By Stephen Ubanna
With barely 11 months as the acting Comptroller of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos, Hussein Kehinde Ejibuno, has demonstrated that he understands the tricks of the Fraudulent importers with their agents at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin-can Island, port Multi- services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kiri- Kirikiri Lighter Terminal , KLT, Phases I and II, to shortchange the government and the daredevil smugglers.
Initially, the Fraudulent importers with their agents had tried to play smart to exit their Consignment from the seaports but they were said to have found out that the uncompromising disposition of the Command Lagos Roving and other patrol Team officers within and around the port environment would not give them a breather.
Informed sources told The Value News, that some of the Fraudulent importers with their agents knew that they were in for trouble no sooner Mohammed Abdulahi, an Assistant Comptroller was appointed by acting Comptroler Ejibuno, as the new Head of the Command Lagos Roving following the redeployment of Jack Okbabi, to the Customs Headquarters.
Using his expertise as a thorough bred anti –smuggling officer, AC. Abdullahi, who has the backing of the Customs acting Comptroller, was said to have punctured all the tricks used by the fraudulent importers to take delivery of their cargoes at the seaports.
Given an insider information, the FOU, zone A, acting Comptroller had said that ‘’through ‘’meticulous checks on import documents by the various Patrol Team officers, particular, the Lagos Roving Team officers on the road, they have discovered various infractions of the government Fiscal policy ranging from False declaration, wrong classification of imports to pay less duty, concealment to underpayment.
The Customs acting Comptroller had cited an instance of a declaration where a ‘’40’’, Container loaded with aluminium profile, valued at about N54 million was declared by the importer as used motorcycles and used spareparts. That was said to have been released in one of the Lagos ports. One account has it that it was released and exited from the Pemier port, Apapa while another account has it that it was released from Tin can Island port. This where Yusuf Malanta, comptroller, Apapa Command and his Counterpart at the Tin-can Island Command have to look inwards to know their releasing and exit gate officers are doing to release cargoes under false declaration, and those classified as outright Contraband. Acting Comptroller may have shocked Nigerians when he disclosed that a ‘’good percentage of the Containerised cargoes intercepted and deposited at in the Government Warehouse, Ikeja, fall under the category of outright Contraband.
This is an indictment on the Customs Area Controllers at the Lagos’s seaports for not giving proper supervision on their relasing officers who connive with other officers to do the wrong thing thing.
Ejibuno was said to have made such fraudulent importers who have short paid their duties to pay the balance that was not remitted to government coffers as they were said to have been issued Demand Notice, DN. This has been the trend since Deputy Comptroller Ejibuno, mounted the saddle as acting Comptroller, FOU, zone A, last September. Another Container of Ladies shoes released from the same port was said to have also fallen into the waiting hands of FOU, Zone, Lagos Roving Team on the road.
The FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller, had revealed that in July 2022, alone, the Command had recovered about N25 million for the government. According to him, ‘’this is money that could have entered into the private pockets of the non-compliant importers with their agents both not for the watchfulness and uncompromising disposition of officers of the unit’’. The Command could have made that much in the month of July through the issuance of DN, with the implementation of the 2022 Fiscal Policy Measures that is made up of the Supplementary Protection Measures, SPM, for the implementation of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Common External Tariff, CET, 2022-2026, and Excise duties on non-alcoholic beverages, alcoholic beverages, Cigarettes and Tobacco products , including Telecommunication services.
The government may have made the case of the Fraudulent importers with their agents worse with the introduction of the ‘’import Adjustment Tax, IAT, list with additional taxes and levy on 172 Tariff lines of the extant ECOWAS CET goods.
Acting Comptroller Ejibuno , who could not hide his feelings was said to have enjoined the compliant importers to endeavor to sustain the compliance level to avoid running into trouble with his men on the road as ‘’the Unit and the service in general remain committed at facilitating legitimate trade’’.
Perhaps, one area, that acting Comptroller Ejibuno and his officers were said to performed exceedingly very well based on the Command monthly reports was in the area of anti-smuggling operations. This is evident with the seizures of Contraband that was said to have continuously being made by the Command on the monthly basis. From the 144 inappropriate routes or so, in various border Communities in Ogun, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, home state, Oyo, Osun, Lagos Creeks , watersides to Ekiti, the Command Lagos Roving, under the close watch of Assistant Comptroller Abdullahi, and other Patrol and Surveillance Teams, were said to have made impressive Contraband seizures ranging from Foreign par boiled and basmati rice, Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol, used clothing used tyres, Foreign poultry products, fairly used cars to used shoes and motorcycles.
The FOU, Zone A, Patrol officers may have been had o the dare devil smugglers to frustrate them in their illegitimate business because President Muhammadu Buhari, had banned the importation of vehicles anforeign rice through the nation’s land borders on January 1, 2017. The ban on the importation of rice into the country was said to have been extended to country’s seaports in June 2017, as the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, was directed to stop issuing Letters of Credit to foreign rice importers.
Take for instance, the Command was said to have made 7, 261 of 50Kg each bag of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice and 600 bags of the Asian country of India basmati, special rice, 34 , 725, litres of PMS, equivalent of a truck load of PMS, and 331 cartons of frozen poultry products.
AN elated Acting Comptroller Ejibuno, who is very happy with the Contraband seizures made by the Command in the month of July had said that ‘’their commitment at enforcing the government’s FiscalPolicies, which is aimed at safeguarding the nation’s economy ‘’. He had described as a misplace priority as demostrated in the use of hard earned forex for importation, particular, of expired seasoning s( chicken cubes), used clothing, used shoes, and used tyres.
Appealing to poultry products smugglers to turn a new leaf, he was said to have made clear to those that cares to listen that ‘’ poultry products rmain on the import prohibition list because of its attendant health and economic implications’’.
The acting Customs Comptroller had said that the process of ‘’transporting and preserving these poultry products are some hazardous chemicals which are injurious to health.