A Rage against Smugglers: FOU on Red alert
.Says Economic Saboteurs must go to Jail
By Udeme Clement
The Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’ of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is on red alert at present as the ember months approach. The Unit, which sees enforcement of government trade policy as top priority has stepped up its operational surveillance within its area of coverage to frustrate nefarious activities of smugglers.
Financial Business & Maritime News inquest learnt that the Unit, which has made outstanding performance in anti-smuggling operations in the last five months, is leaving no stone unturned in tackling economic saboteurs within its domain.
Massive Seizures of Fake Drugs:
The record shows that in the last few months, FOU has prevented what would have been a major health disaster in the country through massive seizures of fake and substandard pharmaceutical products imported into the country illegally. Such seizures include three 40ft containers of fake pharmaceutical products like Acipep, Lemdafil and Ciprogyl intercepted by the Unit. Our investigations revealed that the drugs were estimated at the monetary value of over N31million.
Another mind boggling seizure of substandard drugs recorded by FOU was that of 1,442 cartons concealed by the importer in a bid to escape security checks. Those drugs include Tramadol 120mg, Diclofenac Potassium tablets 50mg made from India and many others. During inspection of those offensive items, it was observed that the substandard drugs were fully loaded in trucks with registration numbers RRU 513 XA, LSR 99 XK and container number MSKU 9883956. The method of concealment looked so sophisticated, showing that the real content was detected through a thorough check by intelligent officers.
The same Unit also seized 1,104cartons fake pharmaceutical products, estimated at the Duty Paid Value, DPV, of over N12.1million, smuggled into the country without appropriate documents and permits from government. These were among other seizures of substandard drugs handed over to NAFDAC by the same Unit.
Seizure of items for false declaration:
Aside from substandard drugs, FOU in the last five months has outstanding records of items seized due to false declaration by some importers, who deliberately under-declared their goods in order not to pay the correct import duty to the Federal Government. These include 14 containers fully loaded with imported goods but seized by the Unit for false declaration and breach of Customs law, with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N104.6milliom.
Arrest of Suspects:
Another outstanding record of FOU is arrest of suspected smugglers. The Command has a large record of smugglers arrested within this period.
Most recently the Unit arrested 23suspects in connection with seizure of various prohibited items smuggled into the country illegally.
At present, the Unit has12 cases of suspects standing trial at the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Federal High Court for smuggling. While three are criminal cases, nine are civil cases and one has been convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
Seizure of Prohibited Items:
The Customs Area Comptroller (CAC) of FOU Zone ‘A’, Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba disclosed that between just August 29th and October 3rd, 2017, his team intercepted various contraband items with DPV of N356million.
His assertion: “The seizures included 11 used vehicles worth N125,403,598.5; 4,227 bags of 50kg foreign rice worth N52,136,029.35; 84 parcels of Indian Hemp worth N4,032,000.00; 249 bales of second hand clothing worth N4,482,000.00; 980 cartons of frozen poultry products worth N5,880,000.00; 907 pieces of used tyres worth N5, 043,000.00; 268 pairs of used shoes worth N160,000.00; Electric cables worth N18,528,000.00; Scrap metals worth N10,000,000.00; Wet blue leather for export worth N61,863,750.00; Wood in 7 separate containers worth N35,000,000.00; and 3 containers of medications worth N31,537,273.2”.
“Also, our officers trailed and evacuated 3000 bags of smuggled rice from 10 houses along waterside in Ere village of Ado-Odo Ota Local Government, Ogun State. It was however surprising that each of those buses where the rice was stored had three exit doors to aid nefarious activities. While we were evacuating the bags of rice from one house to another, the villagers were also busy packing the rice to the bush through alternative exit doors. That is to show you the extent some people take the risk while indulging in smuggling. They see smuggling as a way of life since many inherited the business. Notwithstanding, we were able to achieve this with the support of the Military from 9 Brigade of the Nigerian Army.”
“The 11 seized vehicles include two Lexus Jeep GX460 and RX330; one Toyota Rav4; Two Toyota Camry; 5 Mercedes Benz and one Iveco Truck tanker, all ranging from 2007 to 2013 models”.
“So, from our records, a total of 14 containers were also seized for false declaration and breach of Customs law with DPV of N104,684,023.2; while seven containers carried unprocessed wood, one container of scrap metals and another container with wet blue for export, came under export prohibition list and were consequently seized”.
Moreso, “Two containers carrying made-in-Nigeria cables from China, declared as electric distribution board and ballast were seized. In the spirit of inter-agency collaboration, the Cannabis Sativa, medications and cables have been handed over to the NDLEA, NAFDAC and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON).”
Warning to Smugglers:
Now, as the ember months approach, we are warning smugglers to desist from illicit trade and allow sanity in our economic environment, or be ready to lose their goods. Not only that, we would not hesitate to arrest, prosecute and send them to prison for working against the policy of government. We must support the efforts of government in growing local industries to promote agriculture and industrial development. Therefore, smugglers must be warned”.