Customs: Taking The Battle To The Smugglers Den?

Mohammed Gabar: Comptroller, Federal Operations Zone A

By Stephen Ubanna

More facts have emerged why officers and men of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja,  of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS,  had become more aggressive in their anti-smuggling campaigns in Lagos , Ogun and other states in the south west geo-political region.

This is  because  Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, according to Mohammed Uba Gabar, the Command Comptroller recognizes ”hard work and diligence to duty”.

This is in addition to the ”Management motivation and logistic support”. Ali , the Customs Comptroller  General show of appreciation of the good work of Gabar and his men is exemplified with the  Commendation letters  that was said to have been sent to the Command. The commendation letter  was confirmed by  the Command’s Customs boss. He disclosed that the Comptroller General had sent two Commendation letters to the Command at two different times since he assumed office .

Investigation by the Magazine shows that the Command became a force to be reckoned with in the nation’s anti-smuggling operations with the resuscitation of  the Roving Team which was working in bits and fits before his assumption of office.

. Impounded Vehicles by The Command.

Given his determination to make an impact in anti-smuggling operations in the south west and sanitize the ports, Gabar had selected Charles Opabi Jack, a Chief Superintendent of Customs to head the team. Jack selection to head the team, a source told The Magazine was not unexpected. This is because of his track record as an enforcement officer.  He has proved book makers right by taking the battle to the smuggler’s den in the border areas and the ports.

Indeed, the last one month had been very challenging to the team. Acting on information, Jack and his men had led an operation to a hidden House in Ikoyi where 51 assorted vehicles were show cased for sale. Included in the  51 assorted Vehicles showcased in the Ikoyi car shop are also four bullet proof jeep. The Roving team leader was said to have supervised the evacuation of the Vehicles to the Command Mechanical workshop.

The evacuated Vehicles based on intelligence by the FOU, Zone A, operatives  are said to be over 40 2017  vehicles models ranging from Toyota Prado Jeeps, Lexus Jeeps, Toyota Hilux,  Toyota Camry,  Coaster Bus and Toyota Hiace Bus.

An elated Gabar stated further that an additional eight vehicles was evacuated from another car shop in festac town. This brings the total number of vehicles impounded by the Command Roving team within the month to 59 .  The fear in both official and unofficial circles  was that it would have been very dangerous if the bullet proof jeeps had been purchased by die hard criminals or drug barons who have the money to  spend.

At present, the vehicles are currently in detention going by the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 204. Garba, the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss said the dealers have a grace period of one month to produce the relevant Customs papers to take delivery of their vehicles or forfeit it to government. The dealer of the bullet proof jeeps  is expected to produce also the ”End User Certificates  from the Office of the National Security Adviser, NSA.

Besides evaacuating the assorted vehicles from the  two distinct car shops in Lagos, Garba and his men not yet done with the dealers.Six people including the Manager of the Ikoyi Car shop were said to have been  arrested and detained in connection with the 51 vehicles evacuated from their shop, The detained officials , a source confirmed have been released on bail.

The Customs boss was said to have constituted a team to Investigate whether the cars were smuggled into the country  or imported through Nigeria and released without payment of appropriate duty. The investigation, he said would” further reveal  those behind  the clearance  of the vehicles to face the wrath of the Law”.  the vehicles alone, according to him have a duty paid Value, DPV, of N1.077 billion.

In spite of the taking the anti-smuggling battle to the smugglers den, the Command was said to have save the government N144. 43 million from Duty Payments, demand notices on general goods that tried to circumvent  the law at seaports , airports and Land border stations through wrong declaration,  transfer of value, underpayment of duty that had accrued to government  within the month.

Many believe that without the intervention of the Roving team , the recovered millions of naira could have entered into private pocket. It was said to have intercepted a ”20” Container carrying used fridges, 270 cartons  of refined sunflower oil, 55 pieces used gas compressors, 18  packs of juice and other assorted items as against  Cooking Gas declared  the SGD Form.

The second Container was carrying  147 bales  of printed wax and 168 bales of lace material against new electronics  declared also in the SGD. The intercepted Containers  have been promptly seized by the Command for carrying Contraband and  entered under false declaration.

Between January and October, 2017, the Command was said to have recovered billions of naira from importer with agents to the government for infractions in their transactions at the port, airport and border stations.

Despite efforts by the Roving team to put the agents at the sea port under control, some of them have devised strategy to beat Customs to it. It was learnt that there was an incident in a Container allegedly released from Square terminal but suspected to be carrying contraband was flagged down by Customs operatives at the Berger Bridge . The Truck driver was said to complained of failed brake. But the Customs personnel were said to have used a toll van to  toll the truck to their mechanical workshop.

More worrisome is the use of Company vehicles to smuggle rice into the country.  Dangote  and Guiness Nigeria Plc trucks trucks  are the more often used by drivers from these companies  to engage in these nefariousactivities. It is obvious that that their managements are not aware of what they are doing and therfore must read the riot act to drivers  used their vehicles to deliver goods to Customs both within and outside Lagos. worst guilty. This is because  the  FOU Zone A Enforcement Unit have under -cover  agents who pass information to them which makes it impossible for any driver to use company vehicle to smuggle rice or poultry products.

Both the officers at the Checkpoints and patrol teams were said to have seized 6,206 bags of rice , which is more than 10 trailers in October alone. the Comptroller frowned at the seizure of 1-4 bags of rice by his men , insisting that their attention should be focused on those who bring rice in commercial quantities to the country.

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