By Stephen Ubanna
In spite of efforts by the Usman Yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller and acting Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, an intervention Unit of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike For , Team A, to force Foreign rice, fairly used vehicles and other Contraband smugglers operating between Benin Republic, Ogun, Oyo, and other south west states market, Ekiti with Benin Republic, nothing appear to have changed .
This is because the smugglers and the fraudulent importers with their agents at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island , Port-Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Lighter Terminal KLT, phases I &II appear have devised news tactics to carry out their nefarious trade amidst Collaboration with their security operatives including Customs personnel .
Recall that late last December, Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller, in-charge of the FOU, one A, Operations and Lagos Roving , at the instance of Yahaya, the Unit Area Comptroller had led an operation comprising of Customs, military and the Force, to raid Kikelomo area of Ayetoro axis of Ogun state and carted away six buses load of the Asian country of Thailand par boiled rice. The quantity of foreign rice, found in the six buses was put at about 800 of 50Kg each .
Many had expected the Oyo smugglers to have learnt their lesson from the Ayetoro raid, in Ogun state but they may have learnt nothng from it. They were said to have given the FOU, Zone A, Opeations and Lagos Roving Team personnel, another opportunity to repeat same at Igbeti , in the state recently. Acting on information, with the backing of Yahaya, the Command acting Comptroller, who was said to have given the Jack led Team, a graphic details on how to go about the operation, were said to have laid ambush for the smugglers for much of last week at the Ibgeti axis of Ibadan.
The fallout was that the smugglers played into their hands and lost their ten smuggled vehicles, fully loaded with foreign rice, smuggled into the country from Benin. Notwithstanding the resistance put up by the smugglers to frustrate the Team from transferring the vehicles to theCommand premises in Lagos, Jack, who had led the operation, like army General, was forced to clear the way and dared the smugglers who had mixed with the bystanders to fire a shot and there would be a bloodbath in the area. They may have been frightened with their hired youths by the beat a retreat that they were forced to bat a retreat to avoid loss of lies.
It was therefore, not surprising why Jack and his Team members were able to transfer the intercepted vehicles loaded with foreign rice into the Command premises in Lagos. The anti-smuggling efforts of the FOU, Zone A, men, at the south west border states, may have emboldened the FOU, Operations and Lagos Roving Team members in the Lagos port environment to complement the efforts of the CGC, Strike Force Team A, has to intensify its search on fraudulent importers with their agents who had been shortchanging the government over the years.
Engaging the expertise of its Information and Communication Technology , ICT, personnel, to gather intelligence, to track the movement of goods and services from the Asian country of China, Middle East, Europe and the North American country of the United states, US, into the Lagos ports, the CGC Strike Force, Team A, were said to have used the ICT , personnel, who were said to have given out information that had facilitated the interception of several Containers load of Carogoes over alleged false declaration, Wrong Classification, Concealment and underpayment. The Containers which fall within the’’40’’ bracket were said to have been transferred to the Ikorodu Container Terminal, ICT, designed for keeping overtime cargoes from the Lagos ports.
The Value News had cited one of the agents at the CGC Strike Force office at Way house road, Apapa, last Tuesday, whose client was slammed a Demand Notice , DN, of N4million. The agent was said to visited the office with the intention of seeing the Coordinator to see what can be done reduce the DN,on his Client’s imports but was disappointed. He was aware that his importer had actually defaulted by making false declarations but wanted the DN, but need Conncession for his own pecuniary gains.. He got it wrong as the response from the officers met at the Strike office at Apapa could not solve their problem as they were forced to leave.
Also, some of the agents who had turned the FOU, Zone A, premises, at Ikeja, into their office ,by moving from Valuation to the Legal department to keep a track on their files to know the DN, that may be raised for heir client did not find it funny as Yahaya, the Command acting Comptroller, did not think twice before approving the DN, by the Valuation Unit. It is not surprising why the CGC Strike Force Team A, and FOU, Zone A, recovered lost revenue in this month of January, have been very encouraging of what the service should expect from the Strike Force , and the Fou, Zone A ,this 2021.
Analysts had described the continued interception of the suspected Containers for much of this month of January 2021 , was an indictment on the releasing officers and Deputy Comptrollers in-charge of the terminals and the Valuation Units of the various Customs Commands at the lagos seaports. The Magazine gathered that some of the ‘’40’’ Containers that had been intercepted by the Shuaibu’s men were exited from the port or on transfer to the bonded terminal within Lagos but suddenly developed wings.
The Magazine findings shows that that the Containers which had escaped the eagle eyes of the CGC Strike Fore, Team A, members, because it could not be properly captured by the its ICT personnel in their profiling that had fallen into the waiting hands of tJack led, FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving Team members who were stationed at strategic locations between Mile II and the Lagos ports. The intercepted Containers, both ‘’20’’ and ‘’40’, were said to have been transfereed to the Command premises at Ikeja.’ It is not surprising why the Command Mechanical Workshop, which had been turned into a Government warehouse is now swarming with dtained intercepted Containers. The Command Authorities were said to have created more space at the Mechanical Workshop by filling the potholes, with water soaked bags of rice of ‘’50’’ each loaded into trucks because of space Constarints at the main Governemnt Warehouse. This may have informed why the FOU, Zone A, operations and Lagos Roving, are not relenting in transferring intercepted Containers on a daily basis to the Mechanical Workshop.
Many see the continued interception of Containers alleged of infration , mostly at the Apapa, port, is a clear indication that the releasing officers and the Deputy Comptrollers in charge of the terminals including oher senior officers holding sensitive positions at the Commannd have not learnt anything from the close discussions with Shuaibu, the Coordinator of the CGC Strike Force, Team A, and his men, on the need to do the right thing.
Recall that between October and December, 2020, the Customs Deputy Comptroller and his key officers had held a and his closed door meeting with the top officials of the Command but nothing appears to have changed as it is still business as usual. He may not have limited his talks to officers at the Apapa Container terminal but also to officers at the vehicle seats at the Lagos ports but that was how far he could go. It is not surprising why the SHuaibu’s operation al officers and ICT , and FOU,, Zone A, Operation and Lagos Roving Team, members have declared a total war, on the smugglers in the south wet geo-political egion and Fraudulent importer with their agents and security agencies Collaborators including Customs personnel.