Importers Losing Billions To Customs

By Stephen Ubanna

Barsha Yusuf, Comptroller, Tincan Island Command and now deployed to  the Customs Headquarters,                        is  a happy man. His source of happiness he had served at the Command of all Customs formations with his head high. He was further gladdened with thesuccessful trainingand retraining of  the officers who could  take over from  him the effective monitoring of activities of importers with their agents  at the seaport  to boost the daily revenue collection of the Command  at the port.

There is no gain saying the fact that the port over the years had earned a bad name as a port where anything goes. The situation was so bad as the attention of the of the officers and men of the Enforcement of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, was on it.

Investigation by the Magazine shows  that the dubious activities of agents  with their imports had a telling effect on the daily revenue  collection of the Command. Information available to the Magazine shows that the daily revenue  then was  between N500 million and N1 billion . Barsh , according to a source did not  find the situation funny when he was deployed to the Command in 2015.  Given his expertise in Information Communication technology, ICT, Importers and  agents knew they are in for trouble. This  because the World Customs Organisation , WCO, trained  officer would  give them a battle of their lives. This is evident  by his immediate plan to  establish an ICT center to boost the revenue collection of the Command and stop the mess being perpetuated by importers and agents at the port.   The big time importers , Agents and terminal operators  who were used to the old ways of doing business at the port were said to have  made several efforts to sabotage the planned ICT project but got it wrong.

As a prelude to establishing the ICT center, he was said to have secured an office, described as unkept ,given the dirty things found in the place including closed files , within the   Complex   for the multi-million naira ICT project. Given the cost implication of taking over the entire  space for the project, Barsha was said to have settled for a portion of the office Complex, cleared the mess and prepared the stage for the mounting of the Computers  by the suppliers .

Arms Seizure From Tincan Island port

A visitor to the  Command taken to the uncleared part of the office used for the ICT project would be surprised at what the ICT center looked like before Barsha took possession of it  and turned it  around for a world class ICT center.  The Tincan Island Comptroller may have set the stage for other Area Comptrollers to follow suit.

It was gathered that the fifth Columnists in the Command who did not want the project to get off the ground had  petitioned  Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, alleging of misapplication of funds by the Comptroller , suggesting that he should be probed.

But he was said to have put  down feet to execute the project  by successfully implementing the road map to turn the Command around as an ICT  center for improved revenue collection for the government at the port.  There was the initial fear that he may not be able to complete the multi-million project  as scheduled because of the paucity of funds  for such Capital intensive project.

The Command gets an undisclosed monthly subvention for running of the office.  Barsha and his men, according to sources were forced to go back to the drawing board to perfect the plan for execution of the ICT project  using its meagre resources without hindrance or c going cap in hand begging the Headquarters for financial support.

A ware of the fact that the Command was not buoyant enough to make immediate payment to the Computer suppliers  for the ICT center or engage other Contractors  the Management were said to have devised a payment strategy  for them that could not affect the running of the office.

A source told the  Magazine some  big time importers  and terminal operators had volunteered to support the project  but were turned down. The Command  was said to have paid the suppliers and other contractors used for the project in piece meal until the payment was completed and the ICT center handed over to them for use.

When confronted by the Magazine over the cost of the ICT center and its networking, Barsha declined comment. Ali, the Comptroller General , according to a source  was surprised what he saw on ground  when he came to commission the  project, giving kudos  to the Comptroller   for his ” judicious use of funds”.  The accolade may have sealed the  of lips those who were initially opposed to the ICT facility at the Command..

Impressed by the job, he had ordered that his name be  engraved  at the ICT  center  as the Comptroller General who commissioned it. it was done.

Investigation by the Magazine shows that there is still room for expansion of the center. This is a big challenge for other Comptrollers that may be  deployed to the Command  now and in the future to take up  from where Barsha stopped  to sustain the increased daily revenue collection of the Command had hit N25 billion .  year alone, the Command  was said to have paid into the Federation Account  N287 billion, to be precise. the revenue collection of the Command got a major boost with the Demand Notice issued to importers who contravened  the government fiscal policies and those who lost billions of naira outright to government for importing offensive items tracked at the ICT center.

Many believe that the automation of the Command and upgrading of the ICT facilities had become   a source of pride  for officers and men of the Command. This is because  officers had be trained and retrained pushing up the revenue of the Command despite low cargo throughput at the port. Also Importers, agents and  maritime Journalists  including personnel of other security agencies had been trained at the center on the working of the  Computer facilities at the ICT center to trace and track offensive goods without going to the sea or the terminal where the ship carrying the Containers  are discharged.

Officers from other Customs formations were said to have benefitted from the training programme at the Tincan Island ICT center . At present, officers from the Port Multi-services  terminal limited, PTML, are undergoing the ICT traing at the centre to fit into the higher ICT being introduced into the Service operations.

unconfirmed reports reveals that  with the full automation of the Command’s operations, Barsha.  was able to track 31 Containers loaded with rice  and another 20 Containers loaded with vegetable oil. The items, according to sources, were promptly seized in accordance Customs  and Excise Management Act,  CEMA, Cap, 2004.

The seizures was said to have gladdened the heart of the Comptroller General as it was quickly to the Internally  Diciplaced  Persons, IDPs Camps in the north eastern states of Borno,  Yobe and Adamawa states on the instruction of  the  Customs boss who was acting on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari. It  was the first major Customised seizure that was said to had been made by  the Command under Barsha.

Importers knew that the game was up , when Barsha  and his men tracked   three ships  between May and  September, 2018  carrying ”20” Containers each loaded with Italian and United States  made pump actions rifles  sailing from the  European country of Turkey to Nigeria through the Tincan Island port.  The total arms discovered from the three Containers  discharged by the  tree ships at different months  was 2671

The seizure may have dampened the enthusiasm  of other gun runners to venture into the business  as Barsha and his men were waiting for them. This second major Customised seizure may have qualified the  WCO  Resource person to qualify for the 2018 Custom Award.  He was given a Certificate of Merit to show  that he actually  merited the award.

Nothwithstanding the  establishment of the ICT center which  had gone a long way to assist the officers and men of the Command in doing their job,   he was said to have also invested in providing a standard clinic  in the Command to reduce the stress of officers.   The male ward had five beds  while the female ward has  two beds.  Doctors are in the clinic 24 hours to attend to officers. The Comptroller, a source informed the Magazine that the Comptroller became more interested on the health of his men with the death of his officers diagnosed of Hepatatics B , but died before he could reach the clinic.

medical experts would want to know where the Command is getting the money to  supply the Clinic with the essential drugs  given the  competing needs from its monthly subventions.

The Magazine gathered that Ali,  has ordered that  Drugs  should be made available to the clinic  to attend to officers  who are exposed to  all kinds of ailment because of their interaction with the public.

Though Barsha may be eaving soon to assume duties at the Headquarters, those who had worked with him  at the various Customs formations described him as a great motivator.  and one who never inters in the job of  Unit Heads. ”H e allows officers under him to develop themselves”, they said. This could not be said of some other Comptrollers who  make phone calls or send notes to their subordinates to release cargos they are interested in.  One of the Comptrollers cited to be  in this class was Jubbrin Musa, Comptroller Apapa port.  Another was Sani Madugu, Comptroller Ogun Command.

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