By Stephen Ubanna
Barely one month after the new Coordinators and their team members took effective control of their respective Zonal Comands, Importers with their Agents including members of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, are no longer finding it funny with the Usman Yahaya led CGC, team, in the Lagos Zonal Command. They claimed that nothing appears to have changed in the operations of the Strike Force team in the south west as they are enveloped in compromise.
Agents who spoke To The Vale News disclosed that the members of the Zonal Command, under the close watch Yahaya, a former Deputy Comptroller, Enforcement, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, has deviated from the mandate of the Customs Comptroller General to help facilitate trade but have turned out to be a stumbling block in the clearing process at the seaports because of their pecuniary gains.
Investigation by The Values shows that nothing appears to be working at the Lagos Zonal Command as the team members are enveloped in compromise . More worrisome was the fact that the team members on patrol were said to have devised a clinical way of forcing the agents to pay certain amount of money on each Container allegedly leaving the port to avoid disturbance on the road.
An aggrieved agent lamented that they pay unreceipted amount of money to get their Container repositioned for examination by the Strike Force team members even after it had been released from the seaport. It was learnt that both the ”20” and ”40”Containers have their fixed charges.
Eyewitness account said the Ikja office of the Strike Force , where Yahaya the Zonal Coordinator, stays most of the time to do his job instead of the Way House, road, Apapa, has turned out to be a market place as agents troop in and out to see the Coordinator over one complaint or the other. Agents who had succeeded in seeing had had complained that that it had never been as bad compared to when, Abdullahi Kerewa, a Deputy Comptroller , was the National Coordinator. There are fears that the government may lose billions of naira in the south west going by the attitude of the Yahaya led team towards money.
Sources told The Value News that some of the Containers that had been examined by the team and allowed to go had been intercepted by the FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving, headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, patrol team along the Oshodi-papa Express Way over suspected infraction and transferred to the Command premises.
In many instances the suspicion of infraction by the FOU, Operations and Lagos Roving,, over patrol team, members , had been found to be correct , after examination, fueling suspicion that the Strike Force team members have stained their hand.
Maritime watchers believe that Yahaya and his team members may have gone out of their way to do the unexpected because they may be under pressure by those who made it possible for them to serve in the ad-hoc team . They noted that the situation may have been made worse by Ali, the Customs Comptroller Genearl, who had empowered the Strike Force team to ”intervene right in the port and make seizures where necessary without hindrance by the Area Comptroller.
This is evident going by circular that was released by Augustine Chidi, a Deputy Comptroller General, DCG, Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation, on April 25, 2019, titled ”100 percent examination of cargo at the seaports, which was said to have been copied to the Area Comptrollers and the Comptrollers of FOUs across the country , Controller Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, and then National Coordinator of the Strike Force, Kerewa.
The circular, had directed the Area Comptrollers, to respond at all time to the Strike Force intervention alerts or be held responsible for non complianci , which may have entered into the head in the Lagos Zonal Command.
A senior officer who spoke to the Magazine disclosed that they had expected Yahaya to mobilise his officers to make spectacular seizures at the seaport, given all the necessary support from the CGC, and their privilege to participate in the examination of Containerised cargoes at the port but nothing is happening.
The officer noted that the Customs Mechanical Workshop, turned Government Ware House, used by the FOU, Zone A, to detain and keep seized smuggled vehicles and Containers , which also had a fair share of Containerised Ontainers intercepted and seized by the Lagos Zonal Command Strike Force , under the then Zonal Commander, Salisu Shuaibu,, an Assistant Comptroller, was disappeared. Note that Salisu, was always inviting Kerewa, the National Cordinator to showcase the seizures of Containers load of rohibited drugs, second hand clothing and other items Conncealed including thousands of ”50” Kg bags of foreign parboiled rice seized , particular in Ogun state porous Borders to Compliment the effort of the FO, Zone A, patrol teams.
It is not surprising why Agents have described the Yahaya led Strike Force in Lagos Zonal Comand as a Strike deal Zonal Command. They noted that since it has become obvious that the team cannot make any appreciable impact at the seaports because of the strong presence of Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu, of FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving team officers on the road, the CGC, Strike Force team, in Zone A, may have to channel their energy ito anti-smuggling operations in Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and Osun, the six states in the south west where smuggling of vehicles and foreign parboiled rice , have reached a grave dimension, particular in Ogun and Oyo states which share boundaries with many Communities in Republic of Benin.
Take for instance, Ogun, which , going by Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, records has 84 unapproved routes , should challenge Yahaya Zonal Commander to go all out for the smugglers instead of running after Containers that they would never find anything wrong on the road. Note that the Lagos
The FOU ,Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving as well as the Strike Force, Headed by one Ahmed, a Superintendent of Customs with the support of Superintendent Ajao is in -charge of the Command’s Information Patrol team are making spectacular seizures of vehicles and foreign rice, from smugglers in the bush of Ogun and Oyo states.
Only recently, the Riks led Operations and Lagos Roving were said to have made some exotic vehicle seizures including a bullet proof of 2 the Strike Force team made over 700 ”50” Kg bags of foreign parboiled rice in the last one month.
Anlysts had expected the Lagos Command CGC Strike Force, to live up their billing by ensuring that cargoes which escape the eagle eyes of the FOU, Zone A, patrol teams were arrested to restore their image which is at its lowest ebb at present. Kerewa, according to Agents had set a standard in anti-smuggling operations which had been sustained by the Strike Force Coordinators in Zone B and Zone C, who are said to be are said to be making seizures of foreign parboiled rice and vehicles in their restive jurisdictions.
In the south east and south-south, particular, Adamu, .D. , a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator of the Strike Force, Zone C, may have reaalised that the CGC , Zone C, Strike Force team members , cannot compete with Fou, Zone C, officers, and his team members have taken over the two regions including the notorious Ikom and Bakasi axis in Cross River state that it has become very difficult for the foreign rice smugglers to have their way.
The Onne seaport Customs officer may have known that there is trouble ahead as Adamu could not spare anyone of them caught as they are doing that which they were supposed to do : Complimenting the efforts of the FOU, Zone Ac, officers, who are doing a good job in the regions by clipping the wings of the smugglers and keeping a close watch on the Agents at the seaports.
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