2022: Bad Year For Smugglers,Fraudulent Importers With Their Agents, In South West Geo-political Region

 By Stephen Ubanna

When President Muhammadu Buhammadu Buhari, banned the importation of Foreign rice and vehicles, into the country through the Land border on January 1, 2017, smugglers laughed over it  on the grounds that that the policy will not work. They got it wrong.

 This is  because the Federal Operations Unit Ikeja, Lagos,, FOU,, Zone A, and other Interventionist Units across the country  through their aggressive anti-smuggling drive  along the border  areas may have sent a message to the  smugglers that it is no longer going to be business as usual.  Between 2018 and now, the FOU, zone A, anti-smuggling officers, given the logistics support from Hameed Ali , the Customs Comptroler Geneal, has not limited their Operations to the border areas alone but had move a step further to sanitise the Lagos seaports.   

 Acting Comptroller Kehinde Hussain Ejibunu, the Area Controller of   FOU, Zone A, and his men may have sent a message to the Fraudulent importers with their agents at the the Lagis ports of Apapa, Tin can Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, phases I and II and the smugglers operating in the south western tern states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Ekiti and Ondo, that no part of the region will be safe for their illegitimate business any longer.

 The Federal government inclusion of more items on the import Prohibition list in the 2022 Fiscal policy measures,  may have brought out the best in  Acting Comptroller Ejibunu and his men  s they had taken the anti-smugling war to the  Lagos Ports, making recovering of millions of lost government revenue and taking the war to   the smugglers hide out in the Land border areas in the region  making spectacular Contrabnd seizures.

 As a prelude to sanitizing the Lagos eaport and its environs to ensure that the right thing is done in terms payment of correct duties, Acting Ejibunu , was said to have engaged the services of informants and  made other  contacts at the ports who were ever  ready  to volunteer information on bad jobs released or in the process of being released . The Customs Acting Comptroller, in turn was said to have passed such information to the Head of Operations and Lagos Roving whose men are stationed at strategic Locations around the port environment.

Note that the Unit on the Unit  Patrol Teams were said to have also cultivated their own contact which was helping them on their job.The Interception  of some Containers load of goods released from the Lagos ports and transferred to the Command premises which  were  re-examined  and revalued between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022, speaks volume.

 The FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller  had taken Journalists on a guided  tour of the  Command  Engineering Workshop, on Wednesday, January  4, 20223 to showcase  some of the intercepted and seized Containers and their contents which was an indictment on the Area Controllers overseeing the Lagos seaports  and their releasing officers.

 Given an insider information, he disclosed that the Command had recovered N878,344,486.96, from the re-examined Container loads  goods released from the ports which fell into the waiting hands of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Patrol Teams Patrol Team officers   on the road and transferred to the  its premises . The lost revenue was said to have been recovered through the issuance of Demand Notice, DN to the guilty importer through his or her agent.

Maritim analysts  believes  that but for the Intervention of the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team officer who  re on the road for the usual routine checks, the huge amount could have entered into private pockets last year.  Acting Comptroller Ejibunu was emphatic on this, ‘’this collected   revenue would have been lost but for the intervention and routine checks to ensure that appropriate duties were paid into government coffers’’.

 Many see the recovery of the huge amount by the FOU, Zone A, Command which is not a revenue generating Command, but basically an anti-smuggling Unit as  a welcome development  where several bonded terminals are located in different parts of Lagos state and should further encourage the Ali, the Customs Comptroller General  to give more logistic support to the Command  to reach out to more areas, in Lagos state particular, the difficult terrains.

There is no gain saying the fact that the amount recovered are just from the few Containers the Command Patrol Teams could intercept on the road, and tens of such Containers that the Comptroller General o Customs, CGC, Strike Force, Lagos zonal office, under the close watch of Mohammed Yusuf, a deputy Comptroller,  men on the road  and seizures  by  Customs other Interventionist Units within the Lagos axis.

 While the FOU, zone A, Patrol Team officers have remained a thorn on the flesh of the fraudulent importers with their agents within the Lagos ports axis, those engaged in Legitimate trade smiles to the bank as their Containers are never harassed on the road. According to informed sources the Command Patrol Team officers know such importers with their agents.

