By Stephen Ubanna
The last three months appears to have given given Malanta Yusuf , Comptroller Apapa Command and Babatunde Olomo, a deputy Comptroller, overseeing the Command Enforcement unit to go back to the drawing board to restrategise on how to ensure that only Consignments that complies with the government Fiscal policy exit the port gate.
This is to aavoid giving to Kehinde Hussain Ejibuno, led Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos and Headquarters Strike Force, Team A, Lagos, room, to make mockery of their Operations by intercepting Containerised cargoes leased and exited from the port on the road or the port port premises.
Last year, the Command under the then Area Controller, acting Comptroller Usman yahaya, and Kehinde Hussain Ejibuno, A Deputy Comptroller and the current Comptroller, including the Hedquarters Strike Force, Team A,had at various times intercepted and seized Consignments released and exited from the port, which industry stakeholders had said handle over 50 of the volume of cargoes that enters the country yearly.
The Headquarters strike Force , under the then Coordinator, Ahmadu Shuaibu, was said to have effectively used the team Force Information Communication Technology, ICT, facilities, to put on hold suspected Containers from the port from exiting the port as they were said to have been transferred to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, IKLT, for proper physical examination.
Take for in stance between January, 2022, and Thursday, February 10, 2022, the Tam was said to have intercepted 10 Containers loaded with items ranging from Charcoal, secondhand clothing and other products from the Lagos ports. An insider confirmed that two of the Containers were intercepted from the Lagos ports in the month of January while eight were intercepted and transferred to IKLT , between February 1, 2022 and February 11, 20222.
Recalll that the Team had made a spectacular seizure of Pangolin Scales, Pangolin Claws and Elephant Tusks around the Lekki axis of Lagos state valued at about N3.2 billion in January 2022.
While Acting Comptroller Ejibuno , had celebrated the N190 million lost revenue recovered for the government in the month of January 2022, the Headquarters Strike Force Team A, was said to have recovered N 390.11 million for the government and N127 million between February 1, 222 and February 10, 2022.
Note that this is money that could have entered into private pockets but the Team zero tolerance on Corruption may have forced the fraudulent importers to pay the Demand Notice issued to them for Contravening the government Fiscal policy when caught in the act. The DN, that was said to have been issued to the fraudulent importers with their agents that resulted in the recovery in the huge amount for the government between January and February 10, 2022, in respect of ‘’ wrong Classification, under payment , Concealment and false declaration’’.
The situation has become so embarrassing to Comptroller Yusuf that he could no longer take it but to block all areas of revenue leakage at the port. Deputy Comptroller Olomo, who had served at the FOU , Zone A, Lagos Roving Team that gave some past Comptrollers at the Customs Command in the Lagos ports may have known that he has a big challenge at hand as the Head of the Command Enforcement Unit to stop the mess.
Informed source told the Value News since Compt. Yusuf appointed Deputy Comptroller Olomo, to Head the Command Enforcement Unit, the difference is very clear, as the FOU, Zone Lagos Roving Team and Headquarters Strike Force usual penetration of the port to intercept Containers released and exited have drastically reduced since January 2022.
The source told the Magazine that the Customs Deputy Comptroller had given his words to the Customs Comptroller that” instead of giving the FOU, Zone A, Roving Patrol Team or the Headquarters Strike Force Team A, , the Opportunity to intercept Consignments released from the port on account of suspected infractions ,’’ it is better to be seized inside the port by the Command . The Customs Deputy Comptroller appears to have kept to his words.
Unconfirmed report told The Magazine that the Command Enforcement Unit officers who had participated in the examination of some Containers at the port on Tuesday, January 8, 2022, had found that some of the Containers have Contravened the government fiscal policy.
It was learnt that the Command Enforcement Team Officers had discovered that 6 x’’20’’ of the Contaiers, loaded with Tomato Pastes, 2×40’’ Container loaded with second Hand clothing and 1 x ‘’40’’ Container, loaded with female and children shoes had allegedly Contravened the government Fiscal Policy. The source informed to The Magazine that the officers, who were acting out a script of of their boss in carrying out the examination with other approved security agencies personnel at the port had refused to be Compromised as they had demanded that the suspected Containers be kept aside for further directives from Comptroller Yusuf, the Command Area Controller.
The Officers were said to have rushed to the office to brief Deputy Comptroller Olomo about their findings and who in turn was said to have alerted the Area Controller of the alleged nine intercepted Containerised cargoes that had contravened the government policy and subsequent stopped from exiting the port.
The interception of the nine Containers loaded with the Contraband goods is coming barely two weeks after the Command had intercepted nine Containers load of cargoes that had had Contravened the government policy including a ‘’40’’ Container load of the prohibited Pharmaceutical product, Codeine Syrups and Cold caps at the port.
Although, the Apapa Customs Command had initiated the process that led to the seizure of the over 700 cartons of Codeine Syrup and over 300 cartons of Cold Caps, the Nigerian Drug Law enforcement Agency, NDLEA, would not agree. A source disclosed that both the Buba Marwa, a retired Brigadier General led NDLEA and National Agency For Food and Drug Administration , NAFDAC, had also put the suspected Container loaded with the Contraband Phamarceutical drugs on hold u for physical examination is carried out on it.
This may have given the Apapa Customs Comptroller and his Enforcement unit officers to further tighten up security and surveillance at the terminals and the exit gate which had made it impossible for any sister agency to infiltrate the port and claim to have made any Contraband seizures .
This is where Mohammed Yusuf, a Deputy Comptroller, and new Coordinator, Headquarters Strike Force, Team A, who took over from Deputy Comptroller Shuaibu, a former Coordinator on Friday, February 11, 2022, to prove to the Customs Area Controllers at the Lagos ports that no matter the measures put in in place to frustrate their efforts in entering into the port to make seizures of suspected Containers, they will still make such seizures.
Comptroller Joseh Attah, a former Customs spokesperson and now Comptroller Kebbi Command is optimistic that going by his pedigree in all the Commands he had served in the past, particular, Katsina Command, described as a haven of smugglers operating between Niger Republic and Nigeria, he will ‘’deliver on this mandate of giving the fraudulent importers with their agents in the south west geopolitical region and the Lagos seaports , a run for their money’’.
An insider told the Magazine that Deputy Comptroller Shuaibu, who had started the handover process to his predecessor on Wednesday, February 9, 2022, showed him t the Operational vehicles on ground at the Customs Training College, Ikeja, Lagos. They were said to have held a closed door discussion which continued on Friday, February 11, 2022, before and after the Handover Notes were finally given to him.
Nigerians are waiting to see how Deputy Comptroller Shuaibu , and his Officers who had served with him in the former Headquarters Strike Team , that had made spectacular seizures , twhich had attracted the attention of the international Community and the world Wild life Justice Commission would be rewarded..