HSF: Our Mandate Is To Suppress Smuggling – kirawa

By Nwangwu Uba

Until last Friday, March 29, 2019, when Abdullahi Dahiru  Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller and National Coordinator, Headquarters Strike Force, HSF opened the Government warehouse, Ikeja, to expose the rost going on at the seaports, particular, the  Lagos seaports,  nobody knows such dirty deals goes on there.

Kirawa, had ordered the  ”40” Containers suspected to be carrying Contrabands released from the ports which was intercepted by the Lagos Zonal Command,  of the HSF, under the Command of Salisu Shuaibu, an Assistant Comptroller, to  Journalists.  The suspected ”4”’ Containerised cargoes were said to have been intercepted and transferred to the GWH, Ikeja, controlled by the Federal Operations  Unit, FOU , Zone A, Ikeje, for safekeeping.

 One of such  Containers, with  No.  GESU562z54/7, allegedly   released from  the unknown port  was said  discovered to be stocked with 705 of 50Kg, bags, of foreign parboiled  rice  valued at about  N9. 88 million. The importer with his Agent  may have crompromised the examination officers which include security operatives from  other security Agencies and the releasing officers to facilitate the release of the Containerised  cargo.

Unknown to them, information had leaked to  Shuaibu, the Command of the Lagos Command, HSF, through his informants at the port, forcing him to deploy a patrol team to the port axis. The patrol team officers were said to have been stationed at strategic locations along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway to ensure that the Agent who had cleared the Consignment would have no escape route. The good news was that that the team had their target  as they were armed with the Container number which did not make it difficult  for them to locate on the road. carrying the prohibited items from the port, an indication that examination officers, which include officers from other security agencies and the releasing officers  may have compromised.

Deputy Comptroller Abdullahi Kirawa. National Coordinator HSF

Another  ”40” Container  , No. CSU875914/3,  that was said to have said to have  been intercepted and subsequently seized  by the Lagos Zonal Command of Strike Force  which Seal was  broken to know what it was carrying was stocked   with  77 bales of new jeans,  16 bales of ladies belt,  12 bales of T-Shirts  and   17 bales of ladies handbags   which was  valued  at about N N38.77 million. These may not hzve been Contrabands going by the Customs and Exercise Management by the Importer was said to have made false declarations to evade payment of appropriate duties.

The third  ”40” Container  was  found to have been loaded  with second hand clothing . The Container, according to Kirawa, carried   bales of second hand clothing  with a Duty Paid Value , DPV, of  N25.4million.  This is in addition to  a ”40” Container No. MRSU3511618/9 carrying 150 packages  of Jewelries value  at about  N36. 48 million.  the items, according Kirawa,  the HSF, National Coordinator,  had been falsely declared . He noted that these importers have no reason  to make underpayment  because the CEMA  Act was very explicit on the duty to be paid on the items.  

 Note that the  ”40” Containerised  load of foreign  parboiled  rice may have been seized  by  the HSF, Lagos  Zonal Command, because of the extant  government policy on the importation of rice into the country . Although, the government had not have  officially banned the importation of rice through the seaport but it had stopped issuing  Letters of Credit ,LC, to such importers since June , 2018, fueling speculation that it had been tactically banned as a way of   protecting local  rice farmers .

Recall,  that President Muhammadu Buhari, had in 2017, banned the importation of foreign parboiled rice through the nation’s land borders  in the south and the  north  but technically still allowed it to be imported through the seaport  if the  dealer  could source his own foreign exchange from unofficial sources to do so. It was not encouraging as many of them were forced to relocate to Republic of Benin and other ports in the West African sub-region to take delivery of their rice imports..

Aware that there is no way they  could compromise Customs personnel at the land Border Areas  to take delivery of their Contraband , they have no option but toresort to smuggling through unapproved routes in the north and  the southern part of the country because of the porous Borders. Take for instance, in Adamawa state alone, there  about 83 unapproved routes  going by Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, records, used  by smugglers and human traffickers  to carry out their nefarious activities.

 The situation was the same in Ogun state, south-west  geo-political region  where there  are about identified  84  illegal routes that are used by these hoodlums in carrying out their nefarious  trade. An angry Kirawa who opened the GWH, at Ikeja, showcased  the quanties of the foreign parboiled rice seized by the Lagos Command of the Strike Force through the Land Border between January and March 28, 2019, Giving an insider information , he disclosed that  6,102  50 Kg bags of foreign parboiled rice was seized from smugglers through these illegal routes at the land Border, The value of the rice seizures , he said , was put at about N85.428 million. Also within the same period the  Zonal Command of the Strike, was said  to have made a seizure of  50 litres of processed vegetable oil  through the land Border in the south west  valued at about N5 million.

the smugglers who are devising new tricks of beating Customs to it with their smuggled goods were said to have have fallen into the waiting hands of Shuaibu’s boys on the road with their truck loaded with pneumatic  tyres concealed with  empty Nigerian Breweries and other companies  beer crates. It  could only take the intelligence  of an officer  to suspect such a truck  because of the way the items were loaded in the truck .” The value of the pneumatic  tyres run into millions of naira”, Kirawa had said.

The most touchy of seized items  was a MAN Diesel Truck. The truck was said to have been intercepted  within Atam and Idiroko axis of Ogun state, under the control of Michael Agbara, the AArea Comptroller. The importer  may have opted to use the services of crossers to  to evade payment of duty but fail into the waiting hands of Kirawa’s boys on the road. The Value News learnt that  the truck  was dutiable .

The next item on the list of listed seized vehicles by the HSF, Lagos Command, Kirawa had shown to Journalists  was  a,  Toyota Avolon that was intercepted was said to have been intercepted   in the jungle around  Atam and Idiroko axis. It was gathered that the HSTF,  patrol team,  that had cited  the vehicle had pursued the paid  Crosser  who increased his speed to beat the HSF patrol team officers to it  but had had had with it ,forcing him to abandon the vehicle and flee  to  escape arrest and possible prosecution in Court. The Value News cited  the  vehicle at the  FOU, Zone A, Mechanical Workshop, turned GWH, used for keeping of seized Containers and vehicles.Therepeated seizures of these Contrabands within Ogun state, is an indictment on Comptroller Agbara and his patrol team officers who may have lost control to smugglers in the state.

 Appealing to the general public to collaborate with the Customs personnel by  volunteering valuable information that could lead to the arrest of these hoodlums in the hideouts,  the Customs Deputy Comptroller said , it is the only way that fight against smugglers who are sabotaging the nation’s economy could make the appreciable impact.

 Already, he has  sent a signal  to the smugglers  to” turn a leaf or be forced to change”. t He stressed that  ”not only did  Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service, NCS”, mandate them  to suppress smuggling activities  in the land Border areas  but they have a mandate to  also intercept  and seize Containerised cargoes of Contrabands  released from the seaports on account of false declaration.

  It  was therefore not surprising why the Lagos Zonal Command, of the Strike Force, has continued to make seizures of Containerised cargoes on account of” false declaration”.

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