By Stephen Ubanna
For much of last year and now, there have been several cases of Compromised Examination of imported cargoes at the Premier port, Apapa. The situation was so bad that Yusuf Malanta Ibrahim, who was appointed to replace Mohammed Abba-Kura, now an Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, as the Comptroller of the Command, had no option but to declare total war on the fraudulent importers with their agents and smugglers at the port.
The fallout was the frequent seizures of Containers loaded with Contraband such as unregistered Pharmaceuticals , allegedly imported from the Asian countries of China and India, second hand clothing and the Asian country of Thailand produced par boiled rice.
Even some of the Contraband cargoes released from the port and other items scheduled for export through the port, particular, teakwood, had fallen into the waiting hands of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving, Headed by Okpabi Jack , an Assistant Comptroller and the Comptroller General of Customs Strike Force, Team A, under the close watch of Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller.
Many had expected the fraudulent importers and their agents involved in false declaration, Wrong Classification of imports, Concealment and underpayment to stop to avoid losing their suspected Containerised cargoes to the government but this is not to be.
They may have known that their problem at the port will multiply with the deployment of Steve Olomo, a Deputy Comptroller and a one-time acting Comptroller of Cross/Akwa Ibom, Command, described in Customs circles an experienced Enforcement Officer, to Head the Command enforcement Unit. The Customs Deputy Comptroller knew he has a big task at hand: to stop all forms of Fraudulent activities at the port.
With the support of Compt. Yusuf, the Area Controller, and he had mobilised his officers for operation to avoid exposing the Contraband cargoes released from the port to the various Teams of the FOU, Zone A, along the Mile 2 and Apapa Expressway and the CGC Strike Force, Information Communication Technology , ICT, officers, at the Ware House road Apa,, who are ready at all times to track and pick such fraudulent Containers load of cargo and transfer them to Ikrodu Lighter Terminal, IKLT, with the help of their ICT facilities.
Given his enforcement experience at the FOU, Zone A, where he had closely with Compt. Adamu. D, who incidentally was the Command Head of Operations and Lagos Roving, as an Assistant Comptroller. He was determined to put down all the anti-smuggling tricks learnt from the Interventionist Unit, to track the unrepentant fraudulent importers with their agents and the smugglers at the port.
As an insider who was involved in the planning and execution of anti-smuggling operations around the port environment to make seizures of Compromised Containers released at the Lagos ports, Deputy Comptroller, who is now overseeing the Apapa Command, Enforcement Department who may have , done his home work,was said to have put the necessary structures in place to deal with the port smugglers.
Given the support from Compt. Yusuf, the area Controller, Deputy Comptroller Olomo and his boys who had settled down for work were said to have sent a signal to the fraudulent importers with their agents and smugglers using the Apapa port as their base to carry out their nefarious activities that it is no longer going to be business as usual. The message was very clear that even if they succeed in penetrating the ranks of the officers to do improper examination to facilitate the release of their cargoes, they may find it difficult getting it out of the port as it would be redirected to the Government Warehouse where it would be deposited.
Informed sources told The Value News that ever since he took over control of the Apapa Command Enforcement Unit, it has bounced back to life, as he taps all his Contact, who are regularly giving him valuable information.
He was said to have master- minded the recent seizure of 13 Containers loaded with various Contraband ranging from hard substance like Captagon pills, Cocain, Tramadol, Codeine Syrup, Foreign Par boiled rice, tomato paste to second hand Clothing, among others.
The seizure of the 13 Containers loaded with the Contraband items, according to Valuation experts was worth about N285million while the Cocain seizure, allegedly shipped from the North American country of Brazil on MV Karteria and Chyanee Naree was said to have had a street market value of N13.2 billion. The two Ship loads of Cocain seizures were said to have been made by the Nigerian Navy at two different occasions and handed over to the Command Enforcement unit but kept as a closely guided secret. Informed sources told The Value News that 22 Thai Sailors were arrested by Vice Admiral Zubairu Gambo, Chief of Naval Staff boys on Patrol, awaiting to be handed over to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA for further Investigations and Prosecution.
An elated Comptroller Ibrahim, who was very happy with the anti-smuggling efforts of the Command Enforcement officers, had said that ‘’its seizure record between January and November, 2021, was 97 Containers load of cargoes, which were said to have contravened the government Fiscal policies. This may have informed why the Apapa Customs Controller, had urged the trading public‘’to make sincere declarations, pay accurate import duty and get the required permits to avoid losing their investments and facing prosecution’’.
He has made it clear to the fraudulent importers with their agents who are giving the Command much trouble to have it at the back of their mind that ‘’they will be disappointed if they think the Officers will Compromise proper examination on the altar of trade Facilitation’’. He was to have made clear to the hearing of the agents at the port, that ‘’the Command will not relent in’’sharing intelligence to alert the system of False declaration , even after examination or release of falsely declared cargo’’.
Comptroller Yusuf may have shocked Nigerians when he revealed that that ‘’Concealment are always unveiled through the use of forensic manifest management system and energy with other agencies at the port, particular, the NDLEA, under the close watch of Buba Marwa, a former Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa.
In spite of the fact that there are some bad eggs among the trading public, using the Apapa port to take delivery of their imports, an appreciative Apapa Area Controller, had commended many of the Industry stakeholders and Compliant traders for keeping ‘’to the rules of engagement on import and export procedures by adhering to the dictates of the import and export guidelines’’, stressing that that the Command collected N89.7 billion from their duty payment in the month of November alone, and a Cumulative total of N 784.8 billion , between January and November 2021, meaning that the Command may be itching hitting of hitting the trillion mark, by the end of December 2021.
The Customs Comptroller had said ‘’the remarkable feat was achieved as a result of improved inter-agency synergies, enhanced trade facilitation, speedy resolution of disputes, and blockage of areas of revenue leakages’’ at the port
He did not stop there. He disclosed that Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, agenda in’’ the area of increase in revenue Collection, Non-Compromise and anti-smuggling operations’’, had contributed ‘’to the actualisation of the impressive revenue generation by the Command between January and November 2021.