Special Report: Oyo/Osun Command Embarks On Aggressive Revenue, Anti-smuggling Drive

By Stephen Ubanna

 In spite of the down turn in the economy orchestrated by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who incidentally was a former governor of Lagos state, who had removed the subsidy enjoyed by Nigerians on Premium Motor Spirit, popular petrol and the unification of the Autonomous and Parallel or Black Market Foreign Exchange rate on assumption of office on May 29, 2023, Compt. Ben Nkem Oramalugo, , Area Controller , Oyo /Osun Command  remains undaunted.

 The Customs Comptroller who appears determined to turn the fortunes of the Command around for the remaining months of 2024,   was said to have embarked on an aggressive revenue and anti-smuggling drive.

Compt. Oramalugo, who had just returned from the prestigious North American country of the United States of America, USA, Havard University where he had attended a Leadership training Course that was said  have been approved by Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, MFR, has left no one in doubt that given the knowledge acquired from the  Havard University in Managing both human and material resources, hopes of the Command meeting and surpassing the N141,682,012,396.84 billion  revenue target  set for the Command remains very bright.

He has his reason for being optimistic that the Command would still meet the Headquarters’ 2024 revenue target because much of its revenue is generated from the Breweries, Tobacco and Excise Factories. The Oyo/Osun Customs helmsman was said to have told those that cares to listen that the revenue collected in the first five months may not be too encouraging, blaming it on the sluggish market at the beginning of the year as the Companies redraw their marketing plans.

Given an insider information, the Oyo/Osun Command, Area Controller, who had repeatedly said at the June 13, 2024,   press briefing at the Command Headquarters  in  Ibadan, Capital of Oyo state, that  ‘’despite  the economic headwinds encountered  in most  parts of the second quarter  of this  2024, Fiscal year’’,  the Command had generated and paid into the Federation  account N6,335,842,600.28, for the month of May alone’’.

Cumulatively,  he had said  that between  January  and May, 2024,  the Command  had generated and paid into the Federation account, N30, 664,24,939.15,  believed to be 5.2%,  more than the sum of N29,154,853,722.73, collected from the Breweries , Tobacco and other Excise Factories in the two southern states within the same period in 203.

Many believe that the Command revenue generation, expected to be collected and paid into the Federation account between now and December 31, 2024, is bound to increase exponentially because of the search for more excise Factories in the state. The Customs Comptroller could not understand why in a populous state like Oyo, particular, there are no excisable Companies linked to the Ibo investors producing alcohol in the state.  

This may have informed why the Command have stepped up their search’’ to discover more excise factories that will pay their excise duties in the state. The initial search of the Command to locate more of such excise Companies in Oyo state, was said to have yielded fruit.

The no nonsense Customs Comptroller, who according to an insider is doing everything within his powers to motivate the officers who had excelled   in the discharge of their duties through issuance of Commendation letter and giving out cash awards to the deserving officers may have led to the discovering of two new excise factories in the old Western Nigeria, Capital city of Ibadan.   

Another reason, which many believe would further boost the revenue generation of the Command in the coming months was the blockage of areas of revenue leakage and its current efforts to educate various stakeholders   within its areas of jurisdictions in Oyo /Osun states on ’’ the importance of adhering to the service trade regulations’’ which was said to have paid off in recent months.  This is evident going by ’’ the significant reduction in cases of under-declarations, under-payments and Concealment that had been recorded in the Command in the last three months.  

Industry stakeholders, on their parts believe that  what had boosted the revenue generation of the Oyo/Osun Command in the recent months was ‘’the introduction of advanced technology  solutions’’, such as  the NCS, , Modernization Project, which was said ‘’to have streamlined  its processes  of documentations  and enhance transparency in its revenue collection capabilities’’.

Only recently, the Customs Comptroller General had led a team to the Asian country of China, city of Shenshen, Headquarters of Huwei +Technology, described as a famous   information and communications technology company, where the team were said to have discussed opportunities embedded   in the NCS, , multi-billion dollar, Trade Modernization Project.

Recall that the NCS Authorities , had  during  the Huwei  Connect  2023, held in Shenshen, China,  in October 2023, had expressed its readiness  ‘’to employ  some of the company’s  latest products  for use  in its Trade Modernisation Project.  Indeed, the company leadership may have cued into the CGC’s advice to sustain their ditization service to the Nigeria Customs going by the intensified efforts to do so.

As a prelude to ensuring the full digitalization of the NCS, operations, in order to boost the Commands’ revenue generations, Huwei Technologies  , according too reports making the rounds was said to  announced plans  to incentivize its partners,  the NCS,  with a substantial investment  of $15 million annually.  

The move, a source had told The Value News  was  part of the Chinese technological firm moves  ‘’to strengthen  its relationships  with the NCS and to explore  how  to enhance  the partnership with the Huwei’’  ecosystem, that would enable  NCS, ‘’to create greater value  through  digitization  and bringing the digital world  within reach’’.

At the most  recent  Huwei Connect 2024,  held I Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center, the two parties  were said to have discussed the  ‘’ICT trends, industry advancements  and the technological Company  latest strides  towards ensuring  a fully  connected, intelligent  world’’. 

