Customs Strike Force Whip Fraudulent Agents To Order

By Stephen Ubanna

When  Abdullahi  Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller   was appointed the National Coordinator of the Customs Strike Force, CSF, nobody  gave him opportunity to succeed in discharging  his duties  of controlling the activities of fraudulent importers with their agents and smugglers at the seaports , Airport and land border Areas.

This is  because the Federal operations Unit,  officers, across the country have  fully established themselves on their areas of jurisdictions that many believe  it would be difficult  for another  Customs ad-hoc team to break in.

Take the situation in the south west geo-political region where Muhammed Uba Garba, the then FOU,  Zone A Comptroller, now, Comptroller, Seme Command, , had split  the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team into three different Units :  Operations  and Lagos  Roving Team, Rapid Response Squad and Crack Squad, heade  with different team leaders  traversing the nooks and cranies of the  region and the Oshidi-Apapa Expressway leading to the seaports intercepting Containers, vehicles and items.

A seized Truckload of Rice By FOU, Zone A

Indeed, with the FOU teams on ground, particular in the south west geo-political region,  many believed that the Kirawa led Strike Force team would not make any impact in the region. Unknown to them, Kirawa, knows his onions and how to go about the national assignment.

It would be recalled  that as a one time member of the FOU, Zone A, Lagos Roving team, he  had led a patrol team along the Lagos-Badagry Express who made a ship-load of smuggled  foreign parboiled rice into the country through the Republic of Benin.  The parboiled rice seizure was said to have been transferred to the Command warehouse  in 12 trucks load. Abdullahi Dikko, the then Comptroller General was  impressed with his efforts  that he elevated him to the enviable rank of an Assistant Comptroller.  The tracking of the ship load of rice by the Kirawa  led patrol team  may have exposed him to the Management  as an officer who could be used for special national assignments  by past and present Comptroller  General, Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel. The fallout was that when the  Comptroller General Task Force was first set up, he was asked to head the team at FOU, Zone A.

Insiders told the Magazine since he took over the leadership  of the Strike Force, from the former National Cordinator, the story is  no longer the same for importers with their agents and  their Customs Collaborators  at the seaports and Bonded  Warehouse terminal  operators  and Customs officials deployed to oversee the clearing of goods  at the terminals. This is because  the Strike Force team , with the support of the Customs Ruling Centre  and Informants have been getting useful information to track down Containers fraudulently released at the port.

The Magazine learnt that there have been cases  where Containers released at the seaport  have been stopped from leaving the port   over alleged false declaration and under-payment . It was gathered that some of the queried    Containers  which had been re-routed to the Customs Training School, the Operational base of the Strike Force, Zone A, for examination   had been found  to contain items that were  different from what was declared by the importer in the bill of lading from the country of supplies, mostly in the Asian countries of China and India.

Sources told the Magazine that the  Bonded  warehouse operators around the trade Fair Complex in Lagos and their Customers  to be the worst hit by the Strike Force effort to sanitise  the clearing process  at the seaports,  particular , the Chinese and the Lebanese businessmen who own warehouses in the Complex  filled with  mostly cleared Contrabands sold to  traders in.

A source disclosed that the Strike Force personnel  have at different times raided the Complex, forcing the traders to always find  their way to the Strike Force office at Warehouse road, Apapa, to plead  with the officers to participate in the  examination of their Containers at the seaports or bonded terminals to avoid into trouble with their officers on the road.

Given that the Strike Force personnel may want to see themselves as above  the Law and rcompromise their position,  Kirawa, who has the mandate of  Ali, the Comptroller General to sanitise the seaports and go after the smugglers in their hideouts across the country,  shuttles between the operational base of  the team at Apapa and the Zonal offices to checkmate the officers to ensure they do the right thing.  He was said to have made it clear to officers that anyone found compromising his position would be dealt with desively.

The  Magazine was also informed that  he also calls at the Customs Headquarters at regular intervals for briefing  with the Management .  There is no gain saying the fact that the Kirawa led Strike Force  are actually complimenting  the efforts  of the FOUs across the country.The team was said  to have intercepted  49 vehicles and other Contraband goods with a Duty Paid Value , DPV, of about N127 million between August3, 2018 and September 20, 2018  in FOU ,Zone B, Kaduna, area of Jurisdiction  which covers the seven states of the north west: Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara. The  seizures include 13,983 ”50” bags of foreign parboiled rice, 3,983 ”25” Jerry Cans of Vegetable Oil,, 456 bales of second hand Clothing,, 70 bags  of sugar and  50 cartons of spaghetti among others.

The Strike boss also  disclosed recently  that the team made a seizure of  foreign parboiled rice, second hand second hand clothing worth over N20 million in Katsina ,  President Muhammadu Buhari  home state.  He   confirmed that the seized items had been deposited  at the nearest Customs formation’s warehouse for safekeeping. It was not surprising why this  the items were deposited at FOU, Zone  B, Kaduna , warehouse for proper accountability.

Last August the team  was said to have made an inroad into Kogi state where it seized about  4,200 ”50”  bags  of smuggled   foreign parboiled rice  at Mopa village in the state. A elated Kirawa  had said that seizure  was as a result of the synergy between  the Nigeria Police, Army, Department of State Security Services, DSS, and the Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, personnel. This is in addition to the 1,246 ”50”  bags  seized along the Creeks in Ogun state. The Ogun seizures, he said was as a result of intelligence gathering from informants.

Kirawa, who could not hide his feelings said, the team would do everything within its powers to ”suppress smuggling of rice, secondhand clothing and vehicles through the land border or the Creeks. He maintained that as long as the Federal government policies banning the importation of foreign parboiled rice and vehicles through the land border remain in force, those who derive joy in testing the will  of the team to engage  in the smuggling activities o  would ever live to regret it. as his officers would go after them in their hide outs dispossess them of the items.

A senior Customs officer who spoke to the Magazine on disclosed that the Strike Force seizures of Contraband g items in the north had been made worse since the commissioning of some Dry Dock terminals in the region.  This is because the Consignment s were never examined  at the ports of discharge before being loaded into Rail Coaches  for transfer  by rail to the Dry Dock Terminal in Kaduna and Jos, plateau state.

The activities of Kirawa led Strike team may have forced Aliyu  Adamu Mohammed , Comptroller , FOU, Zone and  his counterparts  at other FOUs across the country and their patrol team officers to sit up and do the right thing. The spectacular seizures that had continued to be made by the Command Operations and Lagos Roving headed by Riks Lura, a Chief  Superintendent of Customs  speaks volume.

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