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.
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.