In line with her commitment to completely eradicate the activities of smugglers as well as make the smuggling business unattractive, the Nigeria Customs, Federal Operating Unit Zone A Ikeja, Lagos, have clamped down on a smuggling cartel at Iteku Creek and other volatile areas.
The operation which recorded the seizure of 1,499 bags of 50kg parboiled rice and 3,071 cartons of smuggled frozen poultry products with a duty paid value of over N26.4m
Disclosing this at a press chat, the Controller of the Zone, Comptroller Umar Mohammed Dahiru, said the success was in line with the enforcement of the recent ban on rice importation through the land borders.
While inspecting the consignment loaded in five trucks at the Government Warehouse Annex of the Unit, the Controller confirmed that the FOU ‘A’ Surveillance team led by Deputy Superintendent of Customs, Ohagwu Jude, comprising other officers and men had invaded the volatile terrain of Iteku waterside, based on an intelligence report that smugglers were using the axis to illegally bring in rice into the country. He pointed out that the smugglers obviously took advantage of the roughness and inaccessibility of the terrain to attempt their nefarious activities.
The Controller noted that the team made effective profiling of information at their disposal, coupled with strategic planning which eventually led to the successes recorded. “The team had to devise a means of accessing the terrain, disguised, using flying boat, through the Agbara waterways, while a backup team came in through Lusada in Ogun State. This move was deliberately undertaken to ensure that the smugglers did not preempt the motive of my operatives.”
He also disclosed that the team received tremendous assistance and backup from the military which, he said, is a clear proof of the synergy and collaboration which is existing between the Nigeria Customs and other critical agencies of Government.
“As you are aware, the issue of collaboration is a key aspect of our strategy. This is in view of the fact that no single agency can work in isolation of the other, hence the need to harmonise competencies and capacities for optimal performance. All agencies are ultimately working towards the same goal of actualising their various constitutional mandates, without losing sight of inter-agency cooperation which is key”.
He stated further that as soon as the team succeeded in cordoning off the area, all manner of hoodlums, miscreants and street urchins, launched a premeditated attack on them. “To underscore their level of desperation, these smugglers mobilised underage children and elderly men/women, using them to obstruct the movement of the trucks from the creeks to the Government Warehouse at Ikeja. In fact they went to the extent of planting nails along the only access road, which was why they had punctured tyres on two occasions, apart from other dangerous weapons, charms etc, being thrown on the officers, ostensibly to frustrate their efforts.”
Speaking on the effort of his Unit to enforce the ban on rice through the land borders, the Controller disclosed that he had started putting modalities in place aimed at re-jigging the capacity and competence of the Unit in dealing frontally with the issue of smuggling. He assured of the preparedness of the Unit to practically enforce the ban on rice smuggling.
He further praised the operational sagacity, resilience, dexterity and deep commitment of the team in going extra miles to effect this remarkable seizure of one 1,499 bags of 50kg parboiled rice and 3,071 cartons of smuggled frozen poultry products with a duty paid value of over N26.4m considering the circumstances.
The Controller also confirmed that the Unit is presently pre-occupied with loading and evacuation of rice and vegetable oil to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in Borno State in line with a recent Presidential directive. In the area of logistic, he expressed appreciation with the support of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Retired Col. Hammed Ibrahim Ali and members of his Management, towards providing necessary working tools which have been useful in the prosecution of war on smuggling.
Giving further insight on the operational antecedents of his operatives in the past few days, the Controller disclosed that the same FOU ‘A’ Surveillance team Seme axis, had, while acting on a tip off, monitored a tipper garage where tippers load sand to Sango-Ota. The team had privileged information that the tipper in question was laden with smuggled rice with tarpaulin used to cover it before sand was heaped on it to deceive our operatives. The tipper was intercepted, taken to the office and after thorough examination, was found to be carrying 168 bags of smuggled 50kg parboiled rice.
“This further underscores the desperation of these smugglers, because from all indications, the routes have become very hot for them, hence their resort to unconventional means such as this,” he said.
Giving further narratives on the various seizures by the unit consequent upon the recent changes in leadership of the patrol team, the Controller further confirmed that Monitoring team ‘B’ Seme axis, led by SC Kaila Abdullahi Shuaibu, comprising other officers, while acting on information intercepted a 40ft container body truck with registration number LSD 627 XS, suspected to be carrying frozen poultry products. He stated further that when the truck was brought down to the unit and examination conducted, a total of 3,000 cartons of smuggled frozen poultry products were neatly concealed with 500 cartons of frozen fish.
The Controller promised to explore ways of dealing with the issue of smuggling as it is a cankerworm that is capable of strangulating the economy of any nation.
Similarly, the controller added that another patrol team on 16th of April, 2016 intercepted a special locally fabricated Nissan Quest mini bus suspected to have been designed for smuggling purposes along Oja-Odan-Ilaro road at 0515hrs. The vehicle on interception appeared to be empty but after careful examination, was discovered to have been used to conceal rice using the various compartments of the vehicle.
“What made this particular interception remarkable and spectacular was the mode of concealment, because ordinarily, one would have assumed that the vehicle was empty, if not for intelligence.” The Controller further stated that in all of these operations, his operatives met stiff opposition in the hands of miscreants masquerading as smugglers and vowed not to relent.