By Stephen Ubanna
Officers and men of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, under the close watch of Olusemire Kayode overseeing the south and sout-south geo-political regions ,appeaar to have taken advantage of the activities of the Border Drills comprising of the Customs, Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, and other various security agencies including the Department of State Security, DSS, and the Comptroller General of Customs, popular, CGC, Strike Force, have restrategised in their anti-smuggling efforts.
This is yielding results going by the seizures that had been made by the Command Patrol teams operating in the different states of the two regions, particular, Edo , Cross river and Rivers state. The Container seizures made by the Command gives an insider information that releasing officers at the seaports, Connive and aid dubious importers with their agents for their pecuniary gains.
Many believe that the Command Operations Unit, Headed by Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs who has the support of Olusimere, the Area Comptroller, never gives a breather to the patrol Team leaders as he was said to have put a close watch on them to ensure they do the right thing and make seizures.
The Containers seizure made by the Command speaks volume. An elated Olusimere, the Area Comptroller, had confirmed that the Command intercepted three Containers load of cargoes made up of two ‘’40’’ Containers and a ‘’20’’ Container . One of the suspected Containers, which was a ‘’40’’, which was said to have been intercepted on the road was transferred to the Government Warehouse, Owerri for examination.
The Comptroller disclosed that after examination , it was found to have contained 612 chairs. The Customs Comptroller noted that there was no basis for his men to have intercepted the Container which document had been signed by officials of the various agencies that participated in the examination of the cargo at the port stressing that furniture is a dutiable item. According to him ,the importer falsely declared furniture as ‘’pumps and ales’’ in order to evade payment of appropriate duty.
Going by the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap, 2004, the Comptroller disclosed that the importer has contravened section 161 of the Law, and therefore liable to be punished. Giving that the Consignment is dutiable, maritime watchers believe that it is at the discretion of the Area Comptroller to issue a Demand Notice, DN, which may run into millions of naira to the importer or seize it. This is where the importer who may have been deceived by the agent that he could get the Consignment out from the port by using his contacts in Customs may have to go go into serious prayers for divine intervention to avoid the Containerised cargo worth millions of naira from being seized by Customs.
Another ‘’40’’ Container, intercepted by the Command , was said to have been loaded with second Handing clothing allegedly imported from China. Note that the government had prohibited the importation of such used clothing into the country, because of its adverse effects , an indication that the Consignment was as good as having been lost to government. The worry in the mind of many was that importers who should know much better should dare the Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General of Customs Patrol Teams on the road.
Security watchers believe that the importer’s agent may have succeeded in taking the banned Consignment out of the port but could not get it to the importer’s warehouse as it was stopped on the road by an FOU , Zone C Team. This is exactly what had happened to the Containerised load of secondhand clothing released from the port. The report of the examination officers show that 521 bales of used clothing was concealed in the Container loaded with other dutiable goods in order to evade detection.
The third Container that was said to have fallen into the waiting hands of Olusemire’s men at Akpajo along the Port-Harcourt -Owerri road was a ‘’20’’ Container loaded with dutiable items but Analgin, a banned drugs wasalso concealed in it.. I t was said to have contained 1,182 cartons of analgin injections, 100 ompoules of ml 100×18 pieces totaling 180,000 ompoules .
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, on the orders of Olusegun Obasanjo, a former President had banned the drug from being imported into the since 2005 because of its ‘’severe adverse effects’’.
Medical experts had described the Analgin drug as being worse than Tramadol because there are no approved dosages that could be taken with its severe effects. They noted that tramadol, which was also a banned drug has approved dosages that could be taken by anyone . The question on the lips of most people was: how did these Containers exit the port without the knowledge of the Customs officer at the gate of the particular seaport linked with the cargo? This is where Comptroller Olusemire , may have to take up the matter with his counterparts at Port Harcourt Area I, Onne, Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Ports to forestall the dirty deals going on at the ports between agents and officers at their Commands.
Insiders informed the Magazine that last year, the FOU Zone C , Comptroller, had taken up a case of a Container released from one of the Lagos ports which fell into the waiting hands of his men within the Edo and Ondo states axis.
