By Stephen Ubana
The Redeployment Of Kayode Olusemire, a one time , Comptroller Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, werri, Imo state, south east Nigera and now Acting Assistant Customs Comptroller General, AACG, from the Customs Headquarters, Abuja , the Federal capital Territory, FCT, to Port Harcourt as the Coordinator ,Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Zone C, by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, last May, appears to have given a bite to the anti-smuggling operations and fight against fraudulent importers and exporters at the seaport in the south east geographical region.
ACG Olusemire, who incidentally was also a former Comptroller Enforcement, Inspection and Invesigation at the Customs Headquarters may have gotten an information of the alleged pan to illegally smuggle out unprocessed Teakwood from the Onne port that he had put Comptrollers Yusuf Lawal and Auwal Mohammed, of the FOU, Zone C, and PortHarcourt Area II, Command, and their officers on the alert in order to intercept it.
Recall that the Comptroller General of Customs Strike Force , team A, under the close watch of hmadu Shuaibu and the FOU, Zone A, at different times last June, had seized four Containers load and five Containers load of Teakwood at the the Apapa port and on the road respectively.
This may force the fraudulent exporters to relocate to the south east to use the Onne port to do their business but got it wrong. Given the Team work and Collaboration between Olusemire and his Area Comptrollers in the south east Customs Formations may have forced them to be vigilant to ensure that Contraband unprocessed Teakwood are not smuggled out through the Onne or any other port in the south east geo-political region.
The fallout was the interception and seizure of the six Containers load of unprocessed wood was laden into threto three trucks allegedly heading to Onne port. The six Containers load of Teakwood, may have fallen into the waiting hands of Comptroller Lawal’s Sueriveillance office on Patrol because it contravened schedule 6 of the Extant Common External Tariff , CET ,Laws.
The Customs ACG, who could not hide his feelings while displaying the intercepted Contraband items in PortHarcourt, had told those that cares to listen that ‘’deforestation comes with negative effects such as desert encroachment and environmental degradation’’. He averred that that if the trend is not checkmated’’ the ecosystem and its biodiversity will suffer’’.
Describing the economic loss that had been brought about with the exportation of such unprocessed Teakwood, as enormous , he noted that ‘’employment creation which could have resulted from the local processing of the logs of wood which is vital for the nation’s economic growth could not be achieved. He may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he disclosed that two suspects were arrested in connection with seized six Containers load of Teakwood earmarked for export.
Appealing to those who derive joy in staking their resources to buy unprocessed Teakwood for export to China, particular, to desist from it, he has warned that’’ it is no longer going to be business, as his anti-smuggling officers , both at the Interventionist Units and seaports are equal to the task to contain them no matter the tricks applied to smuggle out the items through the any of the south east ports, particular, the Onne port, wili be frustrated.
Given an insider information on how the three trucks laden with the six Containers load of Teakwood meant for export through the south east port of Onne was Intercepted and seized, Lawal, the FOU, Zone C, Area Comptroller, disclosed that ‘’on July 6, 2021, one of one of the Command Patrol Teams, acting on information had trailed the three Trucks conveying the 6 x ‘’20’’ Containers load of Teakwood along the Port Harcourt Industrial road probably heading to the Onne port.
Many believe that even if the driver of the three trucks laden with the Containers load of the unprocessed teakwood had found their way a to the Onne seaport, they may not have been able to beat the tight security mounted at the Onne port Entrance and exit gate by Comptroller Mohammed’s men, as the Containers could have been dropped for proper examination which may have exposed the items and possible seizure.
The Port Harcourt Area II, Customs Comptroller, may have gotten wind of the plan to smuggle out the unprocessed Teak wood out of the shores of the counry through the Onne port but without clearance from the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, under the close watch of Segun Awolowo, grandson of the late Obafemi Awolowo. Comptroller Mohammed and his men who were fully on the alert to intercept the three trucks conveying the six Containers load of the unprocessed wood had listed the Container numbers as MSCCU-3470637, MSDU-1497355,MEDU-9739916,MEDU-5627573,MSDU-6248794 and MEDU-6792783, meaning that it was to be exported to China..
Compt. Mohammed, who has been described as an action Comptroller, among his Contemporaries, has urged exporters to note that , ‘’NEPC, is an agency of government which takes note of products that are meant for exports and therefore, should always endeavor to reach to the officials to the officers to make inquiries on the approved items for export and obtain the necessary clearance documents for their export products to avoid running into trouble with Customs Patrol Teams on the road, both within and outside PortHarcourt, the Oil city and Capital of Rivers state.
He was said to have told the exporters that obtaining the necessary clearance papers from the NEPC, for the particular productbeing exported would facilitate’’ the repatriation of the proceeds into the country without the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, querying the source of the Foex.
The case of the Teakwood exporters intercepted by Comptroller Lawal’s officers on the road may have been made worse as the Leadership of the NEPC were not even aware of the export as it does not have any Nigerian export proceeds Form, thus confirming the news making the rounds in maritime circles that the ‘’ unprocessed Teakwood were to be smuggled out’’.
Worried that Nigerians are becoming too desperate to go into any business to make cheap money, at the detriment of the Nigerian economy, the Customs Comptroller has urged Nigerians ‘’to assist the service with relevant information to aid its activities for the general good of the country’’.
F But for the Fraudulent importers with their clearing agents who indulge in false Declaration, Wrong Classification of their goods, Concealment, underpayment and other vices to take delivery of their cargo from the Onne seaport, with the support of their Customs Collaborators, the exit gate manned by Mahmood Ibrahim, a Deputy Comptroller, has become a no go area for them.
Those of the who have attempted to play smart were said to have had their Containers carrying Contraband goods dropped and transfered to the Command Enforcement unit and the Head of the unit and his officers, in turn were said to have transfered to the Government Wareforce, awaiting for Court Condemnation for outright seizure It was learnt that some of the intercepted Containers at the exit had bee seized while the lucky agents, who defaulted in making the appropriate import duty have had their clients given Demand Notice, DN, which runs into millions of naira.
. It was learnt that billions of naira have also been recovered through DN, from such fraudulent importers over the last couple of months.. It is not surprising why Deputy Comptroller Deputy Ibrahim have been in the bad book most of the importers with their agents who take delivey of their cargoes at the Onne port, for ‘’insisting that the right thing must be done’’.