Anti-smuggling: FOU, Zone A, Now A Moving Train

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.

Detained Bullet Proof vehicles At the Ikeja Customs Premises.

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.

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