Customs:An unusual Era Of Anti-smuggling And Revenue Generation For The Government

By Stephen Ubanna

This is not  the best of times for officers and men of the Nigerian Customs Services, NCS, in their anti-smuggling drive across the country and implementing the government Fiscal policies at the seaports in order to ensure that importers with their agents  make correct declaration and pay  appropriate duties .

This is because of the Wuhan Town in  Hebei Province of China emerged  Coronavirus, popular, COVID 19. Moreso,  the  Nigerian  Center For  Disease Control, NCDC, under the close watch of Chikwe Ihekweazu, and the World Health Organisation, a health agency of the United Nations, UN, regulation on social distancing rules to curb the spread of the disease in the country may have made matters worse.

  Being one of the frontline agencies of government, which job had been  described  as  hazardous  under the present circumstances, ameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, of the government Revenue generating agency appears to have found out  ways of encouraging the  officers and men of the Service  to do their job in this trying and  difficult times in the country without  fear of infection.

Olusemire: Comptroller, FOU, Zone C

From Owerri, Lagos, Kaduna to the Lagos and South east seaports, the story is the same: intensified anti-smuggling operations and revenue drive, notwithstanding the ravaging COVID 19, across the globe. At the southeast  and  south-south  geo-political regions, under the close watch of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state, Kayode Olusemire, the Area Controller, has thrown his weight behind, Ahmadu Shuaibu,a Deputy Comptroller, in-charge of the Command’s  Operations and his men, to tighten up security at  the two regions to ensure that  smuggled goods were intercepted under any guise  adopted by the smugglers.

This is evident going by the large quantities of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice  Vegetable oil and other items  including vehicles  which had escaped  the eagle eyes of the  FOU, Zone A, Comptroller General of Customs, CGC Strike Force, and the Border Drill sector 1, Lagos Zonal  offices, personnel, in the south west geo-political region, that  had  fallen  into the waiting hands of Olusemire  patrol Team officers at different smugglers’ routes in the two regions.

Most of the smuggled food items which are intercepted by the patrol Teams and  taken to  the  Government Warehouse, Benin, Edo state, for instance,  were said to have been intercepted  along the routes between  Ondo and  the south – south state of Edo, an indication that the smuggled items may have entered  Ondo  and  Edo, after beating the large array of security agencies personnel including Customs  officers at  Ogun, Oyo and Osun states.

Insiders told The Value News that Olusemire, the FOU, Zone C, Comptroller, has a way of ensuring that the intercepted food items kept at the Government Warehouses in Benin, Enugu or Calabar, Cross River state are always in good condition  for human Consumption no matter the number of years kept in the Warehouse.

 He was said to have  given a matching order to  the  Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, officers, to consider it as a matter of responsibility to  carry out  routine  inspection  of the food  items in the Warehouse to identify the spoilt bags and separate them from the good ones. The CIU, officers were said to have been alive to their duties.

It was not surprising that when Ali , the Customs Comptroller General, at the  instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, gave the Comptrollers the nod to arrange the  food items in their warehouses, particular, the foreign seized foreign rice, vegetable oil and other items, for distribution to the poor and vulnerable Nigerians by Hajia Sadiya Omar-Farouk, minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development,  he did not find it difficult to work with the officials of the Nigerian Agency For  Food and Drug Administration, NAFDC, with ease to achieve result.

The NAFDAC, officials  were said to have visited  each of the  Government warehouses in the two regions under the control of the Command, to collect  samples  to their laboratory  for testing before giving approval for the Trucks to load and deliver to the states.

While the FOU, Zone C, Customs  personnel  are  alive to their duties in the southeast and south-south, the CGC, Strike Force, appear to have taken over the responsibility  of the Usman Yayaha, acting Comptroller of FOU, Zone A, and his men in the  rent time. A senior officer of the Command who spoke to the Magazine on condition of anonymity  disclosed  that  this COVID19  period  is  not a time to make seizures of Contraband because of the PTF, on COVID 19 and NCDC, Regulations on social distancing.

    The seizures that had been made by the Strike Force in the south west  in last four speaks volume.  Adba  Kakudi an acting Deputy Comptroller,  Zonal Coordinator of the CGC Strike Force,  Lagos  zonal office, and his men were said to have  made several  Contraband seizures  in the south west geo-political region  valued at about N2.135 billion.

The Team was said to have also reecovered millions of naira from Underpayment. This is money which have entered into private accounts both for the vigilance of the officers on the road to intercept suspected Containers which are transferred to the Government warehouse Ikeja, for proper examination an valuation.

Although, the economic saboteurs  had taken advantage of the COVID 19, to perfect their tactics in beating Customs anti-smuggling officers in the south west to it, Kakudi may have studied the strategies  adopted Comptroller Plusemire  at the FOU, Zone C, to deal with the south west smugglers which had yielded results to the Team.

A  break -down of the Contraband seizures  that was said to have been made by the Kakudi led Team include 474 cartons of longsra tablets, 421 cartons of Heigra tablets,41,500 cartons of Tin Tomato, 318 bags of ‘’50’’  bags f Foreign rice , 712 jerry cans of vegetable oil and 25 kegs of Premium Motor Spirit, popular, petrol .The Team was said to have also recovered millions  of naira  which could have entered into private accounts through issuance of Demand Notice, DN, on  intercepted suspected Containers released from the ports.

it is interesting to note that while the various  anti-smuggling Commands and the ad-hoc Teams  are working round the clock to contain the activities of smugglers within the country, the Comptrollers at the seaports, particular, that of Port Harcourt Area I, Onne,  AB. Mohammed, is not leaving anything to Chance as he is not giving  fraudulent  importers with their agents operating at the port a breather.

Within four months   the onne Command  was  said to have  generated N16 billion for the government despite the low volume of cargo traffic at the port because of the shrinking Container vessels calling at the port due to COVID 19.

The Command was said to have also made  some Container seizures which  had contravened the government fiscal policy. In one of the seized  Containers  which its contents was  declared as  hand tools going by the  Import document, it was   found to have contained  candle wax and  tomato paste in retail packs. The Containerised cargo, according to the Area Comptroller has a Duty Paid Vale of about N30.7 million.

Another Container which was also seized was said to have been declared as carrying spraying pumps for insecticides but found to be loaded with   ntegetable Oil and Margarine.  The DPV, of the Consignment, according to Valuation experts was about  N19.56 million.

 The terminal Examination and the releasing officers may not have compromised on their job because they knew the fraudulent  importers  with their agents may   not be able  to exit the  Container from the  gate  because of the tight security mounted by Mahmood Ibrahim, a Deputy Comptroller  and his men who has the support of the Area Comptroller.

 Given the Container seizures made by the Command, Mohammed, the Customs Comptroller,  has warned smugglers and other economic saboteurs ‘’to stay clear of the port as he will not tolerate  any  act that will jeopardize the nation’s security’’. This is bad news to the importers with their  agents who had been escaping with their bad jobs over the years, going by the seizures of one or two Containers  that had been released  from the Command by FOU, Zone C, patrol Teams,  along the  Aba Expressway  in Port Harcourt some two years ago.

Appealing to the officers to be on the   alert on their duties, he noted that though  the pandemic,  has affected port operations in many ways, he has  expressed optimism that with the measures that had been  put in place by  the PTF, on COVID 19, under the Chairmanship of Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the government of the Federation and the NCDC, at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, to contain the disease, economic activities will soon return at the ports .

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