Customs : Ali Bans Clearing Of Pharmaceutical Products Outside The Ports As Tin can island Command Records Improved Revenue Collection In 3 Months

By Stephen Ubanna

For years , importers with their agents   and their Customs Collaborators  had found  a way of flooding the Nigerian Market with tramadol  Pharmaceutical products  by transferring  Containers loaded with such items  to the Bonded terminals where they  were quickly cleared and delivered at the importer’s warehouse by the agent. The  discovery  of over 40 Containers load of  the drug at Apapa port  at the instance of  Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, by  Mohammed Aliyu, Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit  , FOU, Zone A,  Operations and Lagos Roving Headed By Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent may have opened  Ali’s eyes to the rot at the ports. Note that it took the  Lura FOU Team  about one week to sort out   the tramadol Containers  which were promply seized  and kept in the custody of the  Apapa  Command  at the Government  Warehouse.

Note that  an additional 12 Container’s of the item was  also found at Federal Ocean Lighter Terminal , Onne, Rivers State and  nine  Containers at Tin-can Island port  last year alone. Perhaps, to stop the flooding of tramdol  into the Nigeria market, the Customs Comptroller General  was said to have banned the  clearing  of Pharmaceutical products generally outside the nation’s seaports, described as a step in the right direction by the Pharmaceutical society of Nigeria.

Abdullahi Kirawa: Deputy Comptroller And National Coordinator, HSF

The Value News  learnt  that since  the Customs boss came out with the policy Statement, Abdullahi Musa, Comptroller  Tin-can Island Command  and the Command Compliance   Unit, Headed by Mahmud Ibrahim, an Assistant  Comptroller  had cue  into the policy  to ensure that no Container load of Pharmaceutical product imported through the port were cleared outside the port. Ibrahim and his officers , according to sources, are not giving anything to chance  as they have  been on the neck of importers and agents  to ensure total compliance  to the Comptroller General’s order on clearing of Pharmaceutical products at the ports only.  

Recall that last month,  a  Container  load of tramadol was discovered at the port during  examination   which was said to have been handed over to the Command Enforcement Unit Headed  by Dera Nnadi, a Deputy Comptroller for  keeps.  Many believe that since the  deployment  of  Ibrahim, the Customs Assistant Comptroller, to the  Command Compliance Unit,  there have been  a significant improvement  in Compliance to government fiscal policies by importers with their agents at the port. This is because  of the Customs Headquarters insistence  on 100 percent  examinations of imported cargoes  because of the state of scanning machines at the ports.  Note that many of the scanners had broken down  over the years , awaiting repairs. 

Agents who spoke  to the Magazine  described the Compliance  Unit boss at Tincan as a workaholic who have saved the country  millions of naira  through issuance of Demand Notice, DN,  to non Compliant officers who had tried to shortchange the  government in the recent time.  A member of the  Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI,  averred that the Tincan Island  Compliance Unit, described as a , DN Unit, are really making good money for the Command. The  LCCI, member noted  that  both for the aggressiveness  of Ibrahim  who  believes in details and ensures that the right things are done, the story would have been different at the  Command.  The revenue generated by the Command  between January and March 2019, speaks volume.

An elated Musa, the Area Comptroller disclosed  that the Command generated  N 78.8 billion  as against  N76. 7 billion  realised within the same period last year despite  the low cargo traffic at the port.  The revenue situation of the Command may have been made worse with the  ban   on 43 items, regarded as high revenue yielding , from  accessing the   foreign exchange market by  the Central  Bank of Nigeria under the close watch of  Godwin Emefiele, the governor , who has been re-appointed for another five years tenure by  president Muhammadu Buhari. The impressive revenue generation may have strengthened the resolve of Ibrahim and his officers to do more to ensure  that that the Command revenue generation in the second of the year , would be much better than   the figure declared in the first quarter.

 Virtually revenue loopholes  exploited by importers and agents in the past appear to have been blocked  as Ibrahim with the support of Musa, the Area Comptroller,  properly scrutinize all import documents  sent to his  office  and those who have been found  , had been issued with DN. It is not surprising  why  the LCCI, importers and agents describe  the Tin-can  Island Compliance Unit as a DN Office.  The situation at Apapa port look worrisome despite claims by Abba Kurah, the Area Comptroller  that the stakeholders using the port for their transactions are trade compliant.

 The  value News informant at the port disclosed that  if  not for the constant intervention at the port  by  the Headquarters Strike Force under the close watch of Abdullahi Kirawa,  a Deputy Comptroller and the National Coordinator    by participating in examination, the fraud at the port would have been much as the importers with their agents  are ready to buy their way to take  delivery of their  cargoes.

The fallout was that the resident officers had connived with the agents to fight for the withdrawal of the adhoc team  from the sea ports and roads  on the excuse that that they are delaying the clearance of goods at the ports.

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