How FOU Reduced Smuggling Activities In The South West

By Stephen Ubanna

For years rice and vehicle  smugglers in the southwest geo-political region were always smiling to the bank  while the economy suffers. The smuggling situation  may have forced Muhammed Uba Garba,  Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, and his men to go back to the drawing board on how to cage the smugglers by acting on credible intelligence.

The effort of Muhammed  and his men  may have worked out  as the Command impounded 127,000, of ”50” bags of  foreign parboiled rice in 2017 alone. The rice smugglers may have realised that there was  no hiding place for them in the illegal business as they were forced to scale down  their operations , thus giving  the Command  patrol teams  combing the bush paths and waterways in the region  little or no job to do.

Muhammed  confirmed that there had been a significant drop in the smuggling of foreign  parboiled rice and Vehicles   across the land border Areas in the region in the recent months because of the measures put on ground and the activities of the patrol officers.

This is evident going by the quantity of rice and other seizures  that were said to have been  made by the Command  between January and June 2018.  The Magazine gathered that  the Command  made a seizure f about 34, 000 bags of ”50” foreign parboiled allegedly smuggled into the country through illegal routes. The Customs boss , who is optimistic that the drop would persist  because of  the Customs anti-smuggling  personnel who  are all over the region said there was  no gaing back. Take for instance,  the  Headquarter’s Strike Force personnel, who have virtually taken  over the Iseyin and Sarki  area in Oyo  state  as their branded vehicles are everywhere .

Given the loses incured  between January and June 2018, rice smugglers  may have devised new strategies to beat FOU , Zone A, personnel to it.  But Muhammed disclosed  that  every steps taken by them would continuee to be  punctured by acting on credible intelligence

. He cited the Concealment of 330 ”50”kg bags of foreign parboiled with Charcoal  in a Containerised truck . The truck was said to  have been impounded at Idiroko land border, Ogun state.

The FOU, Zone A personnel,  according to sources  have every reason to be hard  on  foreign rice smugglers to  save foreign exchange  for the government. This is because between 2015 and now, the Federal ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Nigeria had not given Letter of Credit, LC, to any rice importer,  meaning that the government  had save about $60 million or  N215 billion on rice imports. This is because rice is one of the 41 items banned bt the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN,  from accessing the foreign Exchange market.

With the ban on rice importers from accessing the forex market, the Asian country of Thailand  rice  farmers  appears to be losing their  Nigeria Customers. A CBN  source  told the Magazine that  the yearly rice  import of 1.2 million metric  tons had dropped to less than 700,000 metric tons with the implementation of the policy  as many importers had gone into the rice farming business.

Already Muhammed has told those that care to listen that  their obligation  is to support  the  Federal government policy on rice importsto encourage local rice farmers and the millers in order  to create employment  opportunities  for the teeming unemployed youths  in the country.

Mohammed Uba Garba: Comptroller, FOU, Zone A

Given an insider view of the  activities of the Command   between June  13, 2018 and July 25, 2018,  the Customs boss  disclosed that  9,504”50”kg bags of Thailand rice, 426 ”25”kg jerry cans of vegetable oil, 333 cartons  of poultry products, 287 bales of secondhand clothing and  196  pieces of used tyres were seized and kept in the warehouse awaiting  Headquarters orders for evacuation to the Internally Displaced Peoples, IDP , Camps in Borno state .

Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, was said to have directed the evacuation of  11,597 bags of ”50” bags of foreign  parboiled rice by  the Nigeria Army of  Supply and Transport , NACST,  IDP, Camp in Borno state to create space  to warehouse other seized items.  Other items on the  evacuation list are 627 and 485  jerry cans  of Vegetable Oil 25 liters and 5 liters each, 219 bales of used clothing and 33 sacks of used shoes.

