Tramadol : Ali Beams Searchlight At The Seaports

By Stephen Ubanna

Barely six weeks to the end of the year, Hameed Ali, a  retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, appears to have beamed his searchlight at the seaports over the alleged shipment of tramadol drugs  from the Asia country of India to Nigeria.  Ali is worried that the drugs if allowed to find their way into the Nigeria market  unchecked from the seaport would cause great harm to the society.

The Customs Comptroller General is not ready  to take any excuse from the Customs Comptrollers at the seaports , particular the Lagos ports, the country’s Commercial nerve center, over the shipment of such drug and thus have  taking up the matter with the officer  in-charge of the  Customs Ruling Centre  at  Abuja who have a profile of all imported goods into the country to furnish  him with information about the suspected Containers.  The officer in-charge of the Customs ruling center, according to a source, who  was also armed with the details of the ship carrying the  suspected Containers and the port where it was going to discharge  in Lagos was said  to have furnished the Comptroller General with it as requested.

Armed with the relevant  information, the Customs Comptroller General haad the option of using Aliyu. A. Mohammed, Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone  A, for the operations instead of the Apapa based  Headquarters Strike Force  Headed  by  Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller.  Indeed, the Customs  ruling center had been behind most of the successful operations of the Strike Force with the supply of information  over the last one year.  The Customs boss may have decided to make a change  this  time around by using the Mohammed  controlled FOU, Zone A, officers.

Comptroller Mohammed A.A. FOU Zone A,Command

The  FOU, Zone A,Customs Comptroller,was said to have made proper arrangement for the Apapa operations before jetting out from Lagos to Abuja  last week  for a meeting with the Comptroller general and other Comptrollers from the land border areas.  He was said to have contacted Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and Head of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team with the profile of the  ship carrying the suspected Containers and the likely date of going to berth at the Apapa port including the profile of the Containers.

Armed with the information , Riks was said to have mobilised his men to lay an ambush to know when the  ship would discharge the Containers at the port. He was also said to have stationed his officers at strategic locations along the Oshodi Apapa Expressway. The Officers and men of the Headquarters Strike Force  were also said to be waiting on the wings to see the FOU team make mistake to intercept the trucks laden Container on the road and transfer them to the Customs training College, the Lagos operational  base  for examination

. But the arrangement put in place by Mohammed before travelling to AAbuja was not one he could entertain any fear of going to flop because the officer in-charge of the operation  was a no nonsense and experienced  anti-smuggling officer who was used to such special anti-smuggling assignments from  his days at FOU, Zone  C, Owerri, where he was said to have made spectacular seizures of foreign parboiled rice at Bakassi, in Cross River state.

Aware of the port where the Containers would be discharged, the officers at the Apapa Command premises  gate and the main port gate  may have been given a standing  order not  to allow visitors into the  premises or the port to see any officer except those working at the port , officers and importers with their agents who have businessto do.

Insiders  told the Magazine that trouble started when  the agent who had the contract to clear the suspected Containers  was said to have brought out bundles of dollars which if converted going by the current exchange rate of about N360.00 to a dollar in the  parallel foreign exchange market could amount to N15  million to bribe his way to facilitate the release of a 40 foot Container.

The agent may have known that he had ran into troubled waters  as the officers who were  used to helping him out in the past  were not ready to attend to him as usual.  He was said have reached out to his contacts at the Customs Headquarters and the Command to see what could  be done to facilitate the release of the Containers but no luck.  The agent who was said to have offered the  alleged N15 million was said to have been whisked to Abuja, where he  was said to have been detained.

Eye witness account disclosed that when the coast became clear for the FOU team to strike at the port, Riks gave the nod to his officers to take over the APM  terminal where the Containers were said to  have been discharged The source , account disclosed that officers and other security agencies personnel including the agents ran helter-skelter  for cover to save their neck. The source  further disclosed further that  Customs personnel  at the terminal and other the security agencies personnel did everything within their powers to scuttle the operations but got it wrong.  Riks and his officers were determined to  examine the suspected Containers discharged at the port without fear or favour.

An agent told the Magazine that  between Monday November  12, 2018 and Friday, November 16, 2018, Riks and his team  members physically examined 23 Containers  at the Apapa port despite the opposition of the other security operatives.  It could not be ascertained whether tramadol drugs were found in any of the suspected Containers  examined at the port. But a a40 foot allegedly released from  the port was said to have been intercepted on the road and transferred  to the Command premises  at Ikeja, for examination.

