By Nwangwu Uba
When Mohammed Uba Garba, former Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, swapped positions with Mohammed Aliyu, his counterpart at Seme Command last August, Importers with their agents and Cross -Border smugglers heaved a sigh of relief. They were happy that their traducer, Garba, have been taken away to a smaller Command . They got it wrong.
Unknown to them, the ex-while FOU, Zone A, customs boss, had set up a structure which could not be ignored by any fraudulent importer with their agents or smugglers. It was these structures that was said to have been inherited and strengthened to be more effective in their anti-smuggling operations in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo states including the seaports.
Aliyu was said to have sustained the good work by his predecessor in the Command as vehicles and Contraband seizures made by the Command including lost recovered for the government between August and December alone speaks volume. Much of the vehicle seizures made by the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs were said to have been made at the Border Communities in Ogun state. This is evident going by the red earth that was found on some of the intercepted vehicles which was transferred to the Command premises at Ikeja by the team and others patrolling Oyo, Osun , Ekiti and Ondo states.
A document made available to The Value News shows the Command intercepted 220 Units of vehicle with a Duty Paid Value of N6.404 billion, 739 of 50 Kg bags of foreign parboiled rice smuggled into the country from Republic of Benin. Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had banned the importation of rice through the land Border on January 1, 2017. The ban may have encouraged Customs Comptrollers who had been deployed to the Command including Aliyu to intensify Surveillance of the Border areas in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Ekiti states in particular.
Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel was also said to thrown his weight behind past and present Comptrollers, of the Command to do their job by giving them the working tools. Giving an insider information, Jerry Ata, an Assistant Comptroller and the Command Spokesman disclosed that there were other spectacular seizures that were made by the Command patrol teams between January and December 2018. Among them are 18 X20 ft Containers of unprocessed wood. The Containers were said to have been intercepted on the road heading to Apapa and Tin can Island port for shipment to China. The seizure was a big blow to the timber dealers who have their Customs Collaborators at the ports. This is in addition to a 40ft Container of scrap metal, Pharmaceutical and medicaments, textile Fabrics and articles thereof.
A breakdown of the textile Fabrics and the articles thereof shows that 7,375 bales of used clothing, 652 bales of new lace materials, 17 bundles of brocade, 131 jumbo bales jeans materials, 120 sacks used tie and 18 used bags were seized from smugglers.
The list of the General Merchandise goods that was said to have been seized by the Command within the period include Beverages and Confectionaries, Electronics/parts thereof, Fridges/Compressor/AC, vegeable oil, tyres, sugar, machinery/mechanical and footwear.
Perhaps, one seizure which may have touched Ibrahim Jibrin, the minister of Environment that he visited the Command, accompanied by some, last April , when Garba , was still the Comptroller , was Pangolin Shells and Elephant Tusks. The Combination of the Shells and Elephant Tusks that was said to have been made by Garba and Aliyu at different intervals in the Command was 498 sacks of Pangolin,and 224 pieces of Elephant Tusks. Also, 12,119 cartons of Poultry Products, 5,956 parcels and 195 sacks of 16,459 Kg of Narcotics, India Hemp and Hard drugs were said to have been intercepted by the Command within the period under review.
Given DPV of the seized items within the year under review, Aliyu disclosed that it amounts to N23.7 billion. This is in addition to about N694 million lost revenue that was said to have been recovered for the government, thus bringing the total revenue generated by the Command for the government at about N24. 4 billion last year. Much of the recovered was said to have been made under Garba as Comptroller of the Command.
The amount was said to have been raised from demand notices, DN, on goods intercepted while attempting to beat the system through transfer of value and under declaration.
In spite of the seizures made by the Command, the question on the lips of most people was: Could the seizures have been made without any arrest or prosecution of suspects. Aliyu who believes that there is no hiding place for smugglers and fraudulent importers disclosed that that 189 suspects were arrested and detained. Most them were said to have been released on bail while some were said have been docked but no judgment obtained.