FOU: Taking The  War To The Smugglers Den,Recovers Over N800 Million Lost Revenue For FG, In Ten Months

By Stepehen Ubanna

Hussain Kehinde Ejibuno, a  Deputy Controller and Area Controller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, is not a happy man.  Acting Comptroller Ejibinu’s source of unhappiness is the constant attack on the Interventionist Unit Patrol teams in the south western geopolitical region, particular, in the hostile border Communities of theregion, particular, Ogun and Oyo states.

 Only recently, precisely on Friday, November 25, 2022, the Command Border Patrol Tactical Team, BPTT, headed by one Jude Ohagwu, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, was said to have been attacked at Imashayi Community, around the Ilaro axis, in Ogun, home state of former President Olusegun Obasanjo while carrying out their Legitimate duties. That much was confirmed by the FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller.

Acting Compt. Ejibunu: Area Controller, FOU, Zone A

  The FOU, zone A,Acting Customs Comptroller, was said to have taken up the matter with the Community Paramount Ruler who was said to have promised to do something about it but that was how far he could go. Informed sources told the Value News that when information filtered out  that the Customs Patrol  team, were  planning  to raid the Community to  fish out the attackers, the Oba, who may not have wanted his Community to be turned into a theatre of war was said to have  reached out to the Customs Comptroller, to sue for peace.

 He was said to have urged the Customs Area Controller, to exercise restraint as he is on top of the situation. An aggrieved acting Comptroller Ejibunu, who could no longer take it the continued attack on his officers may have sent a message to the Paramount Rulers of the border Communities, to call their people taking the Law into their hand or be ready to face the Consequences. Which many not be too palatable.

 Note that the Imashayi Community attack on an FOU, zone A, Patrol team may not be the first time Command officers have been  attacked in Ogun state . Informed sources told The Value News that three of the Interventionist unit officers have been killed different times by smugglers in the region.  One of the victims, according to informed sources was said to have been killed and dumped in a ditch.  

The Customs Comptroller General may not have wanted the Current Management of the FOU, Zone A, under the Leaderhip of Acting Comptroller Ejibunu to go through the problem of logistics that will forestall its response  to emergency situations that he has made provision for adequate logistics for the Command.

. He was said to have provided  21  operational vehicles to  the Command, which  was said to have made  the job of the Patrol teams much easier as they could enter into the difficult terrains in the six states of the south west geopolitical region   to smoke out smuggled hidden foreign parboiled rice,  and  the West African country  of Ghana grown India  hemp and other Contraband, hidden  in the bush and Creeks.

 Given the logistics support of Col. Ali, rtd, the Customs helmsman,  to the Command  was said to have helped  it I making spectacular Contraband seizures. Between January and October , 20222, the Command, according to the Customs Area Controller, had intercepted and seized 83,414  bags of 50 Kg each of Foreign par boiled rice , equivalent of about 124 trucks load of rice, valued at  about N5 billion and the seizure of 104 units of fairly used vehicles , which  Valuation experts had put at N71.63 and 187 used Motorcycles worth N24.4 million.

 This is in addition to the seizure of the West African country of Ghana grown 186.98 Kg,of  Canabis Sativa, popular, Indian hemp,   valued at about N327,6000,300.00, and 5,692 bales of second hand clothing, which valuation experts had put at  NN395.3 million.  

The Command could make such Contraband seizures because the President Muhammadu Buhari, had banned the importation of Foreign rice and Vehicles, into the country the nation’s Land borders on January 1, 2017.

 With the improved Logistics support , the Command had confiscated other prohibited  items worth milllions of naira, which  include  a unit of pump action rifle  two units of Dane guns and 35, live Cartridges, with a Duty Paid Value , PDV, of  N415,000.00, and  516 litres of Premium Motor Sprit, PMS, popular, petrol, that were to be smuggled from Nigeria into Benin Republic market , valued at about N70 million.

It was said to have intercepted 233 cartons  and 82 packs  of tramadol  of the range  225 mag  which , many believe could have entered into the Nigeria market from Benin Republic both not for the alertness of the officers.  It could not be ascertained Whether it was intercepted from the port environment or the Land border areas within the region.

