Customs: Dismantling ETLS And Smugglers Syndicate

By Stephen Ubanna

This is not the best of times for dealers on Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS, goods. This is because Mohammed Uba Garba , Comptroller Seme Command and his officers have beamed their search light on the ETLS coming into Nigeria through the Seme-Krake  joint Border post.

For years, there had been rumour making the rounds that the country was losing billions of naira through abuse of the ETLS by importers who evade payment of duties by declaring their Nigerian bound  imports which are mostly  shipped from China and India through Cotonou port in Republic of Benin and other ports in the West African sub-region as ETLS goods. Muhammed inside information of the deals that goes on at the department may have forced him to read the riot act to his officers at the Department to sit up to stop the rot. This may have paid off with the interception of a suspected Polaris Terrain truck at the Seme-Krake Joint Border which was transferred to the Command  ETLS  premises, for proper examination.

Muhammed Uba Garba: Comptroller Seme Command

The Customs Comptroller may have used the opportunity of a chart with Journalists at the Joint Border on Wednesday, March 20, 2019, to break the seal of the truck. it was opened after breaking the seal and what was found was very revealing , an indication of the rot that had been going on at the Unit over the years, where imported goods, mostly from the Asian countries of China and India, were declared as ETLS goods over the years to evade payment of duty.

To the surprise of many, the polaris Terrain truck was loaded with CKD, vehicle spare parts and other items.  The Customs Comptroller had asked if they had started assembling vehicles in member countries of the COWAS?. It was not Surprising why he has enjoined the ETLS officers to be more on the alert as the syndicate using the ETLS to perpetuate the import fraud may devise other strategies to beat the Customs personnel to it.

Given an insider information Garba, the Seme Customs Comptroller, in a chart with The Value News disclosed  that the duty  on the polaris Terrain truck as valued was about N 1,64 million but the Duty Paid Value , DPV, Was about 5.15 million. Insiders  informed the News Blog that the Customs Comptroller declare the ETLS Consignment seized as a Comptroller who knows his onions.

The seizure of the Polaris terrain Truck may have emboldened the Command anti-smuggling officers to show more aggression in their anti-smuggling drive. A document made available to the Blog shows that in the last two months, 5,383  50Kg bags of foreign parboiled rice , equivalent of nine trucks load , with a Duty Paid Value , DPV, and levy of about N 97 million, were seized  and deposited at the Command warehouse , awaiting for final directive from Ali, the Customs Comptroller General for the items to be shared to Orphanage homes by the Committee handling the exercise to decongest the warehouse to accommodate more foreign rice seizures. This is because the Command anti-smuggling officers who are combing the  jungles and Creeks within the Command area of jurisdiction have continued to transfer rice seizures in their operational vans to the warehouse on a daily basis. Other Contraband goods that were said to have been intercepted from smugglers and transferred to the Command warehouse include 27 X 25 litres  Jerry cans of vegetable oil with a DPV  of N567,000.00,  34 X50Kg  bags of granulated sugar, DPV, N567,000.00,  261  X 25 litres of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular petrol, with a DPV, of 391,500.00,   80 cartons of poultry products worth N720,000.00 New textile materials  ,  and 95 X 6 yards valued at  N1.03 million. This is in addition to  24 cartons  of Maggi, N162,000.00, 20 pieces of Household effects , N675,000.00, 19 boxes of frozen seafood, N192,375.00 and 80 sacks of scrap metals, which were said to have been intercepted   in a Volvo  FL7 truck along the Owode axis of the Joint Border valued at about N9 million.

Detained Vehicles At Seme Command

  The Command was said to have made 68 parcels  of tramadol drugs  with a DPV , of N918,000.00, which was handed over to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, in the spirit of inter-agency relationship for further investigation. The suspects were said to have been dragged to Court where they got two years jail sentence each. Recall that the Command had apprehended four notorious armed robbers  who had been operating along the Lagos -Badagry road at Gbaji bridge axis and recovered over N5 million from them which was said to have been handed to Federal Anti-Robbery Squad , Mowo base including the suspects.

What may have trilled the Customs boss was the 23 exotic fair used vehicles  and six means of conveyance  that were seized during the period. Note that importation of vehicles and foreign rice through the land border had been banned in 2017 by President Muhammadu Buhari to protect local rice farmers, encourage patronage of Nigeria RORO port and save forex for the country. 

Some of the seized vehicles that were sited at the Command warehouse include a Toyota Highlander, 2013,  Hyundai Azera limited, 2016,  Toyota Camry, 2010, Toyota Corolla, 2012,  Volvo FL7 285 truck and several others. The combined  DPV, of the 23  vehicles and six means of conveyance was put at about NN88 million. the major discovery that may have been made by the Command anti-smuggling officers was the use of Diplomatic numbers to fly in the vehicles into the country. More worrisome was the involvement of highly placed Nigerians in engaging the services of these hoodlums to fly in vehicles purchased at Republic into the country for. One of the suspects who was arrested was to have linked a former Inspector General of Police, IGP, to one of the vehicles, red in colour. The vehicle, according to sources, are still parked at the Command premises. Giving an analysis of the anti-smuggling operations of the command in the last two months compared to the previous months, Garba confirmed that smuggling has drastically reduced to the bearest minuimum in the area.

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