Customs: Searchlight On Diplomatic Vehicles And Transnational Transporters As Tin-Can Make Drugs Seizure

By Nwangwu  Uba

It is no longer business as usual for alleged  Nigeria Diplomatic workers or transnational transporters to hoodwink  Customs personnel at the’ land Borders to enter into the country with smuggled vehicles. Note that over the years Customs  anti-smuggling officers  at the land Borders including Seme-Krake joint Border, regarded as the busiest International Border in Africa,  over the years, has also been used by theses Diplomatic workers to cross vehicles for their sponsors.  The situation became worse with the ban on the importation of vehicles through the land Border by President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, to increase patronage of Nigerian ports by vehicle importers and also to encourage Nigerians to patronise  the country’s car dealers as a way of boosting the economy on January 1, 2017..

Muhammed Uba garba: Comptroller, Seme Command

Investigation by The Value News shows that many of these Diplomatic workers, particular drivers, use their connection and privileged status to cross such vehicles for their sponsors at the nation’s land Borders. The officers eye at  the Seme-Krake joint Border  may have been opened  to the diplomatic  tricks  when one of such alleged smuggled exotic vehicle, a Renault , 2017, model , red in colour  was intercepted at the joint Border and transferred to the Command warehouse for proper examination.

  Trouble may have started for the alleged Diplomatic worker when his exotic Renault Megane, 2017, model, red in colour  bearing  a Diplomatic number, ”Corps Diplomatique 138CD 19, when he was stopped and asked to produce the relevant documents relating to the vehicle to show that that it was a Diplomatic vehicle. 

 The Customs personnel t the Joint Border may have suspected that it was a smuggled vehicle with the old Nigerian plate number  concurrently found in the vehicle. The alleged diplomatic worker may have tried to prove to the Customs officers  that stopped him that he  owner of the intercepted  was a highly  former  top Inspector General of police, IGP, when he handed over  a document containing some phone numbers and asked them to call any of them for discussion  on the issue of the vehicle.  

He was optimistic that once the officers  who had denied entry into the country could agree to make the call, he would be allowed to proceed with the journey.  He got it wrong.  Mohammed Uba Garba, Comptroller told the Value News that there is a procedure at the Border  over transnational vehicles at the Border.  The Customs  Comptroller disclosed  that  no driver , whether a diplomatic worker dare come to  a Border between  two countries without being  stopped and interviewed to confirm ownership and origin of the vehicle.

The alleged smuggler  was said to have been asked to produce   the documents  that granted him the privilege  to use the diplomatic vehicle but could not do it . He was said to have repeatedly  pleaded the officers to call  the phone of the person in the document given  them  for talks on the vehicle. The  alleged diplomatic worker  may have been under instruction from the sponsor to hand over the document containing his phone numbers if denied entry into the country by security operatives, particular Customs personnel at the Border.

The officers may not have obliged  him request because it  was not part of the mandate to make calls oN behalf of suspects. ”It is not our work as Customs officers  to call people’s numbers, because a suspect has mentioned a  ”big man’s name” linked to a smuggled vehicle. The mandate of the NCS, is to” facilitate trade”.

Musa Abudullahi: Giving Tramadol Importers tough Times

He noted that smugglers of exotic vehicles through the land Borders are coming up with new innovations daily to beat Customs personnel to it at the Border.  The Customs Comptroller told The Value News that the interception of the suspected diplomatic vehicle  and the driver was not unexpected. ”We have always anticipated  the likelihood  of smuggling activities  at the Seme-Krake joint Border and its environs and we have also devised new strategies to scuttle their nefarious activities”, he had said. Iwas not surprising why his well trained officers stationed at the Border  to oversee vehicular  movement and human traffic  could critically look at vehicles  and tell  the integrity of the situation because he has been doing the job for years based on common intelligence.  The  arrest of the suspect may have exposed the rot at  Nigeria  West Coast Embassies   whose drivers fall into the waiting hands of VIP  vehicle smugglers to cross vehicles for them.

Going by the United  Nations  Vienna Convention 1961, an International treaty  which defines   a framework for diplomatic relations, Immunity is bestowed on diplomats. But this privilege appear to have been abused over the years.  Investigation shows  how some of these diplomatic workers, particular drivers , abuse  these privileges by  engaging in smuggling of vehicles.

Simultaneously, transporters in the west coast have also in the act at the Border post. This is more pronounced in Idiroko  axis,  Ogun state,  but the Federal Operations Unit,  FOU, Zone A,Operations and Lagos Roving team   headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs  and Command Strike force , headed by   one Superintendent Ahmed, who is holding firmly to the jungle in Ogungles in  Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Lagos, Oyo and Osun, the six states in south west geo-political Zone,  have made it difficult for these transporters to to have their way in smuggling vehicles from Republic of Benin, Togo or Ghana into Nigeria in the guise of being transnational transporters. Making the job of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team including the Strike Force easy to do is one Supretendent Ajao, who is in charge of the information patrol team. The team was said to have given out reasonable information to the other teams which had facilitated the interception of several contrabands including vehicles. It had also saved lives in other teams.

Recall that in the last couple of months the FOU teams have intercepted several exotic vehicles, laced with Nigerian plate numbers along the road which were transferred to the Command for further investigation. Most of those vehicles were said to have been detained and some seized without the option of payment of duty at the instance of Mohammed Aliyu, the Command Comptroller.

While  Seme Command and the FOU, Zone A, anti-smuggling officers are discovering new tricks of vehicle smugglers across the Border daily, the seaport s,  Enforcement officers, particular, Tincan Island  , are taking chances to forestal the activities of tramadol importers , who have refused to be compliant  to the  government fiscal policies.

In spite of the continued seizure of Containerised load of tramadol drugs, both ”20” and ”40”,allegedly shipped from India to Nigeria  through the busy Tincan Island port, the importers have sustained the importation , fueling speculation that there may be someone that is beating the drum for the in security circles.

Unconfirmed revealed  that the  Command during  examination  on Tuesday,  March 26, 2019,  uncovered a  and seized a Container load of tramadol at the port.  Effort to speak to Musa Abdullahi, the Area Comptroller, about the tramodol seizure proved abortive.  It was learnt that  Dera  Nnadi, a Deputy Comptroller and the Command no nonsense Enforcement officer and  Mahmud  Ibrahim, and Head of the Command Compliance Unit, regarded as a ” revenue mobiliser” in Customs circles have been very instrumental  in scuttling the activities of these non compliant importers at the port. 

Those who could not cope with his insistence that the government fiscal policies must be strictly complied with were said to have relocated to Apapa, the nation’s premier port, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal , KLT, phases 1 and 2, to transact their illegal business.  The fallout was the delay in taking deliveries of cargoes at the port.  At present work may be going at a slow pace at the Command because of the arrival of the ad-hoc team, which had been going round the Commands  to oversee the what is going on at the seaports and land Border Areas including the FOUs.  What made pap case unique was the agents had  the Deputy Comptroller Buhari, led Task Force, as coming to take food away from their mouth, an indication of the rot at the port.

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