By Stephen Ubanna
For much of last year and now, there have been rumours making the rounds that Containers loaded with cargoes without Customs activity are developing wings at the Lagos ports. The rumour that the Containers are stolen from the Lagos ports without Customs activity with the use of barge became pronounced this year.
The Leadership of the Nigerian Ports Authorities, NPA, and their Counterparts in the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, may have found it difficult to believe it, because none of such seized Containers without Customs activity stolen from the Lagos ports have been intercepted and seized by any anyCustoms Formation or ad-hoc Team.
This may have informed why Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator , of the Customs Comptroller General, CGC, Strike Force, Team A, Bola Sarumi, an Assistant Comptroller and Hamawwa, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, Head of Operations , who Constitute the Management Team of the CGC Strike Force Team A, had to go back to the drawing the board to work out an arrangement that would facilitate the seizure of such a stolen Containerrised cargo from the Lagos port by working closely with the Information Communication Technology,ICT, Unit, personnel. The efforts may have paid off last February.
Investigations by The Value News shows that the ICT, Unit, between October 10, 2020 and now, had raised 230 alerts of import infractions which had helped the CGC, Strike Force ,Team A, to have recovered a N1.2 billion lost revenue which could have entered into private pockets for the government and equally the seized eight Containers over alleged false declarations, wrong Classification leading to under payment and Concealment. The recovered billion naira lost revenue and the seized eight Containers were said to have been made in six weeks.
One of such spectacular seizures, according to an insider was a Container allegedly stolen from a Lagos port, with the use of barge. It was gathered that the Coordinator of the CGC Strike Force team A, who may have acted on intelligence and the alert from the ICT, Unit, was said to have directed Hamawwa, a CSC, and the officer –in-charge of the ad-hoc Team Operations, who moblised his men into action to trail the truck carrying the Container that was stolen from an undisclosed Lagos port without Customs stamp on it.
They were said to have used the Container No. CCLU7350851, to trace it to its Location where it was abandoned. They were said to have found that the Container, from the Asian country of China, which was loaded with , 2,242 cartons of Liquid soap,/Safeguard Lotion and Soy Source, written in Chinese Language. The value of the Consignment was put at about N10.3 million while the Duty Paid Value,DPV, according to Valuation experts was N13. 452million.
.Perhaps, to avoid a repeat of such a feat in the future, the CGC Strike Force Team A, Coordinator, who could not hide his feelings, was said to have appealed to Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, and Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director ,NPA, to ban the use of barges to transfer Containers from the Lagos ports of Apapa, and Tin-can Island to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, ILT, Mile II and other inland terminals within the Lagos state to restore sanity at the ports.
The intercepted stolen Container from the unknown Lagos port, according to informed sources was part of the seven Containers that were loaded with different items from the Asian country of China, to Nigeria but fell into the waiting hands of the CGC Strike Force Operations personnel over alleged infraction.
On Tuesday, March 30, 2021, Shuaibu, the Customs Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator, of the CGC sTRike Force Team A, and his Management Team members, were said to have been accompanied by Joseph Atah, a Deputy Comptroller and the Customs National Public Relations Officer to ILT, to showcase the seized items found in the intercepted Containers.. Although, the Team had seized eight Containers, only three were opened on the orders of the Coordinator for Journalists to see their contents . One of the ‘’40’ Containers , happened to have been stolen from the Lagos port. The second ‘’40’’ Container , No.SUDU 6630270, opened , was said to have been loaded with 280 bales, valued at about N70million and with a DPV, ofN84million. The third Container, No. MAU 5593080, was said to have been loaded with 45 pallets of Crown Label materials., valued at aboutN15.12 million and a DPV. Of about N16million.
. The Journey was said to have started at the customs Training College, the operational base of the CGC Strike Force, Team A, where the 823 bags of 50 Kg each of foreign par boiled rice intercepted from smugglers from different Locations in the south west states of Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and Osun, with a DPV. of about N0.53million were kept.
The Customs Coordinator , was said to have also used the opportunity of the interaction with the online, print and electronic Media, to expose the new tricks that had been adopted by smugglers in their desperate move to sustain the tempo of smuggling foreign rice into the country by using every available space in the vehicle:fender, spare tyre,fuel tank, under the car Seats, side doors, including the engine and creating bunkers in the boot of the vehicle to accommodate the smuggled rice poured out from the 50Kg foreign rice bags. One of the vehicles, going by the Magazine calculation can accommodate at least 10 50Kg, bags of the smuggled foreign rice.
The CGC Strike Force Team A, Coordinator, was said to have positioned the thee vehicles intercepted with their Contents and how it was Concealed in the vehicles for people to see. The One of the vehicles, Toyota Sienna, with Reg. No. EPE 174 DU, which was a means of Conveyance of the smuggled Contraband rice, was said to have been intercepted by the ad-hoc team Patrol Team, around Lagos state University, an indication that the vehicle may have beaten the array of security personnel at Gbaji and Agbara checking points to get into Lagos. The two other vehicles,Toyota, Camry vehicles, that were said to have been intercepted by the Team Operational personnel, were said to have been with smuggled rice like the Sienna, in all Compartments and the egine.The Value of the smuggled 50Kg bags each of foreign par boiled rice found in the Sienna was put at about N3.5million and DPV .of about N4.75million. The value of the smuggled par boiled rice from theAsian country of Thailand found in in the used Toyota Camry with Registration NoS. KSF 611 BG and AKD 444 GU, was put by Valuation experts at about N4.15 million while the DPV.was put at about N6.75million.
The two Toyota Camry vehicles, according to an insider , were said to have been intercepted around the Idiroko area, of Ogun state, described in Customs circles as the home of foreign rice smugglers.
Giving a summary of the activities of the ad-hoc Team , in the last six weeks, an elated Shuaibu disclosed that the team made eight seizures of Containers loaded with different cargoes, with a total value of about N161.74million. million and a DPV.of N212.3million.
Only recently, The Magazine cited a vehicle, intercepted by Customs Operatives around MTN checking point along the Lagos –Seme road loaded in all its Compartment including the engine with foreign rice. , including the engine on Wednesday, March 31, 2021. Going by the change in tactics of the foreign rice smugglers to beat Customs personnel on the road to it, Shuaibu, the Customs Coordinator, has appealed to Nigerians to reject foreign rice because of the mans of storage and smuggling into the country and patronise for the locally produced rice which is more hygienic to eat.
The Customs Deputy Comptroller may have shocked Nigerians when he disclosed how the Team Operational personnel evacuated a warehouse loaded with 840 cartons of India Basmati rice valued at about N35million and a DPV. Of over N50million. The 1,620 pieces of used tyres of different sizes found in the Orile warehouse raided by the Team members was put at about N16.2million and a DPV .of N19.44million.
An eyewitness account disclosed that the two ‘’40’’ Containers were hired to load the seized items from the evacuated warehouse. As at press time, the ‘’40’’ Container loaded with the Basmati rice was still at the Customs Training College,Ikeja, premises, and may be transferred to the ILT any time soon.
. The ‘’40’’ Container loaded with the second hand tyres was said to have been transferred to the ILT, which was opened to the visiting Journalists on Tuesday who had visited the terminal to see.