The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, led by Col. Hameed Ali, Retired, set tongues wagging last week as his operatives continued its offensives on identified acts of economic sabotage, sending fears and anxieties into the underworld and across segments of the society averse to trade compliance.
While the Apapa Area Customs Command tracked and impounded a 40ft container wholly laden with Tramadol, confiscated the bribe sum of $150million to facilitate the release of a helicopter with dubious documentation and the helicopter packaged in pieces; the Seme Command of the Service intercepted consignments of rice amounting to 16, 729 bags of 50kg rice, equivalent of more than 27 trailers, between August and September 2018.
The seized helicopter according to official statement, was declared as cashew nuts for exports, but the packaging was believed to have raised suspicion, following which customs operatives insisted on carrying out physical examination, which turned out be a fairly used helicopter. The customs authority resolved that whereas it is not criminal to export used air crafts, it insisted that the identity of its owner must be known, in addition to the prior status of the helicopter, whether it was commercial or private, and whether it was duly registered with the relevant authorities and for what use it was put to.
Ali who briefed newsmen at Apapa last week, warned that the Customs Service will not kowtow to antics of unscrupulous elements that are determined to ruin the citizens of the country through criminal importation of highly controlled drugs such as Tramadol, nor allow the economy run at the behest of smugglers narrow incline. Commending the Apapa Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Abubakar Bashir and his officers and men for a job well done, the CG said the Customs under him will continue to promote trade facilitation as well as ensure that the safety of Nigerians through dubious imported drugs and foods is not allowed to stand.
This is even as the Customs Area Controller of the Command, Comptroller Mohammed Uba told Vanguard Maritime Report that the seized rice is valued at Three Hundred and Two Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Seven Thousand Naira, Forty Nine Kobo, N302, 477, 049.
Other items seized by the command within the period under review includes 21 vehicles with Duty Paid Value, DPV, of N134, 410, 536; 111 pieces of imported used tyres with DPV of N859, 345.000; 115 cartons of imported frozen poultry products with DPV of N728, 654. 000; 378 x 50kg bags of sugar with DPV of N7, 394, 521 and 71x50litres Jerry cans of petroleum products valued at N3000,521.000 only. The others include 40piecesof used textiles, N774, 270. 000; 57 packs of Tramadol, N11,090, 832; 387 sacks of Coconut, N2, 313, 360 and general goods valued at N52, 005, 135; totaling N2, 839, 507, 352. 66.
Uba who showed reporters round the Government Warehouse filled to the roof with seized rice and other items, said most of the offensive rice were expired even before been imported, and warned that the Customs will continue to erode the financial wall chest of rice smugglers who are bent on sabotaging the federal government policy on local rice production.
While emphasizing the economic evil of smuggling, Uba said that upon assumption of office in Seme, he took time to visit community traditional rulers and heads, t
o solicit their support in educating their subjects on the evil of smuggling. He said he will continue to maintain a robust customs-host community relationship as a vehicle to continually reach out to the people to support government policies and make them abandon their age long held notion that smuggling is their economic right.
The CAC informed that seven suspects were arrested in connection with the seizures, and said that investigation is ongoing with the prospect of prosecuting those found wanting.