By Stephen Ubanna
Those who think that the redeployment of Sani Madugu, former Comptroller ,Ogun Command to the Customs Headquarters as Comptroller , Enforcement, was as a result of the operation on Friday, April 6, 2018, by the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikja, Lagos Roving team at Illogbo Community iwithin in Lafenwa, in the outskirts of Abeokuta would be disappointed. The operation described in Customs circles as bursting crime in the jungle was said to have been well planned because of the violent nature of the people.
The Magazine learnt that Magdugu knew a month in advance that he would be redeployed to the Customs Headquarters to Had the Enforcement Unit in the Department of Enforcement and Investigation , headed by D an Gladima.A., a Deputy Comptroller General of Customs.
The Source gathered that the Lafenwa operation was at the instance of Muhammed Uba Garba, Comptroller, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, based on” credible intelligence.” A source confirmed that at the onset it looked as if the operation would be a flop. This is because of the stiff resistance f of the people as they were determined to frustrate the FOU Ooperation team.
. Eyewitness account disclosed that aggrieved youths of the Community who had had kegs of fuel with them were battle ready to burn the Customs operational vehicles. The situation , according to the source was so intense that Jack, the team leader had to reach out to the Comptroller, who quickly contacted Madugu, the Comptroller of Ogun Command for reinforcement. The Comptroller was said to have ordered Seriki Abdullahi, a Chief Superintendent of Custooms, and the Command Head of Crack Squad based in Idiroko, the operational base of the Command , to mobilize his officers and move into Ilogbo Community to reinforce the FOU, Lagos Roving
In a military dispatch, Abdullahi was said to moved into Ilogbo with his officers to help quell the activities of the riotous youths of the Community to pave way for the FOU team to leave with the smuggled rice found in the makeshift houses in the area.
Muhammed, the Comptroller confirmed that 2,671 bags of 50 kg bags of foreign parboiled rice were evacuated from the village using nine hired trucks. Giving an insider information about the achievements recorded by the Command in its anti-smuggling operations in the last couple of weeks, he confirmed that the Command made a seizure of 6,003 bags of foreign parboiled rice. The total rice figure seized within the period include the 2,671 bags evacuated from Illogbo Community in Lafenwa axis of Abeokuta.
It would be recalled that early last March the Lagos Roving team had gone on operation based on credible information supplied at Idiroko, the major operational base of Ogun Command over suspected Vehicles loaded with rice being smuggled into the country from Republic of Benin. The officers of the Inspector General of police, IGP, Tactical Squad , was said to have been involved in the operation.
There was alleged stiff resistance from the people forcing Jack and his men to tactically withdraw from the scene to avoid casualty. A source told the Magazine that the smugglers who were coming into the country with nine Vehicles loaded with 50 kg foreign parboiled rice of about 25 bags of foreign parboiled rice of 50 each were trapped in their smuggling route. They could not move forward or backward because everywhere was strategically covered by Customs officers on the operation including the IGP’s men who were on ground armed to the teeth.
The tactical withdrawal of the FOU, Zone A, Roving team personnel may have created an opportunity for the IGP Tactical Special Squad to impound the nine vehicles loaded with the smuggled Vehicles loaded with rice.
Many had expected Ibrahim Idris, the IGP, to order the immediate release of the smuggled Vehicles loaded with rice to the Customs, which responsibility it is to intercept and keep seized goods. sources told the Magazine that the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss made all the necessary efforts including phone calls to Edgal Imohimi, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police including having a personal contact to facilitate the release of the items to the Customs Command but no luck.
Given the hard line position of the Police Commissioner on the matter, Mohammed, the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss was said to have petitioned Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, to intervene to save the situation from degenerating. Ali was said to have reached out to Idris, his counterpart in the Force Headquarters, Abuja, and a Compromise reached to release the items to Customs.
A source confirmed that the IGP had directed that the eight or nine Vehicles loaded with the foreign parboiled rice still in police custody in Lagos, since March 14, 2018, be released to Customs. The Magazine gathered that the letter was written on March 16, 2018 but that was how far he could go. The source disclosed that Imohimi, the Lagos Police Command boss did not heed to the IGP directive to realse the items to the Customs Formation at Ikeja..
The argument in police circles, according was that the Ikeja Customs formation do not have the facilities to keep the seized smuggled items. They had had wanted to carry out an inspection of the place that the Customs formation would keep the items if handed over to them. It was a major bottle neck that was said to have been created by the police to delay the release of the items to Customs.
In spite of the fact that the Crime was committedin Lagos states in the south west geo-political Zone, the Commander, IGP, Tactical Special Squad was said to have unilaterally carried out an investigation into the case without the involvement of Customs officials.
