Customs: Vehicle Smugglers and Bunkerers No Longer Finding It Funny

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 .

Muhammed : His Name Connotes fear To Smugglers

  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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