Fierce looking officers  armed to the teeth were said to have been stationed  at the Command  gate on Friday, November 16, 2018, to forestall visitors from coming into the premises including officers on mufti.   Between 8.00 am and 2pm, Mohammed, the Command, the Customs Comptroller was said to have supervised the evacuation of the cartons from the Container by the officers.  He had opted to use the officers to do the work  because  the labourers who were used to doing the work  had been ordered out of the premises by him . As a Comptroller who beliees in secrecy, he had to keep the information  about the items found in the Container a closely guided  secreet to himself and the officers alone but got it wrong as it still leaked out while the examination was still on.

As at 2pm, when the examination, was said to have been concluded, and the evacuated  cartons returned back to the  40 foot  Conatin, some cartons of tramadol were said to have been found. It was therefore a bad news for the importer as the items are likely  going  to be confisticated  and handed over to National Agency  for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, for further investigation. This may be the largest seizure  of tramadol drugs by any Customs Command in the recent time.

Mohammed Uba Garba, a former Comptroller of FOU, Zone A,  may have raised the Consciousness of  officers  about the importation of tramadol drugs into the country with the seizure  of cartons of the drugs  Concealed in a Container  as CComptroller of FOU, Zone C, Owerri.  He had continued the seizure of tramadol  as Comptroller  of FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, forcing the Comptrollers at the  seaports  to sit up.   Until his elevation as an Assistant Comptroller General,  Finance, Administrations and Technical  Service, FATS, Jibril Musa was said to have made tramadol seizures concealed in a 40 foot Container at Apapa port last December. The drugs were said to have  been shipped into the country  at  exactly this period last  year from India but the information leaked out  forcing officers of the Command and the FOU, Zone A, to be on the alert to fish out the Containers before the importer takes delivery of it and push into the  market to endanger the lives of youths.

Given the importance attached to the tramadol seizure by the FOU, Zone A,  Command, there are indications that Ali, the Customs Comptroller General , may likely be in Lagos  next week to address the press  on it. he was said to have made it clear to those that care to listen that the Service would not rest on its oars to go after  tradadol and other dangerous drug importers and agents  w are out to sabotage the economy  until  they are ready to do the right thing.

Officers and men of the Service  who had  been  linked to the release of the 40 foot Container  intercepted on the road and transferred to FOU, Zone A, premises for  examination where some cartons of tramadol  drugs were discovered   should be counting their days in Customs as Ali would  not hesitate to  apply the sledge hammer on them, a  senior  officer  informed the Magazine.  Mohammed, the Comptroller of FOU, Zone A, was said to have begun  internal investigation into the  matter and the officers indicted are likely to be invited to the Command  for interrogation.

Not many people are happy over the discovery of the tramadol drugs in a Container allegedly, the largest in the country released  at Apapa port barely three months after Abubakar Bashir,  a former Comptroller , Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone Command, was redeployed to  the Command .   This is because of the truck laden  military Comouflage  Uniforms  and 300 Combatant boots released from the Onne port which was intercepted along  the Aba- Eleme  major road in Port Harcourt  and transferred to the FOU, Zone C, premises at Owerri for examination and subsequent  seizure when he was  at Onne Command as the then Customs Comptroller.

There are fears in both official and unofficial circles, that as long as Ali,  continue to keep  Barshir as the Comptroller of the Apapa Command which controls the Apapa port with many terminals under it, importers with their agents  may take advantage of  their inside knowledge of the working  of the port and their closeness to the examination and releasing officers  to play pranks  that would continue to  embarrass him.

According to sources, his problem  at Apapa may be  made worse as officials of the Customs  ruling center at Apapa and the Customs Headquarters, Abuja, had  continued to share information about suspected Contraband shipment to Nigeria , particular arms. tramadol and other dangerous drugs,  with  the Comptrollers of FOU, Zone A  and FOU Zone C which had ports to oversee in their various areas of  jurisdiction including the Deputy Comptroller Kirawa led Headquarters Strike Force.

Ali, the Comptrolleer General, has no option but  to take Barshir, the Apapa  Comptroller, to a smaller Command that could match his ability  to deliver on his mandate  as Apapa  port may be too big for him  as some officers occupying strategic  positions in the Command who have godfathers at the Customs Headquarters to  to protect their interest may not be willing  to do his biddings.

 

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