The Customs Comptroller said that much.    ‘’We provided support for facilitation of legitimate trade, by ensuring ease passage for compliant traders’’.  Informed sources told The Value News that he Fraud committed by the importers with their agents at the Lagos ports may been reduced   as the Command provides escort services for cargoes under bond to their destination across the country’’ to avoid diversion .

We now turn to the Commmand anti-smuggling operations at the  border Area Areas in the  in Lagos, Ogun, Former President Olusegun Obasanjo home state, where there are over 140 illegal border routes used by smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and ondo states  within the year under review.

Acting Comptroller Ejibunu had said that they ‘’prosecuted their core mandate of anti-smuggling without fear in the six south western states ‘’. He noted that even in face of resistance and attacks   and tricks in the mode of Concealments, they never bothered as they still carried out their assignment    

Maritime Analysts averred  that FOU, zone A, Customs boss and his men could make  appreciable impact around the Land border areas in the south west  geopolitical  region  because they have made contacts  who are feeding them  with information, about  ‘’smugglers movement from time to time which was used in check mating  the criminal elements’’.

 Indeed, some of the smugglers, according to informed sources on sighting the Command anti-smuggling officers were  said to have   abandoned their goods and took to the bush to escape arrest.  Those who have dared the Customs Interventionist Unit anti-smuggling officers would never forget their experience in a hurry.

This is evident going  the Command   seizure of 93,102 bags of Foreign par boiled and the Asian country of  India produced Agricultural rice of 50 Kg each, equivalent of  1156 truck load  of rice .

 The intercepted thousands bag  of 50Kg each  of foreign rice   were said to have been deposited  Old Government Warehouse  within the Ikeja premises  and the newly constructed one  by Ali, a  the Customs Comptroller General.   Ejibunu had said that even in the new Warehouse,   ‘’there is an overflow of seized foreign rice’’, meaning that the anti-smuggling Officers Patrol Teams are churning out seized bags from their various locations virtually on a daily basis.

He had said that the Command also intercepted and seized 108 automobiles   comprising of trucks, tankers, cars including motorcycles which were used as means of conveyance the seized prohibited smuggled items.  He may have shocked Nigerians when he said the Command intercepted 656,414 litres about 20 Tanker load of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol, from the economic saboteurs in 2022, alone.  He had put the Cumulative value of the of the total seized Contraband by the Command last year at about N14 billion including used clothing and tyres.

Acting Compt. Ejibunu Showcase Seized Wraps Of Cannabis Satiza To The Press

Given the unflinching support of the Customs Comptroller General to the Command’s anti- smuggling operations last year and the previous years  that had  resulted in making spectacular seizures many have informed  why  the FOU, Zone A, Acting Area Controller had declared that  ‘’, for 2023, which is the election  year in the country,  the Command will do everything possible ‘’to sustain   and increase the tempo of its anti-smuggling operations  , ensuring zero promise as usual, arresting an seizing the smugglers’ wares’’.

Apealing o to the smugglers and their Collaborators to turn a new leaf  and embrace Legitimate trade as  a means of livelihood, he had made it clear that the Unit ‘‘will make life unbearable  for them  through interdictions, arrests, seizures  and diligent prosecution if they fail to change for good’’.

Recall that in the  year under review,, the Command had  arrested 176  suspected smugglers  charged 14 to Court  and secured seven convictions. The Customs Comptroller had confirmed that the 14 suspects charged to Court are at various stages of Investigation and prosecution while of the suspects are still in detention. He had said that 10 of the arrested suspected smugglers were granted Administrative bail.  

Contraband Goods Including Means Of Conveyance Intercepted By FOU ,Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos

Given the synergy   between the various security agencies, the Command was said to have handed over to the  Brig. Gen. Buba Marwa, led  Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA , two of the arrested suspected smuggler. The arrested suspects may not be unconnected  to seizure of  the smuggled  Ghana grown Cannabis Sativa popular Indian Hemp and packs of  Tramadol of various milligrams smuggled into the country.  One of the suspects was said to have been handed to the Usman Alkali Baba led Nigerian Police Force over undisclosed offence.  

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