By Stephen Ubanna
Until last month, Customs patrol officers at the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, believed that rickety vehicles and motorcycles, popular Okada, were the only means of conveyance through which poultry products could be smuggled into the country. It may not have crossed their mind that VIP smugglers could use Highlander jeep to smuggle cartoons of poultry products from the Republic of Benin into the Nigerian market.
Luck was said to have ran out against a VIP poultry products smuggler recently. He was said to have engaged the services of two cross border drivers and two conductors to cross his smuggled two Highlanders loaded with cartons of poultry products from Republic of Benin. The cross border drivers may have assured him not to worry that they will deliver as promised.
They believe they could beat Customs officers on the road because of the tainted glass which could give the impression that it is private because of the plate numbers which was found to be fake. The Magazine learnt that the Customs officers on bush patrol had suspected the High;and jeeps because of the weight and flagged it down for checks. Aware that the game was up, the drivers of the Highlander jeeps and the Conductors had abandoned the vehicles and took to their heels, forcing the Customs officer on patrol to take over possession of the vehicles which was transferred to the Command and put under detention.
Another worrisome seizure that was said to have been made by a patrol team in the Command was a passenger bus from the Idiroko border axis, allegedly carrying two sacs of military uniforms and boots including other personal effects.The Magazine learnt that the driver and the Conductor of the bus were caught and are still in detention . As at press time, the driver of the bus had made confessions indicting the Conductor.” I was not aware that the Conductor had loaded two sacs of military uniforms into the boot of the bus”. ,he had said.
Aware that the duo may not have committed any ofence, the Magazine learnt that Adamu Aliyu Mohammed, the Command Comptroller, has urged the owners of the items in the bus including the two sacs of military uniforms to come forward and take delivery.
A Customs source told the Magazine that the items may not be released to the passengers on a platter of gold as the bags are likely going to be opened for examination to know their contents.
The biggest seizure that was said to have been made by officers of the Command within the last two weeks i was a suspected bus loaded with drugs allegedly manufactured from India, which was released from the seaport to the impo rter’s agent who was taking it to importer’s warehouse in Benin, Edo state. Mohammed confirmed that the drugs did not have a National Administration for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, number, an indication that it could be fake. The Customs Comptroller disclosed that the cartons of drugs which were loaded into the bus was intercepted by the Surveillance team at Ijebu Ode. The value of the drugs, according to him was about N140 million.
One Usman, a Chief Suprintendent of Customs and Head of the Ijebu Ode Surveillance Unit was said to have transferred the bus load of drugs from the base to the Command premises at Ikeja on Wednesday, October 3, 2018. Indications are rife that the drugs will be handed over to NAFDAC, for further investigation in the spirit of inter-agency relationship.
Indeed, this is not the first time dangerous drugs manufactured from the Asian country of India were shipped to Nigeria. There have been several instances where the FOU Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving team had intercepted Tramadol drugs, considered dangerous to human health by medical doctors, on the road after being released from the seaport.
Insiders told the Magazine that the Ijebu Ode Surveillance Unit is very Strategic to the Command anti-smuggling Operations. This is because most of the bad jobs released from the seaport going to the south east based importers which pass through the Lagos -Benin Express to the east, had fallen fallen into the hand of officers of the Unit, an indication that there is no way an agent taking the importer’s goods to his warehouse could escape t the Ijbu Ode tea. The Drug seizures, according the Customs Comptroller, brings to 89, the number of seizures in two weeks including India Hemp allegedly grown from the West African country of Ghana. Also intercepted by the Command, within the period , he said was a ”40”’ of unprocessed wood heading to the seaport for export to China..
It would be recalled that it was at the Ijebu Ode base, that Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the then officer in-charge of the Unit intercepted a Rose Royce which was a cynosure of visitors at the Command last year.
In a voice laden with emotion, The FOU, Zone A Customs boss revealed the seizure of over 11 thousands ”50” kg bags of foreign parboiled rice. The Command Rapid Response team, alone, was said to have intercepted and transferred two trucks load of rice from the Shaki axis of Oyo state to the Command.This is in addition to 850 Jerry cans of ”25 ” each of processed Vegetable Oil that was said to have been seized within the period by different patrol teams. He said the Vegetable Oil Jerry cans were not seized because it was Contraband but were seized because they were smuggled into the country in processed form.
He stressed that importers are allowed to bring into the country semi-processed Vegetable Oil to be finished here, thus providing job opportunities to the teeming unemployed youths in the country. At the LADOL Free Trade zone in Lagos, there are Vegetable Oil Companies which import semi-processed and do the finishing at the Free Trade zone.
Given the intense competition by the various patrl teams of the Command to make seizures, a major problem that was said to be facing the Command now, is where to keep seized goods . The Magazine gathered that the two warehouses run by the Command at Ikeja are aleady filled up, forcing the Operations and Lagos Rovint team Officers to keep intercepted Containers on the road behind the Command premises, pending the determination of the importer’s case by the Comptroller.
It would be recalled that the Command rapid Response team which had been up and doing in the recent time made a seizure of 80,000 Jerrycans of ”25” of petrol, equivalent of 90 Tankers , prepared to be smuggled to Republic of Benin through the Ijofin Creek in Ogun state. The seizure could not have been made without the support of other sister agencies, particular the Army and the police.
The customs Comptroller, may have given credit of the seizures within the two weeks to Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, for providing the the Command with the ”necessary incentives and logistics support f and believing in his capacity to” move the Unit forward”.
There are indications that the officers who made the spectacular seizures, would soon be rewarded soom by the management as a way of motivation to encourage them to make more seizures. Muhammed alluded to this on Thursday, September 4, 2018 during a chart with Journalists. there was spontaneous smile calm as the officers await their new ranks . Mohammed, the Command Area Comptroller, is optimistic that Ali, would match his word with action as the officers are poised for more actions.
It would be recalled that the officers who made arms seizure at Tin-can Island port were promoted by the Customs Comptroller General to encourage them to do more. It would be recalled that Adamu Mohammed, a former, FOU, Zone A, Head of the Lagos Roving team and some of his officers in the team who made arm seizures were promoted by the ustoms boss. Mohammed was said to have been elevated to the enviable rank of a Deputy Comptroller.
Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller and National Coordinator, Customs Strike Force, was promoted from the rank of a Chief Superintendent to Assistant Comptroller of Customs by Abdullahi Dikko, a former Comptroller General of Customs, for making a ship load of seizure in a Creek in Ogun state. There have been several other instances in past where officers had been rewarded for their spectacular performance on their job either in revenue recovery for the government or seizure of drugs at the seaport.