By Stephen Ubanna
Heads of the various security agencies including the Police Border Patrol Commander and their officers at the Seme Krake Joint Border gathered on Wednesday, July 24, 2019, at the Government Ware House, GWH, to witness the handing over of 1,837, parcels of Cannabis Sativa, Popular, India Hemp, valued at over n21 million seized from locations by Seme Command to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency,NDLEA .
It was a historic moment as Muhammed Uba Garba, the Commander Area Comptroller, who represented Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, handed the substance over to Udotong Essien , Commander, NDLEA, Seme, represented Ahmad Mustapha Abdallah, the Chairman, a retired Army Colonel.
Essien who could not hide his feelings admitted that Muhammed , the Seme Customs Comptroller has been of immense to the agency with the seizure of India Hemp and other drugs which he regularly hands over to the agency including the suspects for prosecution. The Customs Comptroller was said to have promised to hand over one of the suspects arrested in connection with the substance. The NDLEA Commander who is not new in handling such was said to have promised to carry the Comptroller through regular briefing on how the case is progressing in Court. He disclosed that in previous cases , the agency had carried the Customs Comptroller along from the beginning of the prosecution to conviction, noting that it would not be different this time around.
Unknown to many , while the symbolic handover of the Cannabis Sativa, was going at the Seme GHW, premises, the Caterpilla hired by the Command was busy working in another location within the Customs land to provide a burial site for the truck load of Hides, allegedly abandoned by the importer on the road which was taken over based on information and transferred to the Command Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Economic Trade Liberialisation, ETLS, premises, for examination.
Based on the Hides found on the abandoned truck, Muhammed, the Seme Area Comptroller, drawing on his powers from the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap, 2004, was said to have ordered its immediate seizure, after Obtaining Court Condemnation Order.
A senior Port Quarantime official who spoke to the Value News on the sideline said there was no basis for the matter to have gotten into the ear of the Customs Authorities. He disclosed that the Truck load of Hide had been inspected last March and the importer issued with the Certificate of Inspection and asked to go last March.
The value News learnt that the importer had left the Port Quarantine premises but the truck developed problem on the problem. But instead of the driver to find Mechanics to fix up the problem, he was said to have abandoned the vehicle on the road until the stench from the Hides started disturbing residents within the neighbourhood.
Given that nobody was showing up to take delivery of the abandoned truck, the people may have alerted the police, who quickly alerted the Customs Authorities which took possession of it. The driver may have abandoned the truck for fear that the content may have leaked out to the Command enforcement Officers who may be keeping close watch over it to know who would show up to claim the broken down truck to arrest him. The Seme Customs Comptroller did not hide the fact that the driver would have been arrested to assist them in locating the where about of the importer if he had played into their hand. The case of the driver may have been made worse as the imported Hides have no valid document. Recall, that Hides and Skin, is one of the items had been banned from import or export outside the country.
Essien , the Seme NDLEA, Comander, confirmed that that they had allowed such imports into the country in the past because of the claim that it was meant for use in Leather manufacturing Companies without knowing knowing that it would be pushed into the Nigerian market and turned as Pomo delicacy.
It was therefore not very surprising why that the government policy on the Hides and Skin may have encouraged Muhammed to supervise the burning and burial of the intercepted substance s as the head of the other security agencies including the official of the Directorate of State Security, DSS, keep a close tap at what was going on notwithstanding the grumbling of some disgruntled elements within the Port Quarantine.
Their major worry was that the burnt and buried Hides are raw materials for shoe, belts and bag manufacturing Companies in Aba , in the south eastern part of the Country and Kano, north west. Ekene Oyebuchi, a notable Seme based Clearing agent informed The Value News that there are many functional leather Companies that needed the Hides as raw to produce their finished products, which the Customs Authorities ought to have contacted to auction it to them instead of destroying it.
The seizure of an abandoned truck load of Hides on the road may have emboldened the Federal Operations Unit’s anti-smuggling officers along the Sango –Idiroko road to look to tighten up security along the Ajillette axis.
The tightened security on the road may have led to the alleged interception of over 670 Kg in eight Jumbo parts of Pangolin which valuation experts put at about N125 million about three weeks ago. It could not be ascertained whether it was the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team, Headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs , CSC, that made the seizure.
Eyewitness account said the seizure which was made along the Sango-Otta – Idiroko road by the hard fighting anti-smuggling officers at the Ajillette Chieckpoint. Recall, Only recently, Christiana Adeyeye, a Professor and Directorr General, and Professor, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, was at FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, where he was taken round to see for herself the tramadol drugs that were intercepted by the Command , expected to have been handed over to the agency soon. The NAFDAC boss was said to have left the Command premises satisfied that Customs war against drug barrons are making a headway. She was given kudos to Aliyu and his officers for keeping the agency busy with the seized drugs that had had been oven over to the agency in the past.
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