears to have achieved its purpose with the improved traders Compliance to the government Fiscal policy at the ports, particular, Apapa port.
Shuaibu is optimistic that with the intervention of CGC Strike Team, the activities of the textile and fraudulent importers with their agents would be greatly reduced next year. This is because the importers who have come to the reality that they have to make correct declaration and pay the appropriate duty to avoid running into trouble with Customs personnel on their legitimate duty have started doing so.
He has a word for the recalcitrant traders, urging them’’ to be making correct declarations and avoid sharp practices that would land them into trouble’’ with his men . He was said to have told those that cares to listen, that ‘’his Team members would continue ‘’ to be meticulous, dogged and would never relent at enforcing Compliance to the government Fiscal policy’’.
Perhaps, what may have gladdened Shuaibu and his operational Team members was the evacuation of 80 bags of rice of 50Kg each from a warehouse operated by a Nigerian, without resistance from the people at an undisclosed location.
He was said to have sounded a note of warning to the smugglers who take advantage of Nigerian’s porous borders to bring in Contraband , particular, Foreign rice into the country to retrace their step. It is instructive to note that the Team in the two months of its activities under review had seized 1,252 bags of Foreign rice of 50Kg each from smugglers operating between Benin and Nigeria
Many fears that the rice smugglers who operate between the West African country of Benin Republic and Nigeria would face more problems from the Team this time around with the reopening of the closed borders across the country in August 2019, on the orders of the Katsina state born Nigerian President, in spite of the fact that President Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso Committee that was set up by the Economic Community of West African states, ECOWAS, to look into the Nigerian border closure ,has not submitted its report to the Economic bloc Authority of Heads of States and Government for Consideration.