By Stephen Ubanna
Ahead of the 2021, Yuletide, security the tightened up at the nation’s seaports and landborders across the country to forestall the shipment and smuggling of prohibited drugs such as Tramadol, Codeine and other dangerous drugs from the Asian countries of India and China into the country, appears to be yielding results.
The Customs Operatives and other security agencies personnel including the Department of State Security service, DSS, personnel, were said to have also been encouraged to tightened up security at the ports, particular, to prevent the shipment of arms and ammunitions that might be concealed in Containers with other dutiable goods from the European country of Turkey, described by many as base of the arms syndicate in Europe .
Usman Alkali Baba, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, may have prepared the mind of the security operatives, particular, the Force, when he urged the officers to brace up ‘’to the anticipated internal security challenges that the year 2022 may present’’.
The IGP had said that that 2022, would be very challenging because it precedes the 2023 general elections and the Force and other security agencies would be confronted with the management of threats associated with active political space such as smuggling of arms and dangerous drugs into the country.
Comptroller Yusuf Malanata Ibrahim, the Apapa Customs Command, Area Controller, may have known that a lot needed to be done to tighten up security at the premier port that he had set the sag for other Comptrollers overseeing Commands to follow. This is evident with the interception and seizure of falsely declared 15 Containers load of Contraband comprising of Tramadol, Codeine, Foreign Parboiled rice, Tomato Paste and 46.55Kg of cocain with a street market value of N13.2 billion concealed in two vessels, MV. Karteria and Chayanee Naree that was said to have been arrested by the Nigerian Naval personnel on Patrol and handed over to the Command.
From the onset the Customs Comptroller had made it clear that there would not no room for fraudulent importers with their agents at the premier port, insisting that those who make false declaration, indulge in making inaccurate payment of duties or ensure wrong classification of their good sand refusal to obtain the required permits before shipment of their cargoes from China, India or any other part of the world into the country would forfeit it. He has kept to his words, as some of the fraudulent importers had lost their shipment to the government as their agents could not defend their import as they have no idea about the contents of the Container besides what is declared in the Bill of Laden.
Many had expected that the importers with the agents using the Tincan Island port to take delivery of their cargoes would have learnt their lesson from the recent seizure of 15 Containers and the Naval personnel of interception of two vessels concealed with cocain which was handed over to Apapa Command to stop daring the Customs personnel,.
Unknown to the importers with their agents, Comptroller Musa Abdullahi Baba, popular, MBA, who is well connected to customs Administrations personnel in different parts of the world because of the different courses he had attended in the World Customs Organisation, WCO, Brussels, Belgium, had put his officers on the red alert to ensure that no dangerous drugs , arms and ammunition, enter into the country this Yuletide through the port.
the arms syndicate, from Turkey ,who may have loaded a’’40’’ Container with Registration Number TRU058369 with arms allegedly manufactured from the North American country of the United States, US, may have taken advantage the Yuletide period and the impression that Customs personnel and the other security agencies personnel involved in the Examination of Consignments may not be too thorough in doing their job once they are compromised to ship the arms into the country after getting the green light from their Nigerian Collaborators.
. The arms syndicate were said to have made little or no effort to properly conceal the guns which were loaded in cartoms of Plasma Television before shipment toTincan Island port, where the agent contracted to do the clearing was anxiously awaiting for the vessel to arrive and discharge. The syndicate may have been happy when information filtered out that the Container loaded with the arms had arrived safely at the port and they were looking out to hear the good news from the agent that it has been cleared and deposited in their warehouse. They got it wrong.
Unknown to them, no Customs Area Controller at the ports or the Land borders is ready to do the biddings of any fraudulent importer with their agents as they insist that the right thing must be done: proper Examination of Cargoes.
It was not surprising that when the Container that was said to have been falsely declared as Plasma TV, was positioned for Examinations on Friday, December 17, 2021, at the terminal B2, Vehicle Seat of the TCT, it was discovered that the supposed Plasma TV, cartons contained firearms. It was bad news to the syndicate.
The suspected Container was said to have been detained, awaiting to be taken to the Command Enforcement unit, for proper Examination to ascertain the quantities of the arms and subsequent briefing of the Customs Comptroller General and his Management Team and issuance of Official Statement by Monday, December, 20, 21.
Although Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Customs Comptroller General, who may not have been briefed about the Tin can Island arms seizure, he was said to be already aware of it through the social media, fueling speculations making the rounds that the news may have leaked out from the port from unavoidable sources.
