By Stephen Ubanna
Barely twenty fours after Mohammed Uba Garba, the no nonsense Comptroller of Federal Operations Unit , FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, had, addressed the Media on the activities of the Command in the month of February, 2018, information filtered out that arrangement had been concluded at the Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, to release some non Compliant Containerized cargoes.
The Comptroller was deeply moved when he got the information from credible intelligence. He was determined to locate the Containers through any security means. He has every reason to take the matter serious because the government had lost billions of naira over the years through fraudulent release of non compliant cargoes through the seaports.
the PTML cargo became a test case for him because of the source of information. This is because of the seizure of a ”20” Container in the month of January, 2018, under similar circumstances of false declaration, which is tantamount to seizure.
Garba, the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss confirmed that the Command recovered about N70 million from Demand Notices raised on Containerized cargoes and vehicles intercepted while attempting to beat the system through transfer of value and under declaration in one month.” This is money that could have entered into private accounts but for the intensified anti-smuggling efforts of Garba and his men .
Armed with the Containers number , cargo content, vessel and the Country of shipment, the Comptroller was said to have reached out to the rugged Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and head of the Command Lagos Roving team to prepare his men in readiness to intercept the Containers before the agent takes them to the importer’s warehouse within or outside Lagos.
Jack , according to sources was waiting for the assignment as he had prepared his mind on what to do to get the Alleged Containers: Laying of ambush in PTML to know when the Containers will leave the terminal main gate.
It was learnt that the Lagos team Roving boss quickly raised an ad-hoc team under a Superintendent to move into PTML and lay ambush for the Containers. It was gathered that the Superintendent was initially reluctant carry out the assignment forcing Jack to threaten to lead the operation himself.
A source told the Magazine that the officer’s reluctance to take the team to PTML was as a result of the bad Apapa road. He had in mind to station the team at Mile 2, believing that once the Containers leave the terminal, it must pass through the Mile 2 bridge to the importer’s warehouse. The source disclosed that after much argument , the officer was agreed to lead the team that Thursday, March 1, 2018, afternoon to PTML, waited for the released non compliant goods.
indeed,Garba had made it clear to all those that caress to listen that there would be ” no hiding place for economic saboteurs” who think they can deprive the government of needed revenue. Reeling out the achievements of the Command in the month of February, 2018, an elated Garba said the Command ”intercepted and detained 18 assorted vehicles”. The detained vehicles, according to him include ‘Rolls Rocye, Chrysler, Audi Q7,Land Rover HSE, Toyota Venz, Honda Cross tour and Escalade, one each. This is in addition three Kia Rio and four Mercedes Bez.
Given an insider information and based on available import documents at his disposal, the FOU, Zone A Comptroller, confirmed that the assorted vehicles range from ”2008 to 2015” mode which ought to have attracted much duties from the owners. Information available to the Magazine shows that the vehicles were arrested and detained on suspicision that appropriate duties were not paid by the owners before taking delivery either from the seaport or the land border station before the government policy banning the importation of vehicles through the land border.
Much of the detained vehicles were said to have been evacuated by the Lagos Roving team in different parts of Lagos including a car mart located in Lekki while some were confirmed by the Comptroller to have been intercepted along Ejebu Ode, Ogun state, Expressway by Customs at the Checkpoint. The interception of these expensive from their owners on the road may have putt fear on Lagos socialites and travelling business men to put their expensive vehicles on the road for fear of being intercepted by Jack and his men or the Ijebu Ode Customs Operatives and transferring it to the Command for proper valuation and issuance of Demand Notice, DN. Some of them who had the relevant import documents were lucky to be issued DN while those who could not produce the necessary documents may have lost the vehicle outright to government. It was learnt the alleged Lekki car mart, Uyi , may have lost some of its vehicles to government as it failed to provide the necessary documents as demanded by the Command.
Appealing to owners of the detained vehicles to come forward with valid Customs clearance Documents to take delivery of it, or lose it to government if they fail to do so, , he disclosed that their action was in line with the ”provisions of section 147 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA,, Cap 45, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. The Laws , according to the Comptroller , gave the Customs power to search premises and patrol freely. The Owners of the detained vehicles, according source have one month to show up at the FOU premises with their d with their Documents to take delivery of their vehicles.
Garba, who could not hide his feelings over the various Contrabands and detained vehicles intercepted by his men on the road during the month of February disclosed that it had a Duty Paid Value, of N1.035 billion .
