oBy Stephen Ubanna
The last may not have been heard about the seizure of a 40 foot Container load of Contraband Pharmaceutical drug, codeine syrup and cold caps, at the Lagos port of Apapa.
This is because Buba Marwa, a retired Brigadier General and a former Nigerian Ambassador to South Africa, and now Chairman, Nigerian Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, and the Apapa Command of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, under the close watch of Comptroller Malanta Yususuf are both claiming responsibility for having ”acted in intelligence gathering to intercept the Consignment at the port”.
The NDLEA, had issued a Statement on Wednesday, February 2, 2022, that it intercepted a ‘’40’’ Container Concealed with over 22,160 Kg. of Codeine syrups, imported from the Asian country of India.
Femi Babafemi, the NDLEA , Director of Media Advocacy, had said that the agency Operatives were able to intercept the Consignment loaded with a total of 14,080 Kg Codeine syrups, equivalent of 8,080 litres and 4,352 Kg cold caps that was used to conceal the Codeine syrups. Note that Codeine codeine syrup pharmaceutical drugs had been prohibited by the Federal government . Babafeim the NDLEA, spokesperson, may have shocked Nigerians when he revealed that that the intercepted drugs at the nation’s premier port , Apapa, had ”followed intelligence from Foreign partners and the Cooperation of industry stakeholders”. There was nowhere he had mentioned in the Statement that Apapa Customs Command personnel participated in the seizure of the drugs.
This is not the first time that officials of the NDLEA , are making such claims of interception of drugs imported through the Apapa port in the recent time without giving credit to the sister agency, NCS, for doing so at the port or for clarity purposes.
. Recall that last November , the agency claimed to have intercepted Consignments of cocain and heroin with combined weight of 16.85 Kg, worth over N4.9 billion in its street market value . The drugs were said to have been intercepted onboard a ship, MV. Karteria that had arrived the Apapa port from the port of Santos, in the South American country of Brazil. Also, the agency had also claimed to have intercepted an additional 32.9Kg of cocain, barely three weeks of the seizure of the N16.85 Kg of cocain and Heroin at the port in another vessel, MV. Chayanee, also from Santos, Brazil.
It is instructive to note that prior to the recent Codeine syrups seizure at the Apapa port, the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, under the close watch of Kehinde Hussain Ejibuno, a Deputy Comptroller, had on Wednesday, taken Journalists on a guided tour of the Government ware house, Ikeja, where he had showcased the 233 cartons of tramadol, loaded in 75 ,492 packs , with a street market value of about N4 billion based on the asking price of N5,000.00 per sachet, evacuated from a warehouse in the Kirikiri area of Apapa to the Command.
The Customs Area Comptroller had said that they acted on Credible intelligence to raid the Kirikiri Warehouse, where the drugs were neatly packed and other warehouses around the area , where other cargoes that had exited the Lagos ports without appropriate payment of duties by the importer with his agent and their Customs were kept. The Command was said to have recovered over N190 million lost revenue for the government in the month of January alone through the issuance of Demand Notice to the warehouse Operators who were caught unawares during the Operations
. The recovered lost revenue may be more this month of February as Deputy Comptroller Ejibuno and his Lagos Roving Team Unit, Headed by Mohammed Abdullahi, an Assistant Comptroller have beamed their searchlight on the Kirikiri Warehouses .
It could not be ascertained whether the prohibited tramadol drug were released and exited from the Apapa or Tincan Island ports which services many bonded terminals within and outside the ports but accusing fingers are being pointed at the direction of Apapa port because of the recent seizures of a 40 foot Container load of codeine syrups and Col Caps.
perhaps, with the arrest of the 23 persons in connection with the tramadol seizure and information that was said to have been volunteered by suapects during interrogation may likely expose the kingpins of the drug import and their Customs Collaborators. Although five of the suspects were said to have been released on Administrative bail but 18 of them who were still in Customs custody, for further interrogation as at Wednesday, February 2, 2022, may have also been released on Administrative bail.
Comptroller Malanta Yusuf, the Apapa Command Area Controller, may have known that there is fire on the mountain for allowing the NDLEA, to claim credit for the Codeine syrups and cold caps seizure as he was said to have quickly arranged the media on Thursday, February 3, 2022, to announced the seizure of the Container loaded with the Contraband Pharmaceutical products by his men, stressing that it has a Duty Paid Value, DPV, of N78.7 million.
The Apapa Comptroller had alluded to the fact the seizure was made through the the inter-agency Collaboration between the Command and the NDLEA, based on intelligence gathering. that’’
The Customs Comptroller had said that the officers at the APM terminal with the Command Enforcement Team, had’’ acted swiftly on the information gathered without waiting for the importers with his agent’’ to come forward to position the Container for examination before effecting the examination of the suspected Container’’ .
Suffice it to say that in spite of efforts by the drug barons and their contacts to break into the ranks of Customs personnel at the port to exit with their cargoes, Comptroller Yusuf has made it clear to those that cares to listen that they are not resting on their oars to make the Apapa port a ”drug free zone”. He has repeatedly said that his determination is ‘’to make the port a’’ no go area’’, for drug barons and’’ other unlawful trade while ensuring that maximum revenue is collected for the government through proper valuation of imports on all legitimate transactions’’.
Many believe that the Comptroller’s pronouncement is much said than put into practice as he will not be at al the terminals or bonded warehouses to enforce the rules and regulations involved in the clearing process as’’ the mouth of most of the field officers have become too wide’’ that they could bend the rules for their own pecuniary gain.
An insider told The Value News that the Command Enforcement Unit may have come back alive with the deployment of Babatunde Olomo, a Deputy Comptroller, from the Customs Headquarters, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to the Area Command to Head the Unit.
The source informed The Magazine that ever since he resumed at the Unit, he has employed both information gathering and insistence that the right thing must be done to expose some of the rot at the terminals in the past.
This is evident with the spectacular seizures that have continued to be made by the Unit at the port in the recent time. The seizure of a 40 foot Container load of Codeine syrup and col caps, which NDLEA, is also claiming responsibility to have intercepted at the port is one.
There are several other Contraband cargoes that that had been seized by the Unit between November , 2021 and now ,, that are too numerous to mention. Indeed, Nigerian should expect more of such spectacular seizures at the ports in the months ahead as the Command are closely with some paid Informants at within and outside, parading themselves as agents. This may have informed why it is very difficult for a Container Cocealed with drugs to exit the port because of the close watch of what is happening at the terminals and exit gate by these informants.