Customs: Officials Of INNOSON’s Motors Deny Use Of A Lagos Ware House To Stock banned pharmaceutical drugs As CCG Strike Force Seal Premises

By Stephen  Ubanna

 Until   Monday, August 12, 2019, nobody knew that one of the warehouses along the Oshodi –  Apapa Express Way  allegedly belonging  to Innoson’s Motors,  founded  by one  Innoncent Chukwuma, an Nnewi  based  Vehicle manufacturer, in Anambra state, was used for  stockpiling of Tramadol,  Codeine and other unregistered National Agency For Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, drugs  that were said   sold in the  Nigerian markets,  particular in the north.  

The bubble  appear to have  burst when  the  information about the use of the  alleged  Innonson’s warehouse to stockpile the  prohibited tramadol, Codeine and the  other fake Pharmaceutical products filtered out to the ears  of  Usman Yahaya, a former  Deputy Comptroller of Customs  in-charge of Enforcement  , Federal Operations Unit, FOU, and who had Headed  various  anti- smuggling  Patrol teams in the Command in the past but now the  Coordinator of the Comptroller General  CCG,  Strike Force, Team, Zone A, Lagos .

Insiders told The Value News that instead of acting on the information immediately to    to seal up the premises, Yahaya had  detailed  Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs,  and the  Strike Force, Head of Operations and Lagos Roving to ensure that the drugs  did not get out of Lagos. Yahaya , who wants to restore himself back to reckoning as a thorough bred  enforcement officer  did not want to miss  the opportunity.

 For two weeks, Jack   and his Team members were said to kept  the information  a closely guarded secret  to avoid filtering out into the ear of  officials of Innonson’s   Motors that the game is up  which might force the importers  to  evacuate the hard drugs worth billions of naira to another  location.

Hameed Ali: Customs CG

Acting on the information that the  smugglers would  take advantage of the Eid  Kabir Festival period, which falls between Monday, August  12 and Tuesday, August 13, 2019,  to push the drugs into the northern  markets where it was needed mostly by Bandits in the north west and the Insurgents in the North eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, it  strengthened the resolve of the Jack led Team to Strike by keeping vigil on the Lagos-Ibadan road.

Investigation by the Magazine shows that the banned  Tramadol and Codein drugs are in high demand in the north. It was learnt that  Bandits  in the north west  demand  for a carton of Tramadol or Codein as  ransome to free a kidnapped victim in their Custody, an indication that the noth was their major market for the Indian Manufactured  pharmaceutical   drugs dealers who have their agents everywhere in the region.    

When it became  clear  that the smugglers had perfected plan to move from the their Lagos base, Jack , who had served under Comptrollers MUhammed Ubah Garba, in FOU, Zone  C, Owerri, Imo state  and Mohammed Aliyu, in FOU, Zone A, Ikeja,  and knows how such  closely guarded  information  were handled , was said to  have put  his experience  to bear on the Operation  without any mistake.  

Unknown to the smugglers, the CCG’S Strike  Force Team members have been positioned  at Strategic locations  along the Lagos  – Ibadam –Expressway in readiness to intercept the trucks .  The fallout was that  one of the  trucks load of the tramadol, Codein  and other drugs  fell into the waiting hands of the team on the road on Tuesday , August 13, 2019.

It was said to have been seized and was quickly transferred  to the Customs Training School, the Strike Force , Operational base in Lagos. The Truck driver was said to have been promptly arrested and detained  in FOU , Zone facility. The information  allegedly volunteered by  the driver during interrogation, may have given the  CCG Strike Force Team a clue    that the drugs were loaded from  one of the Innonson’s Motors Warehouses along the Oshodi –Apapa Express way.

Armed with the information , Jack was said to have alerted  the Yahaya, the Coordinator  of  the Strike Force   about the  information.  With his support and approval, the Team  was said to have  invaded the warehouse   stocked  with cartons of tramadol , Codein and other unregistered  NAFDAC drugs  in order to evacuate the items.  As at the last count, the team had evacuated  21  trucks load of the  items valued  over  N5 billion  to the  Customs Training School and the Government warehouse in Ikeja. The Valuation may have been done in a hurry as   Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel has  ordered the Valuation experts to  come out with a proper Value for the items.  

The discovery of the Warehouse , which was used to stockpile  Tramadol,  Codein and other NAFDAC unregistered pains illicit drugs may have forced  the Customs Coordinator to mobilise his  senior  Team members   to begin a preliminary investigation ton the warehouse along the Oshodi –Mile two road. Given what was found in the warehouse which confirms the information given by the informant  and the arrested  driver,  the  warehouse was sealed  by  a detachment  of heavily armed  soldiers engaged by the Customs Authorities  to  guard the place from infiltration of  Area boys who may be engaged by the smugglers  to move the items to another location.

Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and the Customs Spokesperson, who was elated by the seizure  made by the CCG , Strike Force, Team, Zone A, Lagos, disclosed that  Ali, the customs Comptroller General, who could not hide his feelings  over the multi-million naira  drug seizure by the Strike Force Team,  has  ordered  a thorough investigation  into it  with a view to bringing  all those connected  with  the drug  found in the warehouse  to Justice.

A Customs  source  had  informed the Magazine  that  officials of Innonson’s  Motors, had claimed ignorance   that the Company’s warehouse along the Oshodi-Mile 2 road was used to stockpile banned Tramadol, Codein  and other NAFDAC , unregistered drugs.

 The question on the lips of most people is: how did the drugs found their way to the warehouse? This is where   the Customs Comptroller General had to invite the immediate past the  present  Comptrollers  of Apapa and Tin-Can Island  Commands  for  questioning.  

 Business watchers believe  that the drugs could not  have fly  into the warehouse  without passing through the seaports, an indications that there must have been a high level Customs Collaboration in the deal which may not have not started today.  Recall that Aliyu , the FOU, Zone  A, Comptroller , at  a recent Workshop , organisied by  the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders , NAGAFF, at the NAGAFF  village, Apapa, had indicted the Area Comptrollers  at the seaports of taking a closer look at what the officers are doing at the Bonded terminals. The  Customs   Comptroller  may have been emboldened to speak out based on the spectacular seizures  that had been made the  Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team in different parts of Lagos.

There is no gainsaying the fact that in  recent months, several  Containers  load of Tramadol had been seized at Apapa port  under the close watch of Abba- Kura, the Area Comptroller. There are fears  in both official and unofficial circles that nothing  would come out of the  Ali, initiated   Investigation  into  the 21 trucks load of drug seizures by The Strike Force in a  Ware House in Lagos..  

Nigerians have every reason to worry. This is because there  had been  cases of such investigations in the past that had to do with arms and  tramadol  importation through Apapa and Tin Can Island ports but Nigerians are still kept in the dark over the outcome of the report.   

 Maritime watchers  believe that  Heads would roll in Customs   if  the Customs Comptroller, could implement the report that may  be submitted to him by the Committee  looking into the  drug saga.  President Muhammadu Buhari, according to insider sources,  was said to have Congratulated and his officers  for  a job well done and  urged them  to continue in that spirit  of working  to rid the society  of illicit drugs.

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