A visitor to the Command premises at Ikeja would see the detained vehicles neatly parked with boldly written wall papers to showcase the value of each of the vehicles and duty that the owner ought to have paid into government coffers while the seized rice, Vegetable Oil, Used tires and Used Clothing were kept at the warehouse. the 619 seized cartons of poultry products from the land border were said to have been buried under the close watch of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration Commission, NAFDAC operatives at the poultry products burial ground.
Insiders told the Magazine that the number of the assorted vehicles arrested and detained by the Command could have been more than the 18 and expected revenue higher, if Jack, the Roving team boss and his men had succeeded in evacuating the vehicles at a suspected location at Idiroko border under Ogun Command, Ogun state which is under the control of Comptroller Sani Madugu. It was gathered that before the team arrived the scene at about 5.30 am on the said- day, the smuggler had relocated the vehicles to another unknown location within the border town.
It would be recalled that last January, the Command intercepted 31 assorted vehicles ranging from Rolls Rocye,,Porche Panarama, Jagua, Bentley, Lexus Jeep, G Wagon, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Cruiser to Mercedes Benz.
Another team that was said to have been raised by Garba , the Area Comptroller which, many believe is making its impact felt in different parts of Lagos and other states in the south west geo-political region is the Warehouse Operations Team. The team , which is headed by Mutalib Sule, an Assistant Comptroller, through credible intelligence was said to have raided a House at Ogundana street, off Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos. The team was said to have evacuated 55 sacks of Pangolin Shells weighing 2001 Kg the Customs warehouse at Ikeja. The value of the items was put at N408.3 million. Indeed, this is the money that could have entered into private pocket if the owner had succeeded in finding his way to export it to the Asian country of China.
Also, 218 pieces of Elephant Tusks valued at N85.16 m was said to have been evacuated by the team from the Ogundana warehouse. It was major seizure by the Command as the items had continued to exported to China over the years through the nation’s seaports without the Customs operatives intercepting it. They were said to have provided cover for the dealers and their Chinese buyers.
Those who think that the craze by the Command Operatives to go after assorted vehicles only leaving out other prohibited items from coming into the country may be disappointed. Garba, the anti-smuggling strategist confirmed the seizure of 4,201 bags of par boiled rice, equivalent of seven trailers load of rice,2,619 cartons of poultry products, 1,105 jerrycans of Vegetable Oil,2,637 used tyres, and 1,333 bales of used clothing. Last January, the Command had seized 8,400 bags of foreign par boiled rice which could be comfortably loaded in eight trailers of 600 bags each .
The zonal office of the Headquarters Strike Force in the south west under the Command of an Assistant Comptroller was said to have also made a seizure of over a thousand bags of parboiled rice so far in its operations in the region.
This is should be a source of cheery news to Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS who needed to supply rice and other relief materials the Internally Displaced People Camps, IDP, in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as well as Edo in the south s-south geo-political region. Note that in January, 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari, gave a standing order to the Ali led Customs to ”donate all the seized perishable items from smugglers to Nigerians affected by the activities of the Islamic Fundamentalists, Boko Haram , in north east. The Comptroller General, who is an indigene of Bauchi state , also in the north east saw it as opportunity to save life of his people. he was said to have directed the Comptrollers of the various FOU Zones across the country and those at the land border stations in the south west, north central, north east and south-south to block all loopholes used in smuggling rice into the country through their area. The Comptrollers were said to have passed the order to their field officers who went to work immediately making seizures of thousands of bags of foreign parboiled rice. From Lagos, Ibada, Idiroko, Calabar, Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi to Maiduguri, the story is the same: seizure of parboiled rice. The Seme Command warehouse was said to have been filled with seized foreign rice and Vegetable Oil including fairly used clothing by Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu’s men begging for evacuation to the IDP Camps.
Unconfirmed report shows that the National Logistics Committee mandated to transfer all the seized rice from t smugglers to the IDP Camps are making arrangement to resume lifting of the seized rice and other relief materials to the Camps in the affected states in the north east and south-south.
In spite of efforts by the Customs to fulfill its own part of the Presidential directive to donate perishable items and other relief materials to the IDP Camps, there had been rumours making the rounds that hundreds of the parboiled bags of rice developed wings on the road. That was the case in Edo state, as the people raised alarm. Between January , 2016 and December 2017, the Customs alone was said to have supplied 252,666 bags of 50Kg or 421 trailers load of rice worth N3.8 billion to the Camps.