Many believe that the FOU, Zone C officials are doing may not be much different from what Aliyu Mohammed, Comptroller FOU, Zone A,’s Operations and Lagos Roving Team ,Headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, CSC, are doing in Lagos. Virtually on a daily basis, suspected ‘’20’’ and ‘’40’’ Containers have been intercepted and transferred to the Government Warehouse , ikeja, for proper examination. The guilty importers who were said to have been profiled to know their import history by officials of the Unit, were said to have slammed DN, running into millions of naira. Investigation by The Value News shows that the Command had recovered millions of lost revenue for the g government through such issuance of DN.
While giving fraudulent importers who may have succeeded in taking delivery of their cargoes out of the ports either at Port Harcourt, Calabar , Warri or Lagos, smugglers who had tried to bring in prohibited cargoes, particular, foreign parboiled rice, through unapproved routes in the south east or south-south geopolitical regions would never forget their experience in a hurry. Even smugglers who had succeeded in beating the Border Drills, CGC, Lagos Zonal Strike Force, and the FOU, Zone A, officers on the road to enter the FOU , Zone C, jurisdiction, were said to have been unlucky to fall into the waiting hands of Olusemire’s men on the road.
Giving an insider information, the FOU, Zone C, helmsman , disclosed that the Command also impounded 1,920, ‘’50’’ bags of foreign parboiled rice. This is a major achievement by the Command Operation officers considering the fact that the Border Drills, were at every nooks and crannies of the south east and south-south to ensure that foreign par boiled rice, particicular, did not enter the country. The Command was said to have made six arrests over the seizures but, who were said to have been granted Administrative bails.
Indeed,not many had expected the Command anti-smuggling officers to make seizures with the Border Drills or the CGC Strike Force who are better equipped with working operational tools and patrol vehicles stationed all over the smuggler’s routes in the two regions, which shares boundaries with the south west geo-political region and the Central African country of Cameroon through the sea.
In a related development , Seme Command under the Close watch of Muhammed Uba Garba, who was a one-time Comptroller of FOU, Zone C, where he made spectacular seizures of Tramadol, for the first time in Customs history, was said to have mobilised his patrol Teams to effectively block the identified the major smugglers routes within the Seme, Owode , Ashipa and Badagry axis including the Creeks .
The fallout was that smugglers, particular, the foreign parboiled rice smugglers , have resorted to hiding the item in the bush within the border
A visitor to the Seme Government warehouse confirmed that it has been filled with thousands of ‘’50’’ bags of rice, valued at millions of naira, intercepted from smugglers in the bush and the Creeks. The Seme Customs Comptroller was said to have made it clear to smugglers operating within the Seme Axis that there is no hiding place for them, noting that they are ever prepared to take the anti-smuggling to their hideout anywhere within the Seme axis.
Smugglers who think they could beat the tight security mounted by the Border Drills, FOU, Zone A and CGC , Strike Force personnel, with their smuggled vehicles, as well, under various guises , have been disappointed, as they were said to have fallen into the waiting hands of Mohammed’s men , who are strategically positioned at the Border Community and its environs.
It is not surprising why the most of the diehard smugglers formerly operating at the Seme axis, had relocated to the Ogun 1 axis, thus, turning Idiroko and its environs into theatre of war as Michael Agbara, the Area Comptroller and his Management Team, are always coming out with new ideas to counter the new tactics of the smugglers, who are already feeling the heat from the Border Drills in the state.
Recall thatMuhammadu Buhari, the Katsina state born Nigerian President had banned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles through the land Border on January1, 2017. Until the Border Drill , under the Chairmanship of, Babagana Munguno, a retired Major General, and NSA, was inaugurated last August, on the orders of the President, FOUS, and the Border Commands across the country, including the CGC , Strike Force, had enforced the directive to the latter, as the government warehouses were filled with impounded foreign rice and Vegetable Oil , while the premises were littered with second hand vehicles.
But Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, may have given a soft landing to the owners of the smuggled vehicles intercepted by Customs personnel on the road to go to any of the FOU Command across the country with the relevant documents to process and take delivery of it with the payment of the DN and surcharge that may slammed on them.
Many owners of intercepted smuggled vehicles, were said to have taken advantage of the window provide them to take take delivery of the vehicles by Ali by paying the DN and surcharges . The number of vehicle owners and dealers who troop to the various FOU , premises across the country speaks volume.
From Lagos,Kaduna, Owerri and Bauchi, the story is the same: Customs Revenue Recovery Committee, attending to thenumerous owners of the vehicles intercepted on the road , bush or car marts.