Informed sources told The Magazine that thje agent who had handled the clearing of the arms Consignment had rented the operating License of another Registered agent permit , who may have Commercialised his for want of do as a way to make ends meet. Many believe that he may not have known the content of the container before renting out this operating License to the third party to use to take delivery of his client’s Consignment at the port.
The arms had entered into the country at a time President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, was at Istanbul, Capital of Turkey, to attend the 3rd Turkey-Africa Partnership Summit . Note that Customs personnel at the seaports and the Land border areas do not want to hear or s set their eye on live Cateridges or guns because of the Baditry, terrorism and other separatist groups and criminal element activities in different parts of the country. The activities of the Bandits group in Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi, Kaduna and Katsina, Buhari, home state , including the activities of the Bandits in the north central states of Niger and Taraba, retired Lt. General Theophilous Danjuma , a former minister of Defence, during Former President Olusegun Obasanjo Administration may have encouraged the security operatives to be on the red alert to ensure that no arms enter into the country illegally.
A senior Customs officer who spoke to The Magazine on condition had said that the TICT, Customs Command and the DSS, personnel, have beamed their searchlight on the agent who had gone for the Examination of the Consignment on the grounds that he knows about the criminal import, meaning that he may go in for it. There are fears that the Customs Authorities may withdraw the operating License of the agent who owns the Lincense as a deterrence to others who may want to sublet their License to dubious agents to use to take delivery of prohibited cargo at the seaport.
Efforts to speak to Uche Egiesieme, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the Command spokesperson on the Command about the arms seizure did not materialise. Recall that in 2017, the Command had intercepted and seized 3’’20’’ Container concealed with arms manufactured from the United States but shipped but shipped from Turkey.
While Comptrollers Ibrahim, Musa and Awwal Mohammed, the Area Comptrollers at the country’s major seaports, Apapa, Tincan Island and Onne, respectively, are alive to their duties , to ensure that prohibited items such as Tramadol, Codein, cocain, Foreign Parboiled rice ,including leather weapons-guns, did not enter into the country as well as bloaking areas of revenue leakages through their ports, Comptroller Mohammed Jibo, of Seme Command, had made things extremely very difficult for the VIP smugglers of Sachets of Jerry Cans of 25 litres each, of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, Petrol, from the watersides, Creeks and Beaches around the seme and Badagry axis to neighbouring Benin republic.
Informed sources told the Magazine that over the last couple of months, one Abubakar, an Assistant Comptroller, and the Commmand, Head of Operations who has made the watersides, Creeks and beaches, numbering about 15, his second office, around the Seme Jurisdictions and Badagry axis and his officers are making appreciable impact.
Given the support of the Customs Comptroller, who was said to have given one of the Four Hilux anti-smuggling vans allocated to the Command by the Comptroller General, from the 46 purchased by the Service , from the Elizade Motors, recently, to the Team, Abubakar, and his Officers, are said to be making good use of it as they were said to have taken the war to the smugglers’ hideouts in the forest, Water sides, Creeks and beaches to slug it out with them.
Last Monday, the Abubakar Team were said to have intercepted 750 Jerrycans, of 25 litres each of Petrol from Oloko Creeks around Badagry axis.An elated Comptroller Jibo, who is very happy at what his Operations and Enforcement officers are doing to checkmate what is coming in or leaving the country on a daily basis either by land or through the watersides, Creeks and Beaches, had said the 750 Jerrycans of Petrol, equivalent of 22,500 litres was worth about N3.32million.
The Customs Comptroller has made it clear to those who think that they can turn the watersides, Creeks and Beaches around the Seme Jurisdiction and Bdagry axis , as their smuggling routes of Petrol meant for sales in the Nigerian market to Benin Republic that ‘’it is no longer going to be business as usual’’.
We will continue to increase our Patrol and Surveillance at the Seme and Owode , which are joint border between Nigeria and Benin including the watersides, Creeks and Beaches, to protect the nation’s economy and forestall dumping of foreign rice, vehicles and other offensive items, including drugs, into the Nigerian market , through the land border’’. He gave kudos to the officers for refusing to be compromised but successfully transferred the sachets of Jerrycans of Petrol, to the Command premises, amidst tight security.Recall that some two weeks ago, the Command had intercepted 1050 Jerrycans of 25 litres each, equivalent of 31, 500 litres of petrol, valued at about NN5.4 million.
Hussain Abdullahi, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and the Command spokesperson had said that since the smugglers are not ready to turn a new leaf by trading on dutiable goods, ‘’they would continue to lose both their investment and money to the government’’ as the Banks would continue to run after them to repay their borrowed loan for an illegal business that never materilised.