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.
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.
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.
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.
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.