FOU: Harder Times Await Unrepentant Smugglers In The South East And South-South -Olusemire

 By Stephen Ubanna

This is not the best of times for smugglers  operating operating between the south west and  the south-south / south east geo-political regions.

This is because Kayode  Olusemire, Comptroller , Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state, and his men have effectively blocked all the porous  routes  used by the criminal elements to carry out their nefarious activities.

  This is evident going by the number of bullet proof and other exotic vehicles   seized by the Command over the last year  including   the seizure of the   Asian country Thai produced par boiled rice, and other Contrabands, valued at about N500 million.

A visitor to the Command warehouse at Benin, Edo state , recently,  would be surprised at the  number of Armoured and other exotic vehicles as well as several dilapidated vehicles that liter the premises  . This is in addition to hundreds of ‘’50’’ bags of the Asian Country of Thailand  of produced parboiled rice found  at the Government warehouse awaiting for orders from Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, to be  evacuatedto  the Internally Displaced  Peoples, IDPs, Camp, in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states in the north  east geo-political region or motherless babies home.

One of such exotic vehicles  was a 2012  Rolls Royce model  valued at about N87  million. Another was  an Armoured Range Rover valued at about N16 million and a Mercedes  Benz Actros Truck  worth about N8 millon among others. The seizure that may have shocked many was the interception of a Truck  carrying over 500 ‘’50 Kg bags ofThai par boiled rice imported through Cotonou Terminal, Benin and Bollore port in the smuggler country of Benin Republic.

The question on the lips of most people was : how did these  Armoured and exotic vehicles, and the truck load of rice, beat the tight security mounted by the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A,  Ikeja,  under the close of Aliyu Mohammed, now an acting Border Drills, Acting Assistant Comptroller General, ACG,  and  sector4 Commander, Kaduna, the CGC Strike Force under the close watch of Yahaya Usman, a Deputy Comptroller in-charge of the Strike Force and now acting Comptroller, FOU, Zone A, and the south west Border Drill patrol teams to broke into the FOU Zone C, jurisdiction  comprising of  states in the south east and south-south.

Only last Thursday, January 9, 2020, Olusemire, the FOU, Zone C , Comptroller, accompanied by some of his key   officers, including Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller, in- charge of the Command operations were at the Benin outstation to showcase the seizures made   over the last one year which  liter the premises, particular vehicles and foreign par boiled  stored in the Government Ware House. The Customs Comptroller may have used the opportunity of his presence at Benin to chrocicle the Command modest achievements in the anti-smuggling war in 2019.

  Many believe that he may have read the riot act to his anti-smuggling Patrol Teams from the beginning of the year to ensure that all prohibited items, including Containerised cargoes  cleared from the  seaports found to have contravened the government policy were intercepted and transferred  to the government Warehouse  for proper Valuation and Demand Notice, DN, issued to the genuine  importer caught in the act while   that of the caladestine  importers’ Consignment were seized seized.

 It was  not  surprising why eight   Armoured  and other exotic   vehicles smuggled into the country  from Republic of Benin which escape the eagle eyes of the FOU, Zone A ,  CGC Strike Force or the Border Drillls personnel  on the  Ondo-Benin axis  within the southwest  were  impounded and  transferred to the Command Warehouses in the  regions.

The situation was the same in other parts of the  south east and south-south.   Note that over the last two years, seizure and detention of bullet proof and other exotic vehicles had remained  the exclusive preserve of FOU, Zone A but Oluseemire  the FOU, Zone C, Comptroller appears to have broken the jinx.

Fou , Zone Impounded Truck load Of Foreign Rice

The Customs Comptroller, could not understand  why Nigerians  could go to any length   to smuggle prohibited  cargoes into the country. recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had banned the importation of  vehicles and foreign rice through the land borders into the county on  January 1, 2017. The ban was extended to the ports last year. Ali, the Customs Comptroller General and his men were given the mandate to ensure  that  none of such banned  items e are imported or re-exported into  the from Benin Republic and other neighbouribg countries.

In the south west geo-political  region ,which has many porous borders that  could be used by smugglers to bring into the country these prohibited items, by beating  the  customs anti-smuggling officers to it. They  may not have been lucky with Olusemire’s patrol officers on the road in Delta and Edo states, particular.

The fall out was that   smugglers who had  succeeded in beating  the south west Anti-smuggling patrolTeams  and found their way to the  south east or south-south  road  were said to have fallen into the waiting hands of FOU, Zone C Ptrol Teams who are strategically positioned in different parts of the two region.

 Note that the Patrol Teams may not have only had eyes  in intercepting Contraband but  also in ensuring that  suspects were  arrested  to make  a bold Statatement. At least  six  suspects  were said to have been  arrested  in connection with the seizures  made  within the last one year   and who   are currently being prosecuted by the Command.

Perhaps to  encourage  genuine importers  to turn a new leaf to avoid   running into trouble with his men on the road, the FOU, Zone C, Customs boss, was said to have  appealed to them   to acquit themselves  with the government fiscal policy  to know   the approved  cargoes for import and their relevant duties   as well as knowing  the  items  on the import prohibition list . He insists that   importers who fail to comply with the law would be treated as smugglers and their goods confiscated.

He cited  the seizure of a ‘’40’’  Container carrying 312 bales  of used clothing allegedly imported from China, and another ‘’40’’ Container  loaded with 1,182 cartons  of analgin injection including the seizure of  a truck load of foreign furniture.

 It could not be ascertained whether  the two ‘’40’’ Containers were released from Lagos seaports  of Apapa,  Tin can island or the West African Container Tterminal, WACT, Onne, in Rivers state.

 . An insider information disclosed that the Comptroller  is working on the report handed over to him by the Team that intercepted the two  Containers in order to take  up the matter with the Comptroller of the  Command over- seeing the seaport where  the cargoes were released  to avoid  such occurrence in the future.

He  may have sent a signal to the  clandestine  seaport smugglers and their Collaborators   that even  if the government is committed to trade facilitation  but it is constrained  by the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA,  to seize prohibited  cargoes which are not allowed to be imported into the country  either by sea, air or the land borders.

  He was said to have  made clear to those that cares to listen that as long  as smugglers are  not ready to turn a  new leaf ,  the Command anti-smuggling officers are out   to force them out of the nefarious business , stressing  that smuggling is inimical to the growth of the nation’s economy . He  described  smugglers as ”economic saboteurs who must be stopped at all costs”.

Appealing to Nigerians to assist the Customs  in the fight against  the economic saboteurs  by giving out relevant information, he  opined  that it is the only that the battle against them could be won.

  He further urged  Nigerians to stop  patronizing the smugglers  who are in the he informal trade business operating from   the neighboring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon in order to run them out of the illicit trade.

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