By Stephen Ubanna
When Mohammed Yusuf, a Deputy Comptroller was deployed to Headquarters Strike Force, Team A, Lagos, the naion’s Commercial nerve centre, in the reconstituted Team to replace, Ahmadu Shuaibu, Deputy Comptroller who was withdrawn to the Headquarters, nobody gave him opportunity to succeed. Foreign rice smugglers, fraudulent importers with their agents had heaved a sigh of relief that Shuaibu , who had been a pain their neck had been withdrawn to Customs Headquarters, but news later filtered out that he had been redeployed to Tin can Island Command, under the close watch of Comptroller Adekunle Oloyede, described as a Computer guru in Customs circles.
They may have heaved a sigh of a relief on the ground that he may not have gotten the experience of his predecessor to complement the efforts of Deputy Comptroller Kehinde Hussain Ejibuno, overseeing the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A,F, and the Border Drills Team, personnel to effectively man borders in the south west geopolitical region.
He may have played to the hand of critics because of their initial lack of seriousness. which was a ploy to confuse the people. Unknown to many, Yusuf and his Management Team, have developed their own strategy on how to deal with the rice smugglers in the south west states of Ogun and Oyo, described as home of rice smugglers.
Although, the Headquarters Strike Force Team A, new Coordinator may not be another DC. Shuaibu but he has demonstrated within the last three months that he is no push over in the area of anti-smuggling operations and do have the ability to recover millions of lost revenue for the government from the fraudulent importers with their agents at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin can Island, Port-Multi-services Terminal, popular, PTML and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, phases 1 and II, including the bonded terminals under these Lagos ports.
He may have acquired the experience in dealing with smugglers in the north west state of Katsina, when he served in the Command as one of the senior officers who was involved in developing strategies on how to deal with smugglers in the north west state. He was said to have developed strategies that were said to have been described as very effective in dealing with the smugglers, even in difficult terrains. This may have prepared him for his new national assignment in Headquarters Strke Force , Team A, Lagos.
It was not surprising why he did not find it much difficult in settling down to do the job. A s prelude to complementing the efforts of the FOU Zone A, and Border Drills Team personnel, in combating the activities of the smugglers who are scattered in the over 140 illegal smuggling routes in Ogun state alone and other illegal routes in, Oyo, Ekiti and other parts of the region, the Custms deputy Comptroller was said to have engaged the services of some of those informants who were used by DC. Shuaibu, the former Coordinator. He may have got it right.
This is evident going by the large quantities of the Asian countries of Thailand foreign par boiled rice and the India Agricultural rice that had been intercepted by the Team between February and now. A visitor to the Command would be shocked at the large quantities for foreign rice of 50 kg each, at a visible location in the adhoc Team operational base at the customs Training College, Ikeja.
Informed sources told The value News that the Headquarters Strike Force, Zone A, Coordinator appears to have played a major role in facilitating the seizure of the Contraband bags of foreign rice. The Patrol Team officers were said to have also their own effort in making such seizures but the Team is yet to match the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team officers Contraband seizures. Blame it on the large number of officers deployed to the Command to the 100 or so officers serving in the Headquarters Strike Force Team A.
Perhaps, one area, in which the Headquarters Strike Force, Team A, appears to have made a mark, between January and now, was in the area of revenue of generation for the government. Indeed, the retention of the officers in the Information, Communication and Technology, ICT, Department, headed by one Kazil, an Assistant Comptroller, may have added value to Team. The ICT Unit personnel, who may have perfected on the job on how to recover lost revenue for the government by blocking areas of revenue leakages were said to have lived up expectation. They were said to have made things difficult for the fraudulent importers with their agents and Customs collaborators at the Lagos ports. There are indications that suspected Containerised cargoes that had been released at the port had been stooped from exiting the port through several alerts systems.
The ICT Unit personnel may have stepped up their efforts to meet the Team N25 billion revenue Target that had been set by Ali, -led Nigerian Customs service, NCS, Management this year. Many believe that the Customs Management may have set the r by the Shuaibu-led Team between October and December 2021.
e It was not surprising why the adhoc Team had intensified their revenue drive to meet their monthly targets. Take for instance, between the months of March and April, 2022, alone, the adhoc Team was said to have generated close to N752 million and 604.3million respectively from underpayment. This brings the total amount realised from underpayment in four months to about N2.1 billion in four months, according to informed sources.
This is money that could have entered into private accounts but for the vigilance of the ICT officers who were said to have used their knowledge to ensure the suspected importers pay correct duty on their imported cargo through their agents. Note the agents whose clients cargoes have been slammed with DN, have already been valued at the ports. Much of the recovered revenue was to have been made at Apapa port . Efforts to speak to the DC. Yusuf , Coordinator, of Hcustoms Strike Force, Team A, proved abortive.
An insider told the Magazine that the adhoc Team ICT Unit personnel have effectively used the Economic Community of West African States, Common External Tariff, CET, 2017 – 2021 which was used between January and April, 2022, in issuing Demand Notice, DN, to guilty importers through their agents between January and April 2022.
With the adoption of the 2022-2026, edition, which is the version of the 2017-2021, edition, by the Nigerian government which had been forwarded to the customs Management for implementation with effect from May 1st, 2022, industry operators are optimistic that the Team, would make more money from underpayment for the government in the coming months.
Until DC. Yusuf effectively took over control of the interventionist unit in last January, FROM DC. Shuaibu, the former Coordinator was said to have recovered N190.115 million for the government within the first 10 days of the month . DC Yusuf and his ICT Unit personnel may have sustained the revenue drive as the TeAM was said to have upped it to about N390 million at the end of the month of January but could not sustai it in February.
He may have expected to do much better in the month of February but the Team had generated N360 million showing that they needed to do more work to penetrate the ranks of the importers and their agents who were said to have developed new tactics in dealing with the officers when they receive any alert on their cargoes.
This may have informed why the Customs Coordinator and the ICT officers, went back to drawing board to know why there was a shortfall in the revenue generation in the month of February and what needed to be done to improve on it in the subsequent month.
the fallout was that the Team doubled the Revenue generated in that month of February in the months of March and April, 2022, as the Magazine findings had shown. Signs that the Team may generate more money for the government in this very month of May and subsequent months has become manifest, with the implementation of the 2022 fiscal policy, using the ECOWAS CET, 2022-2026 Policy in issuing DN. Recall that the government had introduced additional taxes and levies, on 172 dutiable goods in line with the ECOWAS CET, annex I.