By Stephen Ubanna
Ahead of the 2019 general elections, Adamu Aliyu Mohammed, Comptroller , Federal Operations Unit, FOU Zone A, and the anti-smuggling officers appear to have turned themselves into a moving train ready to crush smugglers that may stand on their way.
This is evident going by the number of exotic and bullet proof vehicles, Mohammed confirmed, were intercepted in various parts of Ogun and Lagos states in the last two weeks. The bullet proof vehicles were said to have been seen seized and evacuated from some private residences in Victoria Island, a high brown area of Lagos metropolis.
The seizure of the nine bullet proof vehicles may be bad news for the politicians of different persuasions who may be preparing for the 2019 general elections and others who may also want to import thesame bullet proof vehicles for their use in the electioneering Campaigns to forestall attacks by party thugs . The Customs Comptroller and his officers are said to be on their trail.
The Magazine learnt that the detained bullet proof vehicles which were evacuated from the private residences in Lagos metropolis wass bassed on intelligence gathering ass the vehicles did not have the end user certificate which could only been obtained from the National Security Adviser, NSA’s office in Abuja. The Comptroller who explained that much said their is no hiding place for smugglers. He, however ,stated that there was no law banning the importation of bullet proof vehicles for private use , but the individual must endeavour obtain the End use certificate which must be issued from the NSA’s office.
The alleged 22 vehicles including the bullet proof models, that were said to have been seized and are under detention in the Command premises at Ikeja were said to be four Lexus Jeep, X570, 2016, model, three Land Cruiser Jeeps, 2016, two Mercedes Benz, G63 and S550, 2014 and 2015 respectively.
Other vehicles on the Command detention list include one Toyota Rav4, 2015 model, three Toyota Hilux, 2018 model, one Toyota Land Cruiser, 2016, one Toyota Corolla and one Toyota Fortuner, 2017. This is in addition to Two Toyota High Lander, 2018, one Toyota Prado Jeep, 2018, Toyota Sequoia and one Lexus RX 350 . The value of the detained nine bullet proof vehicles alone, Mohammed confirmed was about N927 million with a Duty Paid Value of N204 million.
The FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller who was said to be instrumental to the seizure of the 22 vehicles and the evacuation of the bullet proof vehicles from the private residence at Victoria Island appeared posed to seize more as the custodian of secret information in the Command . He was said to have always passed information to the Command’s Operations and Lagos Roving team, headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, the Rapid Respond team , headed by Jack Okpabi, another Chief Superintendent of Customs and the Strike Force and the Strike Force to implement.A s a prelude to making the seizures, he was said to have given a standing order to the patrol team leaders, particular the Strike Force team, to seal up the six states in the south west Geo-political region, comprising of Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and Osun because of the many illegal routes in the states to ensure that Contrabands and vehicles would not be smuggled into the country .
The importation of vehicles and foreign parboiled rice into the country through the land border was banned by President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling APC government on January 1st, 2017.
The Presidential ban and the FOU Customs boss standing order to the Command Strike Force and the other teams to take over the south west may have encouraged the officers to go after the smugglers in their hideouts in the bush and force them out on the road. The unlucky vehicle smugglers were said to have fallen into the waiting hands of the Operations and Lagos Roving patrol teams, Rapid Response or the Strike Force officers.
The smugglers who may have escaped from any of the teams were said to have fallen into the waiting hands of the Ijebu-Ode Surveillance team officers at Ogun state. It was not surprising why some of the 22 exotic vehicles seized and still under detention in the Command premises at Ikeja were said to have been intercepted by the Surveillance team at Ogere and Ijebu-Ode Expressway.
Another major area, where the Command was said to have made an appreciable impact over the last two weeks was at the seaports ,where importers with their clearing agents and their Customs collaborators have have be made made to apy through their nose outrageous Demand Notice and other penalties.
An insider informed the Magazine that the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller, who was worried at the rate which importers with their agents cheat the government had repeatedly used the opportunity provided by Aminu Dahiru, an Assistant Comptroller General, who was formerly in charge of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Zone A, zonal office, at his monthly meetings with the Comptrollers to appeal to his counterparts at the seaports, airport and land border stations to be alive to their duties to avoid having problem with the Command.
He has every reason to monitor the movement of cargoes in and out of the port to ensure that the government was not shortchanged to boost its revenue generation. This may have put the lura led Operations and Lagos Roving team officers to be on the alert by mounting road blocks at strategic locations along the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway.
This may have yielded results as suspected Containerised cargoes released from the seaport were said to have been flagged down on several occasions to check the importers document the documents to ensure that what was declared in their bill of lading was what is contained in the Container.
A source told the Magazine that sometimes the suspicion of the lura controlled patrol teams have been found to be true. The fallout was that the suspected Containerised cargoes had been transferred to the Command warehouse for examination and the guilty ones had been issue DN.
It is not surprising why the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss could boost that in the last two weeks, the Command through its various interventionist measures to check ”false declaration, transfer of value and under payment had recovered N220 million for the government.
Indeed, this is an amount that ought to have gone into private pockets at the seaports, Airport and Land border stations, if the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team officers had Compromised . The amount , thus brings to N2.24 billion , the revenue that was said to have been generated by the Command within the period under review. Tthe Command was said to have made a cumulative revenue of N1.5 billion for the government before now. The Comptroller is optimistic that the revenue profile of the Command would continue to go up with the strengthening of the Revenue Seat as the anti-smuggling officers intensify their operations.
It would be recalled that Muhammed Uba Garba, a former Comptroller of the Command , now Comptroller , Seme Command had recovered millions of lost revenue for the government in the one year and two months, he was at the helm of affairs at the Command.