Customs: CGC Strike Force Team A, Uncovers Cross-Release Of General Duty cargoes As Vehicles While Getting Tougher On Smugglers

By Stephen Ubanna

When Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller, was deployed from the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A by Hammed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian, Customs Service, NCS, to be the Coordinator  of the reconstituted 122 -member Team A, of the CGC,  Strike Force, nobody  gave him opportunity of making any appreciable impact at the south west.

 This is because of the activities of the fraudulent importers with their agents and their Customs Collaborators at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin-can Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kiikiri Lighter Terminal, Phases I& II  and the smugglers operating between the neighbouring West African country of Benin Republic and the six south west states Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo who had gained ground I the region.

More so the overriding  influence of  the Usman Yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller and acting Comptroller, FOU, Zone A, and his anti-smuggling officers, particular, the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team,  headed by Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller, which has become a thorn in the flesh of fraudulent  impoters with their agents and the rice and vehicle smugglers may have discouraged him and his Team members to work.

Shuaibu: Coordinator, CGC Strike Force Team A, Giving Fraudulent Importers Tough Time

 But Shuaibu may have made up his mind from the onset  to succeed in the  National  Assignment by providing strong Leadership to the Team. He  may have also got it right as the officers on the Operation and Information Communication Technology, ICT, Units , were prepared to follow his instruction to the later. Without putting their interest first in the discharge of their official duties.

The Value News learn that his openness and ability to do the do job without  hurting any person , both importers with their agents and the  Customs Operatives at the Lagos ports  may have attracted  a lot of informant to the Team. The Fallout was  that he has at his finger tips the Containerised  cargoes which had Contravened the government  Fiscal policy   released from the port at any point in the time. This may have informed why he had  always  volunteered information to his ICT Operatives  to track such Containers  and stop their exit fr om the Lagos seaports.

 The Value News Magazine gathered  that  in January , 2021, alone , the Team, at his own  prompting, had intercepted 10 X ‘’40      ‘’ Containers, exited from the Lagos ports  over alleged False declarations, resulting in underpayment while in the first week of the month of February, the Team was said to have  intercepted another  4X ‘’40’’ Container load of cargoes.

  One of the  detained Containers  intercepted by The Team, according to a source,  at the port was found  to have  been loaded with Butter , which is a perishable item,. The importer was said to have declared the Consignment as machinery. This is where the CGC Team A, Coordinator, may have use to use  his  discretion in taking decision whther to seize it in accordance with the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, 2004  or.  It is obvious that if he decides to apply the weight of the Customs and excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 2004 , or impose the appropriate duty  and penalty on the importer  to pay.

  By ding so, both the Federal government and the importer with his  agent  may be made to benefit from the import Many believe  that there was no basis to take the bold initiative of seizing the Consigmet which  would spoil within a short time. The source disclosed that another ‘’40’’ Container intercepted  was stocked with  school Children bags.

General Duty Containerised Cargoes Abused By Officers At The Lagos Ports

A similar Container load of Consignment was said to have been seized by the Team last January   was said to have been show cased  to Journalists on the approval  of the Customs Comptroller General, an indication that it was the same importer that was involved in importing  the Consignment from the Asian country of China to Nigeria .

Informed sources told The Magazine that  one of the major  areas of fraud  which the CGC Team , had been battling secretly  over the last four months to stop  was the Cross-release of  general duty goods  as vehicles  from the vehicle.  The informant disclosed that the deal had been going on  over the  years at the Lagos ports but not many people including officers  knew  about it.  

 The Shuaibu led  CGC Strike Force Team A, ay have discovered the fraud  when one or two of  such cross –release Containers fell into the waiting hands of the officers at the port environment. The  Team  could go the extra mile of monitoring the Consignments  that  are being  released to ensure they  Conform with the government Fiscal policy with the logistics   support of the Customs  Comptroller General.

 There are indications that the reconstituted CGC Strike Force Team A, had recovered   N1.4 billion described as lost revenue , which could  have entered  into private pockets  between October 9, 2020 and December 31, 2020,  while over N300 million was said to have been recovered  by the Team in January 2021 alone.  

Perhaps, one area that  the CGC Strike Force  Team A,  has demonstrated  to  be the  master of the game is  in anti-smuggling Operations. Recall that in  all the  south west border routes, there are  FOU, , Zone A, Operation Swift eponse, popular, Border Drills  and  the Team, personnel struggling to checkmate the activities of rice, vehicle and Contraband smugglers  along the routes. The Team anti-smuggling officers may not have  allowed themselves to be overwhelmed by the FOU, Zone or the Border Drills  officers.

A Typical ”40”Container Released From The Port

This is evident  going by the large quantity of foreign  rice  that are seized from  smugglers  transferred to the Team  operational base at the Customs Training College, Ikeja. A Bystander who  had always witnessed the  discharge of  seized bags of foreign rice  of  50Kg each    disclosed  that the CGC  Strike Force, Team A, anti-smuggling officers who are positioned   at strategic locations in the six  south west states  transfer 400 bags of foreign rice of 50Kg each on a   weekly to the Premises  at Ikeja, meaning that  in a month, the Team makes a seizure of 1,600 bags of foreign rice smuggled into the country  from Benin into the country through the south west porous states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, and Ekiti particular.

. The  source  disclosed  that the Team  the anti-smuggling  officers  stationed around the Living Faith Winners  Church area at Sango Ota, alone,  makes a seizure of at least 100 bags of foreign rice of 50 kg each which it transfers to the Team  Customs Training College , premises on a weekly basis. This is  a  commendable feat considering the number of  Customs Operatives from other  Interventionists Units and security agencies personnel  stationed  along the  south west border routes  and checkpoints.

A visitor to the CGC Strike Force  Team Ikeja premises would  be surprised that none of the seized bags of  50 kg foreign rice could be found in the  Team base  as Shuaibu, the Coordinator, was said to have  developed a new method of warehousing  the seized foreign rice . He was aid to have resorted to the use of ‘’4’’ Containers to store the seized foreign rice which are later transferred to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, ILT, for safe Keeping. The Team may have  abandoned the Government Warehouse , Ikeja,  for the FOU, Zone A, to deposit its foreign rice seizures,  which insiders had said  could not even  accommodate the Command foreign rice seizure that coming into the premises  on a daily basis.

FOU Zone A, Intercepted Pick Ups Load Of Rice From Smugglers

 Take for instance , the  six –pick ups load of foreign rice seizures that were  made by the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team  headed by Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller, along the Lagos-Abeokuta Express way and Shagamu change round about  on February 2, 2021,  amidst bloody clash with the smugglers and which had been evacuated to the Command premises are  yet to be discharged  in order to know the quantities to be  transferred to the Government Warehouse as the officers may be waiting to get the signal from the Warehouse  officials that space  has been created to keep the items.         

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