Based on the investigation , it was gathered that eight persons were arrested in connection with the smuggled Vehicles loaded with rice and were subsequently charged to a Magistrate Court in Abuja. The question on the lips of most people was: why were the suspects being dragged to a Magistrate Court in Abuja instead of Lagos where the Crime was committed. ” They further queried on what ground are the suspects being charged to Court ”, This is because Customs cases against suspected smugglers are susally charged to a High Court . The eight suspects were said to have been convicted to five months imprisonment each on each count with an option of N6000.00.
Okeaga Azubuike, the trial Magistrate was said to have ordered the release of the alleged 150 bags of rice found in the vehicles to Customs and its forfeiture to the government. Already, Muhammed, Comptroller of FOU, Zone A, was said to have concluded arrangement to take over the items from Police Authorities in Lagos.
While the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss is making plans to take delivery of the smuggled rice loaded in nine Vehicles from the police, the Command on its part on Wednesday, April 11, 2018, handed over 570 parcels and 98 sacks of Cannabis sativa, popular India hemp, weighing 1,550kg to Lawal Isiaka, Principal Staff Officer, PSO, in charge of Intelligence and Investigation, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA at the Command.
An elated Isiaka said, ”the fight against illicit drugs is for everybody including security agencies”. He disclosed of plans by his agency to form a ”motorized patrol team with the NCS to block all loopholes used by the illicit drug dealers in the country”.
The major seizure of the Command during the period was said to have been made at Apapa and Tincan Island ports where four Containers intercepted for false declaration by the Command’s Lagos Roving team were seized on the orders of Muhammed, the Comptroller after re-examination.
Investigation by the Magazine shows that of the four Containers, both ”40” and ”20”, seized by the Command 2x”40” of it were found to have been released at APM Terminal, Apapa port while 1x”40” and another 1x”20” was released from Tin can Island port. The 1x”20”, Container no:CSNU06087/4 was found to be carrying 2,260 cartons of Gonca Spaghetti made in the European country of Turkey and an additional 530 package of Energy drinks made in another European country.
But what was said to have been declared by the Importer in the SGD form wasa baking powder. A tough talking an Muhammed revealed that the Container was never exited properly through the gate, fueling speculations that there might have been a collusion between Customs Officials and the Importer’s Clearing agent at the port to commit the fraud.
”We are still investigating and all those found culpable will face the wrath of the Law”, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller said. The 1x”40”, Container no: CIU865957/1 was said to have been seized by the Customs Enforcement Unit for carrying 200 cartons of Ladies shoes, 140 cartons of that of Children among other items as against Computer keyboard and mouse in the SGD by the Importer.
In the case of the Containers that were released at Apapa port and seized by the Command, one of it , Container no: FCIU8992/1 was seized ” for allegedly carrying 2,300 cartons of tiffany chocolate, 385 cartons of tifanny crunch and cream biscuit as against ”Tapet for fuel pump complete which was said to have been declared by the Importer in the SGD .
aThis is an indictment on Jibril Musa and Baba Musa M.A. , Comptrollers , Apapa and Tincan Island Command respectively and their Enforcement Units for failure to track the Containers before it left the ports. This is because of their claims that that stakeholders at their ports are now compliant with government fiscal policy measures. Musa , the Apapa Customs boss was even boastful and optimistic that the NCIS II training which had flagged off at Kirikiri Lighter terminal, KLT, and Tin can Island port and other ports when it becomes operational at Apapa would help to block areas of revenue leakage and boosts its monthly revenue collections.
It would be recalled that the Customs Authorities had made clear to Importers with their clearing agents that release of Containers without examination, proper documentation, false declaration, flying of Containers or recycling of documents among others is liable to outright seizure and forfeiture to government.
Also, on the seizure list of the FOU, Zone A, Command were 64 exotic Vehicles . The vehicles were said to have been seized at different parts of Lagos state including Ogun state. It was learnt that18 of such exotic vehicles are still under detention and could only be released to the owners if theycould tender the necessary papers to the Command.
The Duty Paid Value, DPV of the alleged various contrabands seized by the Command including the exotic vehicles , according to the Comptroller was about N1.461 billion. This is in addition to the N166.207 million recovered from duty payments and demand notices, DN, on general goods from the seaports , airports and land border stations through ”wrong Classification, transfer of value and underpayment”.
Appealing to smugglers to desist from such trade malpractices and engage in legitimate business, the Comptroller said the Unit has devised other operational modalities that would give them a run for their money that would make many of them to rot in jail.
A t present , 10 suspects were said to have been arrested in connection with the seizures made by the Command in the recent time. The FOU , He disclosed that the Command could not have achieved that much without the support of the Ali led management team, the Army and the police including the support of officers and men of the Command .
To sustain the anti-smuggling drive, he has urged the officers to go out and make seizures to” win his confidence”. He was said to have rejig the operational roaster of the Command to give a bite to its anti-smuggling operations.