The Federal Operations Unit, (FOU Zone ‘A’) of Nigeria Customs, Ikeja, has stepped up its anti-smuggling operations as the unit racked in unprecedented seizures of contraband items recently.
This disclosure was made by the Controller of the Unit, Controller Umar Mohammed Dahiru while on inspection tour of the warehouse with senior officers.
Giving a breakdown of seizures made, the Controller stated that a total of 4,911 bags of 50kg parboiled rice, 15,048 cartons of imported frozen products, 1,884 vegetable oils, 17 trucks of unprocessed teak woods and unspecified number of general merchandise were intercepted by his operatives through intelligence recently.
He stated that the latest onslaught came against the backdrop of the recent directive on the ban of rice importation through the land borders by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Management.
He gave the Duty Paid Value (DPV) of all the seizures as N572,100,700.00 only.
The Controller stated further that three brand new Toyota Prado jeeps were also intercepted during the same period, even though their status could not be ascertained as at the time of this report. He however confirmed that the agent had been requested to produce the Customs documents which will expectedly provide the necessary clue on the status of the vehicles.
Speaking on the poultry products seized, the Controller said that what made the seizures remarkable was the circumstances and mode of concealment of the frozen poultry products.
“Most of the seizures of frozen products were carefully concealed with frozen fish ostensibly to divert the attention of the operatives. At other instances, cooling vans were used in concealing the products with the same criminal intent.”
Also on the issue of rice, the Controller clarified that importation of rice is only restricted for now through the Seaports as against the border stations and warned rice importers to adhere very strictly to the latest policy or be ready to face the full wrath of the law.
On the issue of trade facilitation, Dahiru stated that Nigeria is a signatory to the ECOWAS treaty on trade facilitation/liberalisation and cannot afford to go contrary to the letter and spirit of the treaty.
“The Service is a compliant organisation and we are determined to deliver services in line with World Customs Organisation (WCO) standards, because we are key elements of WCO”.
Generally speaking, the Controller Dahiru expressed readiness to tackle smuggling. “The Unit is working in tandem with the change mantra and ideology of the present Management to ensure that all areas of revenue leakages are blocked, using scientific methods.
“These smugglers can be very daring because most times you see them wielding sophisticated weapons, but the cheering news is that we have superior fire power and are always steps ahead of them. We need the partnership of all Nigerians through credible intelligence reports to help the Unit in its campaign against smuggling,” he said.
The Custom boss however, emphasised that legitimate and compliant importers will always receive the support of the Unit in line with the policy of trade facilitation; while admonishing those with dubious intents to turn a new leaf.
On the recent visit of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hammed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) with some members of his Management to Zone ‘A’, Dahiru said the visit was aimed at strengthening operational ties with the critical stakeholders as well as to brainstorm on areas of hiccups with a view to ensuring seamless collaborations that will enhance the revenue generation capacity of Nigeria Customs.
In his words, “the Comptroller-General of Customs and his Management are working tirelessly despite the present harsh economic challenges to re-position the Service for greater efficiency and functionality.
“In the area of logistic support, I would like to appreciate the CGC, Col. Hammed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) and his Management for providing necessary equipment which has enabled us to frontally deal with smuggling. Just recently we took delivery of new weapons – AK 47 rifles and ammunition to compliment the ones in our armory. It has really gone a long way in giving us a comparative advantage against these economic terrorists.”
Also pointing out some of challenges faced by the Unit, particularly the ignorance of some rural dwellers who do not see anything wrong in smuggling, the Controller promised that the concept of Customs Community Relations (CCR) would be revived for the education and sensitisation of the populace, particularly those dwelling at the communities where smugglers operate, on the dangers of smuggling to the socio-economic development of the Nation.
He also stated his resolve to deal with smugglers ruthlessly. “As long as they are ready to circumvent the fiscal policies of the Federal Government in terms of trade, we will continue to arrest and prosecute them as a deterrent to others.”
He further stated that the Service will continue to strategise to meet the dynamics of the current situation which calls for resilience and doggedness.