By Bayo Bernard
Barely two weeks after the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun approved the purchase of 50 operational vehicles for the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS to combat smuggling in the country, smugglers have also devised new tactic of evading security agencies. From all indications, however, the NCS shows no sign of giving up in the ongoing battle of wits.
Following the appointment of Col, Hameed Ali (retd) as Comptroller General of Customs the noose was seriously tightened on vehicle smugglers, particularly from the Cotounou, Republic of Benin border end to Nigeria. The NCS has also bolstered anti-smuggling operations by unleashing the Special Federal Operations Unit, Zone A.
Recently, the Unit under the leadership of Mohammed Uba Garba discovered that the new trick smugglers now used to bring in vehicles is to conceal vehicles in bonded trucks to evade the prying eyes of customs’ men, stationed at strategic points of the nation once porous borders, particularly the borders shared between Benin and Nigeria.
In one of their anti smuggling operations in January, Uba men intercepted a bonded truck loaded with rice, but deeply concealed inside the truck is a fairly used Suzuki mini bus. Even though the President Muhamadu Buhari administration has placed a ban on importation of rice into the country, it was learnt that the major preoccupation of the smugglers was to successfully bring the bus into the country, using other items like rice as a decoy.
Controller Uba has however warned the smugglers that their tricks will not work as his men are equipped to burst any criminal activity. Uba: “Let me seize this opportunity to warn all would be smugglers to desist from any act of illegal trade and invest their money in a legitimate business that will yield dividend on their investments.
In case they refuse to heed his advice Uba said “There is no amount of resistance from the smugglers and their mob accomplices that will deter us from performing our statutory responsibilities, in all aspect, especially in suppression of smuggling within the south west.”
The big catch for the month by the eagle-eyed customs men are some exotic cars seized from a business man property in Lagos. Some, according to Uba were also seized along Ijebu Ode road. The expensive cars include four Rolls Royce, 1 Porche Panamera, 1 Jaguar, 1 Bentley, 2Lexus jeep, 2G Wagon, 1Toyota Land Cruiser, 5 Toyota Corolla, 7 Mercedes Benz among others mostly 2017 models.
In all, one customs officer informed the magazine that he was confounded that smugglers can go to the high extent of hiding a vehicle in a bonded truck.
According to him, the trick is a very strange way of smuggling as customs officers on duty are unlikely to suspect the concealment of a vehicle in a bonded truck. The magazine learnt that hundreds of vesicles must have been smuggled into the country through this ingenious way in the last few years unnoticed. What this means is that the federal government have lost billions of naira in duty evasion to the criminals.
To beat the smugglers in their games signals have been sent to all customs formations, especially at the borders to thoroughly scrutinize any bonded truck entering the country from the border.
In total the Duty Paid Value of all seizures for the month of January by the unit, Comptroller Uba disclosed to journalist during the monthly press briefing stood at over N1.7 bn.
Also in the custody of the unit are 8,400 bags of foreign parboiled rice with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1.4 billion; 835 jery cans of vegetable oil with DPV of N4 million.
2,208 pieces of used tyres, 159 bales of used clothing, imported used compressors,10 sacks of Indian hemp, with combined DPV of N23.6 million.
Also a 20 feet container carrying 537 cartons of Indian Hemp Whisky declared as yeast, was seized for false declaration, Comptroller Uba said. This is aside 1×40 container seized for carrying 60 pieces of used Chest freezers and 570 bundles of gas hose, whereas the container was carrying condenser for steam polysomic, he said