By Bayo Bernard
The story of how three Customs Controllers landed the most lucrative commands in Lagos can never be exhausted. But what is now agog within top officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS is the looming confrontation among the three controllers believed to be very close to the Controller General of Customs, Col. Hamid Ali(rtd). The controllers are Jibril Musa , Yusuf Bashar in charge of the Apapa and Tin can Customs command, and Muahammed Uba Garba of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Ikeja.
Before their postings to Lagos the three controllers have all cut their teeth in customs operations but were not among top contenders for the job, considering the high level lobbying and intrigues among the controllers who wanted to be in charge of the three commands, due to their perceived lucrativeness.
But the last minute decision by the CG to deploy the three officers to their present postings did not come as a surprise to many considering their track records in the past few years. Garba had served in FOU, Zone C in Owerri, Imo state while Bahar has showm exemplary leadership at the Customs Headquarter un Abuja. Musa on his part also has a good performance records at his various postings.
It’s therefore, not surprising that the retired soldiers appointed the troika to be in charge of the three most important commands in the country. Both Apapa and Tincan are the money spinning commands for the NCS. For instance both Apapa and Tin can have generated over N400 for the Federal government in the last three quarters of 2017.
But as much as their revenue role is sin qua non to the government, it’s widely believed that atrocious crimes such as under-declaration and under-valuation of goods and contrabands dully passed unnoticed in the two commands. The economic sabotage is performed by importers with active connivance of some unscrupulous officers in the two commands, the magazine was told.
Therefore, the choice of Garba to head FOU Zone A could not have been better in the quest of Ali to cleanse dirty stable of the NCS. As the policeman of the two commands particularly, and other command like Seme and Ogun commands Garba’s task is has been cut out for him by his boss in Abuja who warned him that if you do anything funny at FOU “ I will deal with you.”
Within one year that he assumed duty at FOU even his ardent critics can hardly contest his performance. Sources at the Customs headquarters informed the magazine that Col. Ali confided in some of his aides recently that with Garba as the ombudsman he made the right choice.
For instance between August and October FOU Zone A made seizures with duty paid value worth N356,205,050.78.
The seized goods are 11 state of the art vehicles with total value of N125,403,598.5; 4227 bags of 50kg parboiled foreign rice valued at N52,136,029.35; 2x20feet containers of falsely declared electric cables worth N18,528,000 and 3 containers of medicament valued at N31,537,273.2.
Other seizures according to facts gathered from the command are seven containers of wood for export valued at N35,000,000; a container of leather worth N61,863,750; bales of second hand clothing N4,482,000 and 84 parcels of cannabis sativa worth N4,032,000.
In addition to these are used shoes worth, N160,000; vegetable oil valued at N2,138,400 and frozen poultry products of N5,880,000. Accordingly, Comptroller Garba has also recently disclosed that 17 wonder on the wheels vehicles are under the command’s custody waiting for their owners to claim ownership, pay government the required duty after which they will be released. The vehicles are worth over N140m, the magazine learnt.
The biggest catch made so far since Garba started presiding over FOU Zone A is the recent seizure of over 50 vehicles from car marts in Lagos. Four of the vehicles, according to experts are worth over one billion naira.
Also on the daily basis the eagle eyed men from the enforcement unit have been arresting containers loaded with contrabands, while importers goods have been impounded trying to evade duties. At least five containers are seized daily after their release from the ports by FOU Zone A. Most times the containers are believed to have been released from either Tin can and Apapa customs’ commands.
What’s now causing disquiet within the top hierarchy of customs in Abuja is how the seized containers managed to escape the probing eyes of customs officials working in the two commands. Even though the Ali led customs in Abuja is worried, particularly because the ‘indicted’ command are manned by his two ‘trusted’ men , the retired soldier has ruled out redeploying the two Controllers heading the commands for the rest of the year.
A high ranking officer in Abuja informed the magazine that the customs boss is not weighing the redeployment option for now but that such is very plausible soon and cannot be totally ruled in the new year. “The customs headquarters is very worried over the matter, particularly as the indictment touches two most important commands in the country. The CG is even more concerned because of the failure of his two controllers, in which he has so much trust, to clean the Augean stables in the commands. The no nonsense CG as you know him have warned that fighting corruption within the rank and file of customs will be his top agenda,” the source said.
The matter has also strained the relationship among the controllers. Some officers from the two seaport commands confided in the magazine that they are unhappy with the development. One of the officers said “FOU is just trying to spoil the show” for them.