By Stephen Ubanna
Hopes of Importers and other owners whose expensive vehicles seized at federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, on the orders of Mohammed Uba Garba, the Comptroller, appears dim. This is because Garba is not ready to release the vehicles until the owners are ready to provide necessary Customs Clearance Documents to facilitate the release of the vehicles.
As at the last count, there 31 such expensive vehicles parked at the Command premises , and the Customs warehouse, Ikeja. The Duty Paid Value , DPV, of the seized vehicles, according to Garba, was N1.43 billion. Given a breakdown of the seized vehicles, an elated Comptroller of FOU, Zone A, said, four were Rolls Royce, . he confirmed that seven were Mercedes Benz and four Toyota Corolla. Also, on the Command seized vehicles list were Two lexus Jeep and G Wagon each. This is in addition to one Porche Panamera, Jaguar, Bentley and Toyota Land Cruiser each.
The Comptroller disclosed that some of the expensivehicles were seized at various raid in Parkview Estate, Victoria Island, Banana Island, Alhaji Bankole Crescent , Ikeja and Tola Adewunmi Street, Maryland.
there had been complains by the victims of the Customs raid in Lagos, that they have no right to break into their private homes to carry their vehicles on the flimsy excuse of under payment of duties on them. Some of them had threatened to drag Customs over the violation of their privacy.
But FOU, Zone A, Customs boss defended the action of his officers involved in the raid. He alluded to the of the provisions of the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap 45, which gave Customs personnel to” patrol freely” and make seizures suspected to have contravened the government fiscal policies.
Given that the Command may not be hunting any person, the Customs boss was said to have appealed to the owners of the vehicles labeled seized in the Command to ”come forward with valid Customs clearance documents” to show proof of source of importation and duty payment to facilitate its release to them.
He fears that some of the vehicles ”will be liable to outright seizure and subsequent forfeiture to the government in accordance with the Laws of the Country”. the Law had given the Customs the mandate to seize such seized items if within 30 days the owners could not come forward with valid Customs clearance documents to process the items for subsequent release to them.
Many believe that those who may have imported their vehicles through the land border station before signing into Law of the government policy banning its importation through the land border came into force on January 1, 2017 may be lucky to be given the nod to go ahead and process their Documents to take delivery of their vehicles.
One of the seized Rolls Royce, parked in the Command premises was valued at N65 million and the duty placed on it was about N9 million. . The Lucky car marts are the ones at Omole Estate, Ikeja and Ikoyi. The two car marts took delivery of their 51 assorted vehicles detained at Ikeja.
Others who could not were forced to the duties placed on their vehicles and the necessary penalty before it was released to them.
He was said to have reached out to Okpabi Jack, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the head of the Command Lagos Roving Team at the Command’s Ikeja office through and undisclosed source. Jack was said to have led the operations to his Park View Estate house at Ikoyi to dispossess him of his Rolls Rocyce on the orders of the Garba, the Area Comptroller over allegations that he never paid duties on the expensive vehicles. The Lagos Socialite was alleged to have promised to give him a mouth watery $80,000 to facilitate the release of the vehicles.
A source told the Magazine that he was shocked when the” rugged and dogged” officer rejected it and ordered his fierce looking Customs Inspectors at the scene of the encounter with the ”big man”, who were armed to the teeth to hand cuff and put him in Customs Cell to teach a lesson that that it is not every officer, he can bribe to have his way at the ports or land border station.
The source disclosed that when knew that the game was up, he quickly retracted his statement that he never meant it and pleaded for leniency in an uncoordinated manner. the plea many have saved him the embarrassment of entering the Customs cell.
Although Jack and his men, acting on information, had been involved in carrying out raids in different parts of Lagos lived by the rich to dispossess them of their expensive vehicles which they allegedly did not pay duties on, they had bee, involved in putting a close tab on Containers released at the port. They may not have made much interception of Containerized cargoes in the month of January because of the drop in cargo imports. But the Comptroller confirmed that that through the efforts of the team, the Command seized two Container.
One of the ”20” Container with no. GATU 1323584/4 , carrying 537 cartons of Indian Whisky was said to have been seized for false declaration. the importer was said to declared in the SGD as carrying yeast but found to be carrying yeast on examination .
Another ”40” Containerized cargo was also seized based on false declaration. The Container was found on examination for carrying 60 pieces of Chest freezer and 570 bundles of gas hose as against Condenser for steam polysonic declared in the SGD. Garba’ s joy was that the Command recovered about N91.46 million, which could have entered in private pocks both for the vigilance of his men on the road.
Signs that the Command would make more seizure of Containerized cargoes this February with the Container interceptions that had been made by the Command Lagos Roving team and the support of the police. The police Isolo police station was said to have intercepted three ”20” Containers along the Oshodi -Apapa Express Way which was transferred to the Command. The transfer of the Containers by the police to Jack , the Lagos Roving team leader and his men the opportunity to strike. On Monday, February 6, 2017. He was said to have stationed his team armed to the teeth at the mile 12 bridge. Another group was said to have been stationed close to Tin-can Island port. The teams were acting on the information that the Tin-can Island Container Terminal TICT, had released some cargoes without proper Classification and giving the correct duty to the importer. the informant was said to have given a duty of five percent for a Consignment that should attract 20 percent duty.
This may have given Jack the ammunition mobilize his men for action. His team was said to have intercepted seven Containers released from the port. The Containers were said to have been transferred to the Command but the truck laden Container was parked along the Olu Ayinde Street.
A source informed the Magazine that there were about 30 calls by some unknown persons to the Lagos Roving team leader between 4: am and 6 Am over the intercepted Containers which were said have been ignored by him . The source disclosed that some of the aggrieved agents had reached out to the Command’s Comptroller to protest the interception of their Containers by the Jack led Roving team .
it was learnt that when they eventually reached to the Comptroller who invited Jack to defend himself. An insider disclosed that when Jack had opened up to what led to the interception of the Containers, it was then , the agents found out that they had no case. On Sunday, January 4, 2018, the team that had intercepted a Container was said to have mobilized hooligans to barricade the road for the officers from transferring the seized Container to their Command.
This confirms what Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and the National Public Relations officer had said about the difficulty being experienced by field officers. H e had alluded to the cordoning and restricting of authorized access, transporting the goods from point of interception to Customs station, Mechanichal and terrain that makes movement difficult, Crowd control/crisi management He had said that officers had sustained injuries. This is in addition to difficulty to On and Offloading of Containers.
Perhaps, one seizure that gives the Comptroller much joy was the interception of 8,400 bags of rice, equivalent of 14 trailer load of rice. the Comptroller is waiting for the Comptroller directive to take the 8,400 bags of rice to the Internally Displaced persons, IDP, in the north eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa including Edo state in the south-south.