Sacks of Cannabis Sativa seizures by Oyo/Osun Command

We turn to the Command, anti-smuggling operations. Many believe that with the digitalization of the Command, it will further  boost its anti-smuggling operations as information  could easily be gathered about the activities of the smugglers and their locations and passed on to the patrol and checkpoint office to lay ambush for the.  

 An Agent who spoke to the Value News online Magazine disclosed that even without using the Huwei Technology in equipping the Interventionist and Revenue Commands based on the working agreement with the Customs Headquarters, the Oyo/Osun Command had achieved much in the area of anti-smuggling operations, notwithstanding the blackmail and petitions from the balk legs within the system who are determined to sabotage Compt. Oramalugo and his team.

The source had  informed The online online Magazine that instead of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, officers deployed to the  two south western states to carry out their anti-smuggling operations  by complementing the efforts of the Oyo/Osun Command  officers efforts to ensure that no Contraband or drugs enters into the Nigerian market from the neighbouring  Benin Republic through the saki or Iseyin axis and other inappropriate routes, the FOU, zone A, officers , were said to have been competing with the officers  and even making  things difficult  for the Command to do their job by blocking everywhere to forestall economic activities.

The source, had said that any little opportunity Compt. Oramlugo and his officers have had to strike, they have not missed their target. There are indications that the Command various patrol Teams who had refused to be intimidated by the size of the FOU, zone A, patrol teams which are scattered all over the nooks and crannies of Oyo and Osun states border routes with Benin Republic, the Command anti-smuggling  officers have continued to make substantial contraband and drug seizures.

An elated Compt. Oramalugo, who could not hide his feelings had said that the Command has maintained ‘’a robust anti-smuggling operations within its areas of jurisdiction’’.  He had volunteered information that despite   the hardships in the country that had exacerbated the anti-smuggling tendencies of the Command, officers deployed to strategic locations in the two south western states of have  remained ‘’vigilant and proactive’’  have in intercepting and seizure of illicit goods, drugs and apprehending the perpetrators  caught in the act.

According to the Oyo/Osun Customs boss, who was said to have been given ‘’a performance award’’ by Mohammed Buhammed Marwa, a Brig. General, rd, and former Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, during Olusegun Obasanjo’s Administration, for his drug war efforts in Kebbi state, described as a home of drug barons in the north when he was the Area Controller of Kebbi Command, may have emboldened him to go all out after the VIP, drug smugglers in Oyo and Osun states.

He had confirmed that in the months of April, May and some parts of June, the Command patrol team officers and the Surveillance officers at the various checkpoints which had carried out numerous successful  operations could beat their chest that they have given the smugglers’ a run for their money’’.   

He had said that the  Command various anti-smuggling operations carried out by the patrol team officers,  had resulted  in the interceptions and seizure of 391 Kg. of Cannabis SatiVa, grown and smuggled into the Nigerian market from the West African country of Ghana, with a Duty Paid Value of N15,814,600.00.

 He hd aid that the Command had also intercepted and seized 600 bags of the the Asian countries of Thailand ad Indian parboiled rice, of 50Kg each, valued at about, N50.3 million, 123 pieces of used tyres, worth about N16million, and  one used  Mercedes truck, which has a DPV, of N30 million  and one Nissan Caravan, worth  N12,590,100.00.

This is in addition to the interception and seizure of  274 kegs of 25 litres each , valued N5,521,500.00 which would have been smuggled to Benin Republic market for sales to make profit  both not for the vigilance of the officers. The total amount of the DPV, of the seized items was put at about N130 million in the five months under review.

The Oyo/Osun Command, Customs Comptroller had said that it could not have achieved that much within five months, without the support of the Customs Comptroller General, who as a career officer, understands their challenges and has provided them with the necessary operational vehicles that could enter into muddy areas in pursuit of the smugglers, who often abandon their smuggled goods on sighting his officers and jump into the bush to escape arrest.  , this may have made it possible for his officers to evacuate abandoned  Contraband left by the smugglers  with little or no resistance to the Government warehouse in Ibadan for safe keeping.

Compt. Oramalugo, hands over seized drug to NDLEA

Given the synergy between the Customs Command and other security agencies in the south western states, may have informed, why Compt. Oramalogu, had handed over the seized Cannabis Sativa to the Leadership of Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, in Oyo state on Thursday, June 14, 2024, after the signing of the relevant documents to ensure further investigations and destruction of the items. It was gathered that fake drugs that had been intercepted and seized at various times by the Command had been handed over to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, Authorities in Oyo state, for further analysis.

Appealing to the traders to ensure that they do the right thing to avoid playing into the hands of Customs anti-smuggling personnel, Compt. Oramalugo, was said to have told the industry stakeholders that there was no cause for genuine traders to panic.

He had said that their commitment ‘’to duty and professionalism to fulfilling its mandate’’ under the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, 2023, remains unshaken. ‘’ We will continue to adapt and innovate, ensuring that the Command operations remain effective in the face of revolving challenges’’, he had said.    

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