Cannabis Colorado: Ali and his officers’ quick response
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Perhaps, not many people knew that before the entry and palpable worry about the menace of Cannabis Colorado became public knowledge, the Nigeria Customs Service and its leadership was effectively, already on top of the situation.
Cannabis Colorado, a Canadian brand of Indian Hemp believed to be ravaging our youths already, through its misuse and addiction, has become a national bother, as the latest addition to drugs trafficked through our ports.
Despite the establishment of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, the Nigeria Customs Service has continued to wage relentless war against the export and import of the illicit substance, notably by virtue of its assigned oversight role on import and export.
The NCS quick response to the perceived menace of Cannabis Colorado is in line with the demand of its mandate, which response strategy is encoded in its daily routine. While NDLEA the department charged with the monitoring of narcotic and Customs have shared responsibility to jointly combat the illicit movement of the substance, credit must be given to the NCS for fulfilling its duty in striving to curtail its smuggling through whatever guise.
Investigation show that the Colorado brand was first noticed through a routine seizure made by the Tin Can Island Port (TCIP) Command sometime last year. This hit off the alarm bells following a report of the seizure to the headquarters by the Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Musa Abdullahi.
Pinnacle Time was reliably informed that sequel to the report, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) characteristically, directed Abdullahi to pay keener attention and to ensure that every inter-agency cooperation is strengthened to frustrate every attempt to allow the command serve as transit route for the substance, otherwise locally christened the Colorado Drug.
Insider sources informed our reporter that the customs management elected to engage in covert operation in unraveling the smuggling ring, more so reportedly in line with headquarters directive that efforts should be made to apprehend those involved, particularly the barons.
Instrumental to the discovery of the Cannabis Colorado is the O/C TICT Terminal, also known as Terminal B2, Deputy Comptroller Caroline Ebun Ayo. Having established above disturbing trend, she wasted no time in re-strategising to combat the menace of using the port and indeed, Nigeria as transit route for its global smuggling.
As it is with the trend in every smuggling ring however, the affected unscrupulous importers and their agents were believed to have wised-up on the security dragnet already put in place, and quickly went underground. But inspite of their fast moves to lie low, the command with Ayo presiding, ensured it was a step ahead of the smugglers pretence, and intercepted 43.110kg of the Cannabis Sativa on April 21, 2021. This is in addition to the arrest of some quantity of military uniform and fairly used clothes.
Under the supervision of the terminal deputy controller, the Command on August 9, 2021 intercepted two armoured Hilux ARM with no End-User-Certificate. This was also followed with the seizures of some questionable tyres on August 21, 2021. Ayo and her team maintained the traction and on September 6, 2021 also impounded a 1×40 ft container load of pharmaceutical substance suspected to be hard drugs.
The Command Public Relations Officer, Uche Ejesieme , had in a statement said the seizure was made in conjunction with operatives of NDLEA, based on shared intelligence.
At the joint 100 percent physical examination of the container with registration number MSCU 1751320 at the enforcement unit, as directed by Abdullah, 1,506 cartons of BARCADINE CODEINE, (100 bottles per carton of 100ml) each, including other questionable drugs, were discovered and subsequently impounded.
The other unapproved products found in the container include 189 CARTONS OF 100 PCS PER CARTON OF REALLY EXTRA (PAIN AND FEVER TABLETS), and 47 cartons of 6 packs of 3pcs each.
All the seized pharmaceuticals have since been handed over to NDLEA. The statement by Ejesieme read in part: “It is instructive to reiterate that the renewed and strengthened partnership with sister Agencies in the port, has continually yielded expected results and the command will leverage on that to decimate the activities of these criminal gangs and their supply chain.”
Officials say the intoxicants have acquired street use notoriety and note that excessive consumption of the drug can cause psychosis, and could lead to organ failure.
Determined and unrelenting, the command again on September 15, 2021 pulled a major offensive in collaboration with the NDLEA when it intercepted 41 packages of Cannabis Colorado.
All of the above seizures were made at TICT, where Deputy Comptroller Ayo holds forth as Officer-in-Charge. A competent, meticulous and no nonsense officer with zero tolerance for misconduct and or acts incompatible with the rules of engagement, Ayo is a product of intellectual power house, and holds a PSC (+) in addition to holding the Distinguished Service Medal. Her contributions to the overall performance of the command and its anti-smuggling activities are not only significant, but far reaching and substantial.
She is part of Abdullah’s crack team said to be working quietly and decimating the drug cartels. Authoritative sources say the command’s quiet operations have significantly eroded the financial wall chest of some of the smugglers through targeted offensives resulting in high profile seizures.
It will be recalled that the command also on August 28, 2021, discovered and promptly impounded a pistol and a fully-loaded magazine inside an imported vehicle at the Five Star Logistics Terminal, in Tin-Can Island. Management of the Command had immediately invited the Department of State Services (DSS) and Nigerian Police Force (NPF) to the scene to access the vehicle.
According to those whose business it is to know, the Colorado Drug is a stronger brand of our local Cannabis Sativa, concealed in imported fairly used vehicles, mainly from Canada. Given the discovery of the dynamics of its smuggling, management of the TCIP Customs Command rose to the challenge of identifying the immediate exit way adopted by the importers.
On the receipt of two mobile cargo scanners last week, the customs area boss hinted that command’s fight against drug smuggling has been made easier under the atmosphere of non intrusive scanning of imports.
Abdullahi said the capability of the scanners is expected to raise the bar in efficiency and trade facilitation.
It must be emphasized that under Col. Ali, the NCS have made tremendous stride in trade facilitation, irrespective of pockets of opinions to the contrary. While NCS have insisted that the regime of inspection cannot be wished away under the prevailing high national insecurity nationwide, compounded by importation of restricted and contraband drugs, arms and ammunition, the service has through profiling and identification, supported large scale trade facilitation especially amongst manufacturers, industrial importers and others with proven import documentation integrity.
It is interesting to note that of all the two hundred member nations of the World Customs Organisation, only fourteen has been adjudged to be simplifying their processes and procedures, with Nigeria Customs Service in the global chart of compliance.
Thus far, it is pretty clear that at the global level, our customs is recognized in providing the enabling ground for trade facilitation. Kudos must be given to the CGC for setting the direction and pace for those at the various command levels to key in.