By Stephen Ubanna
Fraudulent importers with agents operating at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, and KiriKiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, phases I and II, and smugglers plying their trade between Nigerian and the neighbouring West African country of Benin Republic appear to be praying for Comptroller Sani Yususuf, Coordinator, of the Comptroller General of Customs Strike Force, Team A, Lagos Zonal office to wind up operations and go.
This is because Comptroller Yusuf and his Team members, who, sources, had said are working according to the mandate given to them by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, are not giving them a breather.
Indeed,Foreign rice smugglers, who connive with Dangote Industries Cross-border drivers using the company’s Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, approved trucks meant for carrying cement to deliver to Customers in the sub-region, to smuggle appears to be running out of the illegal business as.
The CGC, Strike Force, Coordinator, Team A and his officers, were said to have tightened the noose against them that they could no longer maneuver their way to indulge in such illegal transaction and those who have dared the Team, would never forget their experience in a hurry. It is not surprising why they want the CGC Strike Force, Team A, Coordinator, who has become another former Deputy Comptroller Shuaibu for them to go.
Informed sources told The Value News, hat the Coordinator, who is now wearing the elitist rank of Comptroller, which automatically disqualifies from heading the Team may be awaiting for staff orders from the Custom Headquarters to leave the CGC Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office, with his Team members.
The last three weeks, according to an insider has not been a pleasant one, for the fraudulent importers with their agents at the Lagos ports and the cross-border smugglers as the Team aggressiveness in their revenue recovery drive and anti-smuggling operations in the south western states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo have forced some of them out of the illegal business. This is evident, going by the spectacular Contraband seizures that was said to have made by the Team.
A visitor to the Customs Training College, premises, , on Wednesday , January, 18, 2023, would be surprised as bales of secondhand clothing , hundreds of bags of foreign parboiled rice, litter the office side of the CGC Strike Force, Team A, including a Dangote truck loaded with bags of foreign rice of 50 Kg each.
There are indications that the Dangote Driver had tried to Compromise the officers but was disappointed as the truck was laden cargo taken to the Team’s office at the Customs Training College, Ikeja, where it was detained.
This is where Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, may have to take up the matter with Aliko Dangote, President, Dangote Industries to effectively address the recurring use of his Company’s Cement trucks by its drivers to smuggle foreign par boiled rice into the country from the neighbouring West African countries of Togo and Benin Republic.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, had banned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles into the country from the nation’s Land borders on January 1, 2017. The ban on foreign rice imports into the country was said to have been extended to the nation’ seaports in June 2017, which may have given the the Interventionist Units across the country the ammunition to go all out after the rice smugglers as a way to secure the market for the local rice farmers.
There have been instances in the past where the FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, had intercepted some Dangote Trucks loaded with foreign rice Concealed with Cement which were said to have been widely reported in the Media but that was how far the Customs Authorities could go. The trucks were said to have developed K-leg and nothing have been heard about them till date.
Compt. Yusuf may have continued from where Ahmad Shuaibu a former Coordinator off the Team, and now Acting Comptroller, Ogun II, Command, with Headquarters in Abeokuta, Capital , of Ogun, former President, Olusegun Obasanjo home state had stopped to further frustrate the economic saboteurs.
Maritime analyst are surprised at the spectacular Contraband seizures of the CGC, Strike Force, Team A, with less than 200 officers , compared to the FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos, over 500 officers, with wider coverage in their Area of Jurisdictions.
Many believe that the CGC Strike Force, Team A, under the Leadership of Compt. Yusuf, could make nonsense of the tricks applied by the smugglers and fraudulent importers a with agents at the Lagos seaports, to shortchange the government because of the officers’ vigilance and intelligence gathering approach.
Giving an insider information of the performance of the CGC Strike Force, Team A, over the last one year, Comptroller Yusuf had described its anti-smugglation as a ‘’huge success’’. According to him, the Team made remarkable seizures which included Tramadol of 225mg each, Slidenafil Citrate, of 100mg each, Codeine syrup, dozens of old tires, bales of second hand clothing, bags of 50 kg each of par-boiled rice from the Asian country of Thailand.
Other items reportedly intercepted and seized by the Team A included Canabis Sativa, popular Indian hemp, pangolin scales, and containers of timber that were intended for export to China but were instead transferred to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, IKLT. According to valuation officers, the intercepted and seized contraband products has a street market value of N9.123 billion.
The CGC Strike Force, Team A, Coordinator, may have shocked Nigerians when he displayed a truck load of the West African country of Ghana grown Indian Hemp with a Duty Paid Value, DPV, N516,600,000.000, which could have entered into the Nigerian market as the driver was said to have beaten other Interventionist Units and security agencies personnel on the road. He noted that but for the alertness of the Team officers who rose to the challenge to frustrate their efforts, the item would have entered into the Nigerian market.
The Customs Coordinator also disclosed that the Team also recovered the sum of N5, 843,520,477.00, lost revenue, which could have entered into private Accounts through the issuance of Demand Notice, DN, on intercepted suspected Containers at the Lagos sea ports.
Comptroller Yusuf, who was said to sustained the tempo of recovery lost revenue from the Lagos ports using the Team’s Information, Communication and Technology, ICT, facility, inherited from his Predecessor, Acting Comptroller Shuaibu, had said that the amount recovered in 2022, was N1, 928, 966,233.00 or 55%, higher than the N3, 914,554,244.00, recovered by the Team in 2021, from Fraudulent importers with their agents at the Lagos seaports.
Appealing to the unpatriotic importers with their agents who go extra mile in daring the Interventionist units including the CGC Strike Force, Team A, to turn a new leaf, has warned that ‘’the Team shall not only seize their goods but that the gallant and diligent officers will also get them arrested to face the full weight of the Law’’.
Comptroller Yusuf, who could not hide his feelings had attributed the Team round the-clock operations to suppress smuggling and prevent revenue loss to the logistics support given to them by the Customs boss, noting that’’ the Team mandate has been achieved’’