By Stephen Ubanna
Until last Friday, May 4, 2018, there was no sign that the Nigeria Army Corps of Supply and Transport, NACST, saddled with the responsibility of transporting relief materials from Customs Formations across the country would be coming to the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos.
This is because of the news making the rounds that Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, had given the nod to the NACST to get its trucks ready to resume operation of transporting relief materials from the Customs warehouses to the Camps.
Ali, the Comptroller General may have been encouraged to invite the NACST to resume operation of transporting the relief materials from Customs warehouses across the country based on reports of what is found in the warehouse and reports of some of the Area Comptrollers intimating the Comptroller general of the quantities of rice, Vegetable Oil and second hand clothing and shoes in their warehouses ready for evacuation because of their limited lifespan.
Insiders told the Magazine that the Customs boss has a record of all the items seized by the various Customs Formations which are in a position to do so . This is because the Comptroller of every Customs Command which made seizures was expected to forward the details within 24 hours to the Comptroller General for.’ necessary action”.
A source at Customs Headquarters told the Magazine that Muhammmed Uba Garba, Comptroller, FOU, Zone A, and the arrowhead of anti-smuggling in the south west geo-political zone has kept to the policy of ensuring that seizures made by the Command were communicated to the Headquarters without defaulting.
A source at the Customs Headquarters confirmed that Muhammed, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller had set the ball rolling when he informed the Comptroller general of the large quantities of seized perishable items in the Customs Warehouse at Ikeja , ready for evacuation.
the Comptroller may have taken the initiative to invite the Comptroller General because of the speed at which the various patrol and Surveillance teams of the Commands and at those at the approved Checkpoints in the south west which is under the Command jurisdiction were churning in intercepted goods from smugglers.
The Source learnt the FOU, Zone Customs hardly waste time in mobilizing the Command legal Unit to prepare the necessary legal document to file a case at the Ikeja High Court to obtain judgement over the seized items. It was gathered that sometimes , the judgments had been in favour of the Command as evident in the Court Condemnation of the impounded goods and subsequent seizure and forfeiture to government.
It is not surprising why he has made more seizures of prohibited items banned from coming into the country from the land border areas such as rice, Vegetable Oil and Vehicles that any past Comptroller of the Command. A source confirmed that the items that had been prepared for evacuation by the NACST were items seized between July and September, 2017.
An insider account give the figure as 25,318 bags of ”50” bags of foreign parboiled rice, 3,366 of 25 litres jerrry Cans of Vegetable Oil and an additional 175 gallons of five litres variation.
With the approval said to have been given to the NACST to resume carrying of relief materials from Customs warehouses across the country to the established IDP Camps in the north east and Edo, in the south- south geo-political zone, by the Customs Comptroller General, Azarema. A., an Assistant Comptroller General, Customs Headquarters was said to have been mandated to write the Customs Area Comptrollers of Sokoto, Ogun, Seme, Kaduna/Katsina, Kano/Jigawa, Oyo/Osun, FOU, Zone A , Zone B, Zone C and Zone D, among others to gather their materials ready for the NACST to carry on arrival to their Commands .
Insiders told the Magazine that the Comptrollers did not hesitate in tidying up their records and waited for the final directive from the Headquarters to act. source confirmed that the FOU, Zone A, Command got its notification letter of evacuation of the seized goods in the Customs Warehouse, Ikeja by the NACST to the IDP cAMP in Borno state.
the Comptroller General may have allocated the FOU, Zone A, seizures to the north eastern state of Borno, which is where the government has the largest concentration of IDPs by the Islamic Fundamentalist group, BokoHaram.
The Source learnt that the Command got its letter on April 16, 2018, to prepare to receive the NACST soldiers and their trucks coming to take delivery of the Condemned items from the Customs WareHouse to the IDP Camp in Borno.
It was gathered that the Command had provision for seizures made between July and September comprising of 25,000 ”50kg bags of foreign rice, vegetable Oil, secondhand clothing and shoes. The Magazine cited some of the heavy duty trucks on Wednesday, May 11, 2018, at the Ware House axis, Ikeja waiting to load. The seized items in other Customs warehouses across the country were said to have been allocated to other IDP Camps in Adamawa and Edo states.
the decision to deliver relief materials to the IDPs Camps was not a Customs initiative. It was said to have been informed, according to a source to a Presidential directive to Ali, the Customs boss to supply all the seized rice and other items in its warehouses across the country that had been condemned and now government property to the IDPs in January 2016.
Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and Customs Spokesman had confirmed that between 2016 and 2017, 22 months to be precise, the Customs alone had supplied 252,666 bags of 50kg bags of foreign parboiled , which was loaded into 421 trucks and transported by the NACST to the IDPs Camps. This is inaddition to Vegetable Oil, second hand clothing and shoes. The supplied relief materials to the IDPs Camps was valued at about NN3.8 billion. The FOU, Zone was said to have made a significant contribution to supplies to the IDP s Camp within the period.
Many believe that the contribution of relief material that would be made to the IDPs would far greater this year. this is evident by the seizures that had been made by the Command comprising of rice, Vegetable and secondhand clothing and shoes within the last four moths which stockpiled in the Ikeja Customs warehouse.