By Udeme Clement
Unrepentant smugglers operating within the domain of Federal Operations Unit, (FOU) zone ‘A’ of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) would be counting their losses by now, following the massive seizures of prohibited items made by the Unit during the week.
The seizures, which include 59 assorted vehicles, four bullet proof cars from a house at Ikoyi and various prohibited items with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of over N1.3billion is capable of sending some illicit traders out of business.
In the same vein, the suspects caught in FOU’s net for smuggling contraband items illegally into the country, would soon see themselves behind bars in jail, as the Customs Area Controller (CAC) of FOU, Comptroller Mohammed Uba, has vowed to prosecute the culprits in accordance with the law.
The records made available to Financial Business & Maritime News from the legal department of the Unit shows that FOU already has about 12 cases of suspects standing trial at the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal and Federal High Court for smuggling. Three out of the 12 are criminal cases, nine are civil cases while one has even been convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.
When contacted, Comptroller Uba stressed, “We are here to implement government’s trade policies. Therefore, those working against government’s policies in growing local industries to enhance economic growth and job creation must face the wrath of the law, because such individuals are not helping our economy in any way. ”
“For instance, we just seized 6,206 bags of rice. From our estimate 6,206 bags of rice are equivalent to about 10 trailers. Imagine the number of jobs government would create with local rice production alone, if we support agricultural policy on local rice production to thrive in Nigeria. Smugglers must realise that FOU Zone ‘A’ is a-no-go area for illicit trade. Our duty is to facilitate legitimate trade, in order to enhance revenue generation for government.”
When Financial Business & Maritime News visited the Unit two days after what could be described as rain of seizures that attracted attention of the whole country to FOU Customs, officers were seen talking in small groups. While some of them described Comptroller Mohammed Uba, as a thorn in the flesh of unrepentant smugglers, others said that Uba is working in tandem with the current structure of Customs operations put in place by CGC Ali Hameed to reform the Service for greater efficiency.
Financial Business & Maritime News inquest revealed that the tempo of activities at FOU Zone ‘A’, especially in curbing smuggling in the last few months has increased tremendously, thereby putting fears in the minds of economic saboteurs in the zone.
Another thing observed during the visit to FOU Zone ‘A’ is the new security network at the Command. FOU now has a new security rule that compels every visitor coming to the Unit, to drop his phone at the security gate, before gaining access into the premises. And this standing order applies to everyone including individuals coming to the Unit for the first time, Journalists, even genuine traders coming for official documentation and all persons coming to the Unit for any form of transaction.
Thus, few days after the rain of seizures, the atmosphere at FOU zone ‘A’ is still charged with the CAC talking tough on smugglers. His tenacity in curtailing illegal trade within his domain was seen in the manner he carried out the inspection of the seized items, standing for over four hours in the scorching Sun to address the press, and moving from one aside of the workshop to another tirelessly.
His words during the inspection: “We are encouraging Nigerians to engage in legitimate trade that would enhance growth and add value to our economy, as we would not hesitate to arrest and prosecute those trying to sabotage our economy. The Service now is inteligence driven and CGC Ali Hameed has empowered us with necessary logistics to carry out our statutory duty without any fear of intimidation by smugglers.”