In spite of efforts by the Command to deal  decisively with the dare-devil smugglers in its area of jurisdictions, there is what analysts had called a serous Conspiracy theory, in the  border Communities thatis militating the service anti-smuggling opertions  which has to do with the refusal of residents of the border Communities  to hire  out their  trucks  and  other logistics vehicles  to the Command Patrol teams  when the need arises for the  evacuation of intercepted  items from the bush and Creeks, to the Government Warehouse at Ikeja

. The  major set back which the Command  and other Customs Interventionist an units  appear to be experiencing , according to an insider  was  ‘’inadequate manpower’’ to  match  the long stretch  of the porous borders in the region. There are hundreds of    illegal border routes that are used by the dare-devil smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities between Nigeria and the eneighbouring West African country of Benin Republic in . Ogun state, alone ‘ More worrisome was the delays  by the Courts,  in the determination of cases involving smugglers’’.

 Enough of the FOU, zone A,  Command, in tackling the  unrepentant smugglers in the south Western region.There is no gain saying the fact that a good number of smugglers and their sponsors who  were said to have been caught in the act have been convicted by the Command over the last ten months while 10 other suspects  still  in  custody  awaiting trial.

  We turn to the Command efforts in maintaining sanity at the Lagos seaports of Apapa, Tin can Island, Port Multiservices Terminal Lite, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, Phases I and II, and several other Bonded terminals in Lagos.

 The FOU, Zone A, Customs Area Comptroller, who spoke  on the factors militating Customs revenue generations and anti-smuggling operations in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, on Thursday December 8, 2022,,, at the Legue of Maritime Editors, retreat, may have used the opportunity to delve into the Command revenue generations  between January and October, 2022.

  He had said that the Command  recovered  N808,487,191.71, in ten  months from the issuance of Demand Notice , DN,  on intercepted Containers released from the Lagos ports and other Bonded terminal terminals,  arising from ‘’ transfer of value, low value , wrong Classification,  and Concealment  in Containers and vehicles’’.  

This is money that could have entered into private accounts but was recovered and paid into the Federation Accounts. This is an indictment on the Area Controllers of Apapa, Tin can Island, PTML and KLT, phases I and II, Area Commands, described in Customs circles as  revenue generating Commands.

He may have shocked Nigerians when he listed that  ‘’ granting of waivers  to Organsations with Capacity  to pay reasonable duties,  smuggling,  Lack of Scanner machines at the entry points, Corruption  in the system  by Fraudulent importers with their agents, Terminal Operators,  shipping companies,  and their Customs Collaborators, Documentation problems,   and duties on their imports’’ as the factors militating against appropriate  revenue colllection  at the ports and Land border Areas.

He was said to have also disclosed that the delays in making  duty payments  at the designated Commercial banks  operating in the country by importers  with their clearing agents    and unwillingness by many Nigerians to pay  taxes are not helping matters. This is where the Apapa , Tincan Island, PTML AND KLT, may have  look inwards to bock areas of revenue leakage or contine to gieve room on acting Comptroller Ejibunu , to expose their Commands.

Given an insider information on how suspected Containers released from the port are intercepted on the road , by his officers, he disclosed  that ‘’once  there is an intelligence  on any job  released  from the seaports  that runs foul of  the Customs Clearance procedure , the intervention  role of ‘’the Command  triggers off’’.

It was not surprising why  Ishaku Manga, an Assistant Comptroller and Head of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving, who had continued from where  Mohammed Abdullahi, also an Assistant and the former Head of the team , had stopped, to intercept more    suspected Containers  released from the port, and transferred to the Command where it  would  reexamined and assessment given  for  the shortfall, the  agent of the importer are forced  to pay it through the  bank  into government coffers.  

The no nonsense attitude of acting Compt. Ejibunu, who do not want to hear that any Patrol team officer had compromised on his position in the discharge of his duties, may have informed why they have sit up to the do right thing , forcing the importers to change  their impression of the Lagos Roving team officers and other Patrol teams stationed around the port environment.

 ‘’The fear of FOU, zone A, under the current Leadership of Acting Comptroller Ejibunu, is the beginning of wisdom for economic saboteurs both at seaports and Land border areas’’, an agent had told The Magazine. This should gladden the heart of Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, who is ever ready to support the FOU, Zone A.

 This is evident with the building of a new Government Warehouse to serve the needS of the Command to keep its intercepted Contraband, particular, Foreign rice and Bales of USED second hand clothing. The Customs Comptroller General, may be encouraged to build another warehouse for the Command, as the Area Controller , was said to have made  a request for it  as the Patrolteam officers are turning in seized Contrabnd of foreign rice that runs into hundreds of bags  of  50Kg each on a daily basis and, begging for space to keep them in the existing Government Warehouses in the Command premises.Vintage FOU, Zone A.

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