Another major item  intercepted by the Commmand within the period  were 21 exotic vehicles. They are  one Mercedes Benz, G500, 2016 model, six Toyota Hiace Bus, 2018 model,   three Lexus Jeep GX460 and Lx570,  2017  model and one Toyota , Hilux, 2017 model.  Others  are  Toyota Land Cruiser, (2016), Toyota Hilux  bullet proof,(2014), Toyota Corolla,(2018),  Honda Civic, 2016, Honda Accord, 2016 and Dodge Charger, 2016, one piece each.

the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss, confirmed that the 21 exotic  detained vehicles have a Duty Paid Value, DPV, of N484.46 million.  The vehicles were said to have been detained because the owners could not produce  relevant Customs documents.  Just as  rice smugglers  in the south west have scaled down their operatons,  the same was said to be applicable to vehicle importers.   There are  fears in both official and unofficial circles that these vehicles  may be forfeited to the government. That much was confirmed by Muhammed , who ” urged the owners of the detained vehicles to come forward  with valid Customs documents  to take delivery of it  otherwise they will be  liable to seizure  and subsequent  forfeiture  to the government in line with  the provisions of sections 147 of Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap 145, laws to search premise freely  and 158, Cap 145,  power to patrol freely, 2004.

Investigation by the Magazine shows that  most of  smuggled vehicles  found on the Lagos -Ibadam expressway  which had fallen  into the waiting hands of the FOU, Zone A, patrol team personnel or at the Checkpoint were smuggled  through the north. This is because  the tight security provided  by Muhammed and his men in the south west, particular, Idiroko, Seme, Iseyin  and Sarki.

Perhaps, what  may have gladdened the Comptroller, was  the interception of  an Iveco Truck with Registration No. LAM283 LG along the Ijebu Ode  Ore  Road carrying  498 cartons of CSP Codeine Cough Syrup,100 ml with each carton containing 200 bottles.

It would be recalled that  Emzor Pharmaceutical Company ltd  and two  other Pharmaceutical Companies in Kwara state  one production line  each was shut for producing  Cough syrup  with Codeine  allegedly manufactured in United Kingdom.  The federal government had banned the  importation of  Cough Syrup that contains Codeine. The closure of the Pharmaceutical Companies Coup Syrup production lines  may have opened the eye of FOU ,personnel in Zone A and Zone C , to put a close tab on Pharmaceutical  products imported into the country.  the question on the lips of most people was:How did the CSP Cough Syrup  enter into the country, if Customs  personnel at the Idiroko land border where the Truck was allegedly  intercepted had not compromised with smugglers.

Muhammeed has given his words that the items would be  handed  over the items  to the National Agency For  Food  and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, for further investigation.

Annother  major seizures  that may have  given the Customs Comptroller joy  were two the Containers at the seaports because of their contents which contravenes the government fiscal policy measures. The Containers were said to have been intercepted  by  the Command operations and Lagos Roving team  Headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs.  The Container Nos. are PCIU922650/8 and PCIU871664/5 respectively. The  Containers  were seized at the instance of the Muhammed, the Area Comptroller  for false declaration which contravenes the government fiscal policy measures.  The first Container, was said to have been seized for carrying  525 bales  of second hand clothing  as against used motor cycles declared  in the SGD Form while the second ”40”Container  fell into the Customs hand for carrying 11 jumbo bales  of jeans, 365 cartons of new slippers,  145 cartons  of new bags as against  ”adhesive dressing declared”.   Insiders informed the Magazine that  the Command  also impounded two Containers filled with unprocessed wood for export to China against the government policy on wood exports. one of the Containers was said to have been  intercepted at Tin-can Island port while the second one came from Apapa.  The seizure of the Containers have exposed the rot at the seaports.

The Magazine gathered that some people have been arrested in connection with the  seized Containers. As at Wednesday, July 25, 2018, the suspects were still in detention awaiting  for their bail order to be confirmed.

Despite working  round the clock to sanitise the seaports, airport and Land border stations, the Command was said to have  recovered N67.4 million for the government.  This is revenue  could have entered into private pockets  but for the intervention of the Command.  The FOU, Zone A, Customs  boss may have  played into the hand of some powerful importers and agents who are well connected and  before of his  incessant  seizure of Containers  for contravention of government fiscal policy measures  and may  have resorted to blackmail him to put him in the bad book of the Management.

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