Waking Up From Slumber

Hammed Ali: CG Customs

By Stephen Ubanna

Mohammed Aliyu, Comptroller, Seme Command and his counterpart at Onne , Bashir Abubakar, appears to have woken up from sleep to take the Customs anti-smuggling operations serious. The duo , according to sources have been on holiday over the months as smugglers had their way in their areas of control .

Aliyu, a source told the Magazine was forced to sit up with his anti-smuggling personnel when information began to make the rounds that  Seme, a  border town between Nigeria and Republic of Benin has become a veritable source used by smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities of smuggling rice and vehicles into the country.

The situation may have become  too worrisome to the Seme Customs boss that he had to go back to the drawing board with his men on how to deal with the smugglers in the area. The Comptroller may have  discovered the new tactics used by  the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities .

A taxi driver plying the Lagos –  Seme road says Customs officials along the express road had  been much alive to their duties in the last three months discovering the new tactics  of the rice smugglers such as building of bunkers underneath buses or vehicles used for the dastard act  or hiding bags of rice under vehicle Seats and passengers well seated on it.

It was learnt  that one of the notorious places was the MTN check point where passengers are often ordered out of the bus for thorough checking. Many traders who had bought rice from the border town for sale in the Nigeria market which are  loaded into a bus coming to Lagos  had lost it to the Aliyu’s men.

Acting on information the Command anti-smuggling men had also intercepted bags of rice from smugglers in their  hideout in the border area. The  quantity of rice seized by the Command’s anti-smuggling men which had filled its warehouse is evident that Aliyu has got his act right and his men on the road are working according to plan .

The rice and vehicle seizures that had been made by the officers on the road gives a clear indication that the Customs boss has learnt from his mistakes and ready to prove to Hammed Ali, a retired Colonel and the Customs Comptroller General that he can do the job.

Abubakar, his counterpart at Onne Command, who not much is known about his efforts to combat the activities of   smugglers in his area also has suddenly made a seizure of three units of ”20” feet  Containers carrying imported rice  valued at about  N23 million .

Sources told the Magazine that rice smuggling through the port had been a regular business that had defiled Customs knowledge. at the Onne port. This may have  forced the Customs boss to read the riot act  against non compliant port users while assuring  compliant ones of smooth processing of  their imports and exports.

The break threw in the rice seizure loaded in ”20” Containers may have emboldened him to  vow to    deal ”ruthlessly  with importers  and exporters who manifest recalcitrance to government fiscal policy”. He has also given a word of advice to officers at the Export Unit to be on the alert to their duties to avoid desperate smugglers beating them to it.

Only recently, the Federal Operations Unit , FOU,  Zone A, Ikeja, impounded seven ”20” Containers load of wood ,  a ”20” Container load of  scrap metals, leather,  Blue gum, Hide and Skins  which were export bound through Apapa port. The items were intercepted by the Command Roving team headed by Charles Opabi Jack, a Chief  Superintendent of Customs.

But between and January and September 2017,  the Command was said to have recorded export activities  to the tune of N29.45 billion . The  Command was also said to have recorded  an increase  in Nigeria Export Supersory  Scheme, NESS, free of N150 million.

He could boastfully beat his chest now that the Onne port is a ”no go  area  for any form of illegality  and unlawful  acts  capable of undermining government revenue.

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