Customs: Season of Seizures

Hameed Ali, CG Customs.

Importers with their Clearing agents with their Customs Collaborators at the ports and the land border areas suffer in their business  as Customs personnel at Federal Operations ,Zone A, Ikeja, continue to frustrate their illegal activities

By Stephen Ubanna

Mohammed Garba, Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, appears to have entered into the bad book of importers with their clearing agents and   officers at the ports and the land border areas in the south west geo-political region.  This is because of his continuous exposition of the rot and gross inefficiency of  the area Comptrollers at the ports and the border stations over their inability to control what goes out.

An agent informed the Magazine that they have never had it so bad in their business where released and exited cargoes or truck -laden goods end up at the Federal Operations , Zone , A, for another round of clearing on the trump up charge of  under declaration, wrong Classification and Concealment. The agent disclosed that in most cases the Containers or trucks laden goods taken to the Command are seized or detained pending conclusion of investigation . The seizures may have forced the agents to see Garba, the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss as an enemy who is all out to kill their business while officers see him as one working to end their career in Customs.

A visitor to the Customs warehouse  and the Mechanical workshop at ,Ikeja, would be surprised at the number of Containersstocked with different items  and truck laden goods found there, thus turning the FOU, Zone A, as the” unofficial Bonded terminal” of the Hameed Ali led Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.

Garba had justified the close watch at the activities at the ports and the land border areas to the mandate given to him to curb smuggling and block areas of revenue leakages. He disclosed that the  Command through its anti-smuggling drive has somewhat succeeded in ”blocking area of revenue leakage of other area Commands .

Between, August 9 and 25, the Command was said to have recovered N252.17 million from duty payments  and Demand Invoices  on general goods taken delivery by agents who tried to cheat the government at the seaports, airport and land border stations through wrong classification, transfer of value and under payment of  import duty. This is in addition to  N303.261 million  revenue generated from intercepted Contrabands ranging from rice, poultry products, India Hemp, medicaments , used tyres, and various merchandise. This brings the cumulative revenue generated within the period to N783.65  billion.

The seized India Hemp and the medicaments, according to the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss had been handed over  to the Nigeria Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC for further Investigation.

Insiders told the Magazine that the India Hemp was smuggled from Ghana into the country through unapproved border routes. Garba alluded to the Cooperation of  other security agencies personnel at the land  border stations , most especially the military and the police in the seizure of the items.

Perhaps one major interception by the Command anti-smuggling officers that gladdens Garba’s mind is the interception of 27 assorted vehicles with a Duty Paid Value, DPV, of N228.22 million.He confirmed that the vehicles which fell into the waiting  hands of his men were smuggled into the country through the land border.

He disclosed that five of the vehicles had been seized outright in accordance with the Customs and Excise Management Act, CT  while 22 are still been detained. The detained and seized vehicles which were smuggled into the country include  Toyota Prado Jeep, Toyota Hilux, toyota Highlander, Mercedes Benz among others.

The vehicles were said to have been manufactured between 2007 and 2013. The interception of the vehicles, a  senior Customs officer informed the Magazine  was informed by the government policy which prohibited importation of vehicles and rice through the land border.

The Magazine learnt that there had been occasions where youths from the border Communities connive with smugglers to frustrate Customs officers from taking away intercepted smuggled goods. He warned those who derive joy in obstructing Customs’ men in doing their job to watch it before  the long arm of the Law caught up with them.

He reminded the hoodlums that the Customs operating document, CEMA, had spelt out appropriate sentences to suspects ranging from one to five years. He made it clear to those that care to listen that Customs officers could operate anywhere at any time including boarding a ship or  aircraft to search what it is carrying without obstruction.

many would wonder whether with the volume of goods intercepted by officers of the Command on anti-smuggling operations, if there were no apprehended suspects. But Garba  confirmed that there were 16 suspects arrested in connection with the intercepted goods.  He said the suspects were detained and later released as the Customs  do not have the Constitutional powers to detain suspects beyond 24 hours.

in spite of Garba ‘s men to adequately police the ports and the land border stations in the south west region, agents with the aid of officers, according sources have continued to beat Customs to it to shortchange the government as smuggling of rice, poultry products and vehicles through unapproved routes have continued to find their way into the Nigeria market as Containers carrying Contrabands still discharge in importer’s warehouses.

Segun Musa, Chairman, National Association of Government APProved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF, Airport Chapter, Ikeja, had  complained that Garba, the FOU, Zone A, Customs and his men who are making things difficult for agents are doing so to be noticed by the Customs High Command. He lambasted Garba  for trying to let the Customs management know that  he is the only Comptroller that is effective in the south west  working in the south west.

He frowned at a situation why Consignments released and exited by one Customs Command could be intercepted  by another Customs Command, in particular FOU, Zone A, men.  He would want the Customs management to bring to book all the officers that had been fingered to have aided fraudulent agents  going by the releases and exited cargoes which fell into the waiting hands of FOU, Zone A, men.  and subsequently seized or the agent made to pay the outstanding bill through issuance of Demand Notice .

A senior Customs officer described Musa’s emotional outburst as uncalled for. He confirmed that officers found to have connived with agents or smugglers had been given the appropriate punishment through demotion in rank, sack or suspension from office. He appealed to the NAGAFF Chairman to stop raising falsealarm but ensure that his members do genuine declaration to stop having problem with Customs officers  stationed at the Airport.

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