‘’We Are Committed To Trade Facilitation’’- DC. Yusuf, HQTs Strike Force, Coordinator, Team A

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 By Stephen Ubanna

Those who think that with the deployment of Mohammed Yusuf, a Deputy Comptroller to the reconstituted Headquarters Strike Force, Team A, would forestall trade facilitation and anti-smuggling Operations in the south west geopolitical region comprising o fLagos, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo, states would be disappointed.

 This is because the Customs Deputy Comptroller Yusuf and  now Coordinator of the Headquarters Strike Force Team, A, appears to have risen up to the challenge to promote trade facilitation in the region  as he has vowed  never to give a breather to the unrepentant diehard smugglers in the region until they are fully crushed .

Deputy Compt. Yusuf: Coordinator, HQT. strike Force Team A

The Customs Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator, Headquarters trike Force, may have been encouraged by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, mandate to take advantage of the training in trade facilitation and anti-smuggling Operations” to do so.

The Value News learnt that  no sooner than Deputy Comptroller Ahmad Shuaibu,  and former Coordinator of the  Team  A, handed reins of power   to him , on Friday, February 3, 2022, but for his successor to move into action .The duo were said to have held a closed door meeting  where they robbed mind . The meeting was said to have been quickly followed up with the Coordinator holding series of meeting with the senior officers scattered in the adhoc Team two units: Operations and Information and Communication Technology, ICT.

Recall that officials of the ICT, alone, with the support of the then Coordinator of the Team, had made the Fraudulent importers with their agents at the Lagos seaports of Apapa, Tin can -Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kirikiri-Lighter Terminal, phases I&II, to cough out the billions of naira which they had had diverted into their private Accounts by Contravening the government fiscal policy through wrong classification, false declarations, concealment and underpayment.

Much of the revenue that was said to have been recovered by the Headquarters Strike Force Team A, were reportedly made at the Lagos port of Apapa where Comptroller Malanta Yusuf, overseeing the Customs Command, had thrown  his weight on Deputy Comptroller  Babatunde Olomo,  Head of the Enforcement  unit  to block  all areas of revenue leakages that had been exploited by the importers with their agents at the port over the years.

 This may have  informed why Deputy Comptroller Olomo and his officers, tightened up security at the Command terminals and put a close tab at the port exit gate  to ensure that  the  Headquarters Strike Force,  Team  A personnel, did not take ,advantage of the their ICT facility’’ to identify and intercept Containers loaded with  Contraband at the port and issue  Demand Notice, DN, to the importer through the agent at the port, or Deputy Comptroller Kehind Hussain Ejibuno , led Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A,  Lagos Roving Team, personnel to intercept and transfer Containers   released and exited from the port  to their Ikeja premises for  re-examination.

 Indeed, Deputy Comptroller Shuaibu, and his ICT, personnel, were said to have begun to feel the impact of Comptroller Yusuf and the Apapa Command, Enforcement unit personnel actions at the port until he vacated the office , which he had occupied for 13 , months , for Deputy Comptroller, Yusuf , his successor.

 Given what is happening at the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tincan Can, Island, where Comptrollers Yusuf and Adekunle Oloyede, respective have put a close tab on their officers at the terminals to ensure that te right thing is done, a senior Customs officer, who spoke to the Magazine disclosed that the Customs Deputy Comptroller, particular, and his ICT, personnel, may have to work harder to broke every roadblock a  that have been mounted by the Customs Comptrollers.

   The source confirmed that that the Apapa Command Enforcement officers are actually working as they have continued to make seizures of ‘’20’’ and’’40’’ Containers, loaded with Contraband goods and prohibited Pharmaceutical products, mostly from the Asian countries of China and India at the premier port.  These are Containers load of Contraband goods and Pharmaceutical products which could have fallen into the waiting hands  the Headquarters Strike Force, Team A, ICT, gurus in the past.

   This may have encouraged Deputy Comptroller Yusuf and his  ICT  officers to go back to the drawing board  to restrategise in order to Compliment the efforts of the Lost ports and Land border  Command Officers to ensure that the N2.2 trillion 2022, revenue target , which was increased to N4.1 trillion , by the Customs Management  was achieved.

  An insider confirmed that the Headquarters Strike Force, Team A, ICT personnel are actually  working as they were said to have forced the Lagos ports Customs Commands, Valuation and Releasing officers  to sit up.  Deputy Comptroller Yusuf, who could beat his chest that the unit ICT officers are working was said to have kept a closely guided secret the amount of lost revenue that had been recovered for the government since he took over effective control of the Team A, from Deputy Comptroller Shuaibu. Between February 1, 2022 and February 10, 2022, the Shuaibu’s Team, had N127 million.

 But a source disclosed that Deputy Comptroller Yusuf will surprise Nigerians at the end of the month of February, 2022, when he sends report of the Team A performance, to Ali, the Comptroller General. This, the source had said  will be made possible because Deputy Comptroller Yusuf  has continued  to make use of the  samegroup  informants and structure used by his predecessor to monitor  what is happening at the Lagos seaports, and the land border areas in the south west region.  

Agents whose clients Containers have been intercepted and transferred to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, IKLT, for re-examination  over alleged trade infractions , may have seen that the Customs Deputy Comptroller  is not out to frustrate their business  but to facilitate trade.

He may have demonstrated this by not agents or visitors waiting to see him either at the Customs Training College, Ikeja , office  or the Apapa annex  office  as he treats their case with dispatch. ‘’We are here to facilitate trade’’, he assured them.

The message was clear to the Lagos based fraudulent importers with their agents that they will find it difficult to penetrate the ranks of the Deputy Yusuf’s men at the ports.

 With the unannounced impressive performance of the ICT Unit, in the 10 days of Deputy Comptroller Yusuf and his Team members,Nigerians are watching to see the performance of the Operation unit. Under Deputy Comptroller Shuaibu, the Team Operation Unit had made spectacular seizures which was to have made the FOU, Zone A, Lagos Roving Team members and other Patrol Team Leaders  in different parts of the sout west west, particular, Ogun and Oyo states, where there are too many illegal routes used by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities  of smuggling foreign rice  and vehicles to leave up to expectation.

 Although, the Headquarters Strike Force, Team A, Operations unit are yet to make any specular seizures that will call for celebrations like the Shuaibu’s Team, which had started with the  seizure of billions naira worth of Pangolin Scales and Elephant Tusks and ended with another  spectacular seizures of  N3.2 billion worth of the Pangolin Scales and Elephant Tusks but maritime anaalysts are optimistic that the unit would deliver on their mandate. President Muhammadu Buhri, a retired Army General, may have given the Customs Interventionist Units the ammunition to do their job with the ban on the importation of foreign parboiled from the Asian country of Thailand and Agricultural rice from India including fairly used vehicles from the land border routes on January 1, 2017.

Notwithanding the fact that the ban is still in force, that have not stopped the Nigerian and Lebanese importers, using the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou, Bollore port, the two major ports in Benin Republic and other ports in the West African sub-region from bringing such goods which are Contraband in Nigeria into the country, thus giving the Customs Interventionists Unit personnel much job to do: Making Contraband seizures on a daily basis.  

. Given Deputy Comptroller Yusuf’s antecedents, many believe that the fraudulent importers with their agents at the Lagos seaports including the unrepentant cross-border smugglers described as economic saboteurs, in Customs circles, will  have no hiding place.     

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