Customs: Compromise Rocks CGC, Strike Force, Lagos Zonal Command

By Stephen Ubanna

 When Hameed Ali , a retired Army Colonel, and Comptroller  General, CGC, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, decentralised the  CGC, Strike Force, was and appointed three Deputy Comptrollers  to become Coordinators in each of the Zonal Commands, he was optimistic, that sanity will return to the clearing process at the seaports and anti-smuggling operations taken to a new height..  He got it wrong.

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.

Usman Yahaya: DC. And Coordinator, CGC, Lagos 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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