By Stephen Ubanna
Not many people are surprised that Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator, of the Headquarters Strike Force, Team A, is making appreciable impact in the south west geopolitical region, in the areas of Enforcement and recovery of lost revenue for the government. This is evident going by the Containers load Contraband of that was said to have been made by the adhoc Team between October and November 2021.
Many attribute it to the dedication and Commitment of the Shuaibu, the Team Leader and his officers, from the onset. An insider told The Value News that from the very first day he stepped his foot at the Customs Training Colllege, Ikeja, the Operational base of the Team, in October 2021, he had made his officers to understand that they have a big challenge at hand and must not fail Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and his Management Team, who had deemed it necessary to saddle them with such a responsibility of Enforcement and restoring sanity at the nation’s seaports.
Note that the Team has two major units: Information Communication Technology, ICT and Operations. The Customs Coordinator was said to have taken the second day in office, being a weekend drawn up a working roaster for the 122 members in the Team, on how they will go about the national assignment and achieve result.
An insider told The Value News that given his experience as a one-time head of Operations of the Federations Unit, FOU, Zone C Owerri, Imo state, under Kayode Oluseimeire, the then Area Controller of the Command and now, an Assistant Comptroller General, overseeing the Customs Zone C, Headquarters, PortHarcourt, who was said to have given him the free hand to develop his potentials, may have informed why he had changed the narrative of anti-smuggling operations of the Team in the region.
He was said to have resorted’’ to deployment of intelligence’’ to the hot spot areas in the region, including the Lagos seaports, using the ICT facility, instead, relying on his officers at the checkpoints to make a head way in its operations. It is not surprising why Isah Hawama, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, who leads the Headquarters Strike Force, Operations unit an Awwal Kazir, an Assistant Comptroller who, heads the ICT, could mobilise their Team members to do their job without Compromise in order to deliver on their mandate.
With the deployment of intelligence in its operations, between October and November, 2021, the Team, had made 61 ‘’20’’ Containers load of teakwood and 36 ‘’20’’ of Charcoal, a derivative of the teakwood, described as monumental seizure by maritime analysts.
.The Duty Paid Value , DPV, of the 61 Containers load of teakwood, which were said to have been seized from a notable jetty in Lagos , the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, had been slated for export to the Asian country of China while the 36 , Containers of ‘’20’’ each of charcoal valued at about N7 billion and N382 respectively million had bee slated for export to ne of the countries in the Middle east.
Investigations by The Magazine shows that the log wood were purchased and slated for export by the buyers from the Timber dealers in the south west states of Ogun and Taraba, home state of Theophilous Danjuma, a retired army General and former minister of Defence, during former Olusegun Obasanjo Administration.
The question on the lips of most people was how did the log of wood found its way to a Lagos Jetty, preparatory for export with the large number of security personnel on the road including the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team officers on the road and officers and those of the Western Mmarine, the service Amphibitious Command, in Patrolling sea, Creeks and watersides in the south west states of Lagos and Ogun states waters.
The Katsina state born, Nigerian President, had on the advice of Tropical Wood Exporters Association of Nigeria, TWEAN, in 2019, stopped the export of unprocessed and semi-processed wood and its derivatives, such as Charcoal outside the country. Informed sources told The Magazine that the Group had the support the Forestry Department of the Federal Ministry of Environment.
The Magazine learnt the log wood exporters were given three year moratorium, between 2016 and 2019, to prepare for the eventual ban of the export of wood to the Asian country of China and Charcoal, to the Middle East.
Recall that. The felling of Trees in Ogun state , is so pronounced that that Forestry Association of Nigeria, in September 2021, had expressed concern over the activities of the illegal tree fellers and Loggers at the Omo Forest reserves in Ogun waterside Local Government Area. James Odebiyi , a former President , Forestry Association of Nigeria, had said that the illegal activities at the Omo forestry reserves was worrisome and needed urgent attention by the Dapo Abiodum government.
Shuaibu , the CGC Strike Force Coordinator , may have gladdened Nigerians mind when he disclosed that some Locals with their foreign Collaborators involved in the illegal Log wood business were arrested. However, they were said to have been granted Administrative bail but the relevant service units are on their trail to ensure that they will be produced in Court whenever needed to answer the charges levelled against them.
More devastating to the economy was the killing of donkeys used as a means of transportation of wood in the far north, in order to prepare their hides and skin for export. The Team was said to have intercepted 185 sacks containing 1110 pieces of raw hides which was said to have been sourced by the foreign buyer from the Far north and arrangement made for it to be taken to Lagos for export to end user in China.
The DPV, is put at about N61.2 million. Appealing to Nigerians to stop Collaborating with Foreigners to kill country’s donkeys, which he had described as an’’ endangered species because of the, pecuniary gains, he had said that it will do the country more harm than good’’.
The Customs adhoc Team Coordinator, has sent a message to the illegal Log wood, Charcoal, and Hides and Skin exporters that as long as they have refused to change, the Team will not relent in going after after them to dispossess them of the prohibited cargo meant for export. That much for the operation unit of the Team.
The ICT, unit, of the Team, which is regarded in maritime circles as the major headache of the fraudulent importers with their agents and their Customs Collaborators at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island and Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML are really making a headway in facilitating the seizure of Consignments which had contravened the government Fiscal policy through False declaration, wrong classification, underpayment and Concealment.
The unit was said to have facilitated the seizures of several Containers load second hand clothing, bags, textiles and other Contraband items, at the Lagos port, in the last ten month, with the DPV, fully paid., Take for instance the seizure of a ‘’20’’ Container load of Batteries which was falsely declared. An eyewitness account who had witnessed the Examination of the Container had said the Batteries were used to Conceal Foreign par boiled, 50Kg each bags of rice. The source had said that the Batteries had occupied only two rolls of the Container while the remaining available space was loaded with foreign rice. The DPV, of the Battery, which is not a Contraband item, was put at about N19.163 million.
Perhaps, one area, the Team ICT, had done exceedingly well in the last one year was in the area of recovery of lost revenue for the government. Take for instance, in the month of November, the Tea, had recovered N333 million for the government. The Customs Coordinator had said that between January and November, 2021, the Team recovered N3.84 billion. He had said that the total amount recovered by the team for the government between October 10, 2021, and November 30, 2021, was a mouth watery N4.2 billion. ‘’This is money that should have entered into private accounts but not for the intervention of the adhoc Team, by blocking all areas of revenue Leakage at the port using its Professional skill on the ICT.
Adebayo Sarumi, a Deputy Comptroller and the two I/C, to the Customs Coordinator, was said to have played a major role to the success of the Team in its operations over the last one year, Described as a master strategist’’ by Team members as he was said to have carried along in the day-to –day running of the Affairs of the Team, to achieve the target set for it by Ali, the Customs Comptroller General.