By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why vehicle Smugglers in and Petrol dealers who divert their petrol supplies from depot the south west geo-political region are no longer finding it funny to embark on such nefarious activities. This is because Mohammed Aliyu, the Comptroller of Federal Operations Unit, FOU,Zone A, Ikeja, appear to have restrategised in dealing with the Criminal elements.
Take for instance Aliyu, who was said to have thrown his weight behind the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team, Headed by Riks Lura , a Chief Superintendent of Customs to go after the vehicle smugglers who had continued to change tactics to smuggle the items into the country through unapproved routes in the region.
Note that in Ogun state alone , there are over 80 unapproved routes between the state and the Repulic of Benin , going by the record of the Nigerian Immigration service, NIS, used by such smugglers to carry out their vehicle smuggling activities. This may have informed why Riks, tan ace anti-smuggling officer to mobilise his men to concentrate their effort on the Border areas to intercept vehicles which documents are cloned by the alleged smugglers claiming to have imported it through the nation’s seaports if intercepted by Rik’s men patrolteam officers on the road.
The fallout was that the Riks controlled team are regularly intercepting and transferring vehicles seized from the Land Border areas particular,Border Comunities, in Ogun state to the Command premises.
The Value News cited some of the vehicles, with signs of red earth at the back side , which were driven by drivers attached to the team, an indication that the smuglers may have abandoned them in the bush when they cited Riks men or Ahmed , a superintendent of Customs led Strike Force of the Command advancing.
Those who were said to have summoned the courage to put their smuggled vehicles on the road had lost it to the Command Operations and Lagos Roving atrol team officers men who are stationed at strategic locations at the Border areas. The recent seizure of a bullet proof of 2019 model smuggled into the country through the bush with a Duty paid Value, , of N49 million which fell into the waiting hand of the Riks led team speaks volume.
It is not surprising why the Command premises and the Command Mechanical workshop are filled with seized vehicles including detained and seized Containerised cargoes from the various patrol teams of the Command.
The Command’s Operations and Lagos Roving team may not have lost sight of the fact that it has a role to play in sanitizing the seaports to ensure that appropriate duties are paid on imported cargoes through the Lagos ports. Maritime analysts averred that the team may not have made much impact in making much seizures of vehicles imported through the seaports without payment to appropriate duties due to system handicap.
The Command was said to have been handicapped as it could not enter into the various Commands Computer systems in order to get the necessary information how the transactions for the release of vehicles and other cargoes at the seaports were conducted .
Note that the Cost , Insurance and Freight , CIF, somewhat determines the duty to be on imported vehicles and Containerised cargoes. Investigation shows that freight from the Asian country of Japan, India, China and Thailand are different from the freight rte of imported vehicles other cargoes from Europe and North America into Nigeria. Riks, according to an insider, may have used his knowledge of Understanding of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Common External Tariff, CET, and the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, to revalue the duties on intercepted vehicles released from the Lagos seaports on the road, mostly Toyota Jeeps.
Insiders informed the Value News that the Enforcement and Valuation expert is always going through the CET and CEMA documents to ensure that appropriate duties are collected for the government on any intercepted Consignment including ehicles.
A senior customs officer who spoke to The Magazine disclosed that the presence of the FOU, Zone A, Opeerations and Lagos Roving team members, along the Oshodi-Apap Expressway has drastically reduced the level of frauds at the ports as most importers with their agents have learnt to be Compliant to do their business to avoid falling into the waiting hands of Riks me on the road.
Aliyu , who is appreciative of the contribution of the of the team effors , was said to have told those that cares to listen that the the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team alone, had contributed over 80 percent of his success of his success in the Command in the last one year. The positive impression on the team may have filtered out to the Customs Headquarters as Riks was said to have been included in the the Committee set up by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, to provide security for the destruction of several Condemned Containers load of prohibited tramadol drugs at Apapa and Tin-can Island port at a designated location in Lagos state.
Aware that the attention of the Customs Authority are at Seme and the Owode Out Station, Mhammed Uba Garba, Comptroller Seme Command and his Patrol team officers have stepped up their anti-smuggling operations. This has manifested in the sale of petrol at filling stations as most petrol Dealers who are used to diverting their petrol supplies for bunkering operations and who could not bear the heat were said to have closed shop in the last eight months. A Dealer who was said to have owned about 54 filling stations at the Owode Outstaion axis, who had been forced out of business was said to have have out to Aliyu, the Comptroller of the FOU, Zone A, who was said to have referred him to Garba, his counterpart at Seme. But the Dealer, and his Lawyers who were said to have called at the Seme Command Area Comptroller’s office but were not able to penetrate him to force his officers to softpedal to allow them return to their dirty business which many had blamed on the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR, which issues license to petrol dealers indiscriminately.
Meanwhile, Garba, the Sme Customs, who is not ready to sit by and watch the Beninoise Customs personnel mess up his job, was said to have repeatedly them to respect the International Law guiding the transfer of cargo from one Customs Administration to Another.
It should be recalled that over the years , transit cargo provisions had been codified by a number of International Conventions , particular, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, GATT, the World Customs Organisation, WCO Kyto Convention and the Geneva Convention on the harmonization of frontier control of goods. Note that the Article V of the GATT , had provides the freedom of transit and further determines that ‘’there shall be freedom of transit of cargoes through the territory of each Contracting Party, through the routes that are most convenient for International transit , traffic in transit to or from the territory of other Contracting Parties. This may have informed why the Benionise Customs are alive to their duties to avoid circumstances that goods intended for transit are leaked to the domestic market. He noted that‘’poor transit of cargoes is a major obstacle to trade’’.
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