By Stephen Ubanna
Agents clamouring for the Abdullahi Dahiru Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller, led Head quarters Strike Force, to be removed from the seaports by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, to forestall their involvement in the examination of cargoes would be disappointed .
This is because the Kirawa team, are the only Headquarters group allowed to operate inside and outside the seaport by the Customs Authorities. Officers and men of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU,Zone A, Ikeja, and Zone C, Owerri, Imo state, could only come into the port for an operation on a special invitation or directive from the Headquarters. Take for instance, the invitation that was extended to the Command last year when about 40 Containers of ”40′ each loaded with Tramadol, a banned Pharmaceutical product ‘ was discharged at the premier port, Apapa. The Customs Authorities may have involved the FOU, Zone A, Command to move into the port to sort out the Containers.
At the instance of Mohammed Aliyu, the Area Comptroller, the operation was said to have been led by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and Head of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team. For almost one week the team members were at the port to carrying out the special assignment without noise. Other members of the Team were said to have been placed at strategic locations between Oshodi and Apapa port leading to the interception of one of the ”40” Container load of Tramadol which was transferred to the Command premises for examination.
Ali may have known that agents could easily penetrate the ranks of officers at the seaport to take delivery of Containers which had contravened the government fiscal policy that he had allowed the strike Force members to also be on the road.
Maritime watchers believe that if the Customs personnel at the seaports were doing their work as it ought to be done there would not have been any need for the strike Force personnel to be on the road to complement the efforts of the FOU personnel. Many believe that the Customs Comptroller General, took a wise decision to have established the Strike Force to operate both inside and outside the port to checkmate the activities of fraudulent importers and agents.
IInvestigation by The Value News shows that over the last one year, the adhoc team , had seized many Containers at Apapa and Tincan Island ports in Lagos as well Port Harcourt Area 1 and Onne port, in Port Harcourt , Rivers state
. Insiders informed the Magazine that the Strike Force , may be making much impact both inside and outside the seaport despite the gang up of the resident Customs officers and the agents. The Customs Headquarters Information Patrol team, another adhoc tea,, was said to have been providing credible information to the team to operate bot within and outside the port which had facilitated the seizure of many suspected Containers. The Team , on its own was said to engaged other sources of getting information on what is happening at the port, which had put many importers with their agents introuble.
Suspected Containers which could not be picked inside the port were said to have
The question on the lips of most people was why such suspected cargoes could be released from the port when the Strike Force
According to him, members of the Strike Force may not be perfect but their presence at the seaports and on the road , have brought some level of sanity in the clearing proces at the port. He stressed that the Customs personnel at the terminals and the Bonded warehouses including the fraudulent importers are the ones who are pushing the agents to use their contacts at the Customs Headquarters, Abuja, to fight for the removal of the Strike Force personnel at the seaports and on the road. There grouse was that they are frustrating trade facilitation but analysts believe they have something to hide. It was gathered that agents settle between N50,000.00 and N150,000.00 on each Container examined by officers at the port depending on the port. The HSF , members of the examination team , it was gathered were not always carried along as they are kept in the dark to avoid exposing the dirty deals . It is not surprising why the Strike Force personnel join the FOU personnel to lay ambush for them on the road.
The police source gave kudos to the Tin can Island Compliant Unit headed by Mahmood Ibrahim, an Assistant Comptroller, which had forced many importers with their agents who are used to doing bad jobs in the past to turn a new leaf in order to be included on the list of those benefitting from the Customs Fast Track policy to avoid delay of their Containers at the port as such Containerised cargoes are taken to the importer’s warehouse where it would be examined by Customs officers and