How END SARS Protest Slowed Down Customs Anti-smuggling Operations And Routine Check On Containerised Cargoes Exited From The Seaport

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By Stephen Ubanna

The END SARS  protest has come and gone but its adverse  effects on the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, anti-smuggling operations across the country remains to go. The situation may have been  made   been made  worse with the disappearance of policemen  on the road for fear of  attack by hoodlums  who had hijacked the protest and caused much damage to the economy.

From the south west states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti , and the Niger Delta states of Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa ibom and Cross river and the south east states of Anambra, Enugu, Eboyi, Abia, Imo to the north  central states of Kwara, Niger, home state of  former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, rtd, and Abdulsalami A baubakar, also a retired Army General and  former Head of State, Benue, Kogi , the story is the same , low Activities of Customs anti-smuggling operations.

Ali: CG, Customs

 For much of last week,, The Value News disguised himself to visit some of the border Communities in Ogun state and the Lagos seaports but was shocked that  the usual presence of Federal operations Unit, FOU, Zone A,Operations and  Lagos Roving  Team under the close watch of Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs, were not prominent on the road. An insider told the Magazine, that the Team members  have adopted   operational strategies of doing their work without attracting attention.

 A visitor to the  FOU,  Zone A, Command,  recently  confirmed  that the usual large number of agents,  found at the premises,   following the interception of their clients’ Containers exited from the port or  their detained exotic vehicles, were missing. Thiis is because there  were  no Containers that  had been intercepted  and transferred to the Command  in or detained  exotic vehicle, over alleged  wrong Classification or underpayment in the recent time.

 But the Agents may have to watch it. this is because the Yahaya  are like to return to their duty posts  soon.  There are indications that between  Monday, November 9, 2, 202020 and Friday, November 14,  the Jack led Operations and Lagos Roving Team of the Command  and the  Patrol Teams would return to the road and the port environment to do their work.

Although , the FOU, Zone A, Command, anti-smuggling officers had with drawn from the road, over the last couple of weeks, the CGC Strike Force, Lagos Zonal Office, Squad,  under the close watch of Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs. May have filled the  vacuum.  The  Customs Deputy Comptroller may have been introduced to the CGC Strike Force  following the dissolution  of the former  Team ,   comprising of  Operations,  Information Communication Technology, ICT  and Drivers,  on October 2, 2020 and its replacement  with a new anti-smuggling Squad made up of 121 officers .

With the Completion of the  proper Handing  over of all arms , ammunitions and Operational vehicles, about a month ago to the new Team, Shuaibu and his men were said to have set out to work. Given the mandate of the Squad  to Check the activities of the officers  at the ports and land border a Areas and ensure that  importers’ with their  agents  Comply to the government Fiscal policies  by blocking   all areas of revenue leakages  from the system, the Team members were  said to have  followed  it up religiously.

The  CGC  Strike Force, according to informed sources    are  allowed’’ to partake  in the examination  of any suspected  Container  generated by the ICT’’. 

Moore so, it also has a mandate  to ensure  that ‘’all unutilized Pre-Arrival  Assessment  Report, PAAR, Bills of Lading  and Air Way  bills  were accounted for.  Unlike the FOUs, across the country, which have the legal backing  to Patrol the Highways, the CGC Squad are only allowed to mount checkpoints, but an insider informed the Magazine that  the team members could equally  Patrol the Highways  ‘’ based on Credible information  by  the  Surveillance  Operatives of the serviceor other sources’’.

Between October 10, 2020 and now, Shuaibu and his men  had shown that they knew  what they are doing to ensure strict adherence  to government Fiscal Policy  and payment of appropriate duty  by importers  through  involvement in 100% physical examination  of cargoes  at the ports and Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, ILT.

Unconfirmed  reports  said the CGC  Strike Force, Lagos Zonal Office, had intercepted some Containers and made one Container seizures  which were said to have been transferred to the ILT in the recent time.  It was learnt that Shuaibu, the Zonal Coordinator, who could   hardly stay   in  his Customs Training School , Ikeja, office , shuttles between the Customs Training School , ILT and the Apapa, office and back to the Zonal office to do his Administrative job.He may have shuttling between the Customs Training Schhol, ILT and its Apap office   to ensure that the right  thing is done.

 He has  every reason to do   so. This is because of his findings on the field  that most Nigerian importers with their Agents are non- Compliant to the country’s Fiscal Policies and   are prepared to pay any price to exit their cargoes which had  Contravened the government Fiscal policy  from the port to their warehouse.

The Squad, Operational officers who  are strategically positioned and who  rely on credible information to do their work,   according to a  source, had continued to intercept and   transfer  suspected  Containers to the Customs Training School, which is its operational base  for physical Examination.

 On Friday, November 7, 2020, one or two of such suspected Containers exited from an undisclosed  Lagos port , were subjected to a  100 physical examination as the importer and his  agent await the report  of the  Examination by the officers and their recommendation to the Coordinator who may take the final decision.  Note that the  Team  members , are  involved in the Physical Examination of cargoes at the seaports and the  ILT, meant for storage of  overtime cargoes.

Many had expected, Shuaibu,  the CGC, Strike Force, Lagos office, Zonal Coordinator, on assumption of duties , last October, to familarise himself with Mohammed Abba-Kura,  Musa Baba Abdullahi, popular, MBA, Festus Okun, Area Comptrollers of Apapa, Tin can Island and Port Multi-services Terminal Limited,PTML,   respectively and other  Customs  Area Comptrollers in the south –west geo-political region.

 He appears to have been occupied with much job  at  that he had  had not  been able to meet any of the Customs  Area Comptrollers, particular, those at the Lagos seaports one on one for discussion.    Over the last one month, Agents  had  not found  it funny   playing into the hands of the CGC Strike Force for fear of losing their cargo  to the government.

 This may have informed why they are clamouring for the dissolution of the CGC Strike Force,  across  the country. But Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel may not heed to their call because he believes the RECONTITUTED Strike Force, across the country are doing their job  as  expected  without Compromise.   

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