Anti-smuggling: Owerri Customs records N2bn seizures
.Benin Republic is second importer of rice from Thailand, Says Comptroller Olusemire
By Udeme Clement
The CAC and his men showing some of the seized items:
The Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone ‘C’ Owerri has recorded 192 seizures of several prohibited items with Duty Paid Value, DPV, of over N2billion from January to June, 2019.
The Customs Area Controller, CAC, of the Unit, Comptroller Kayode Olusemire disclosed this through the Public Relations Officer, PRO, of the Unit,
According to him, “2019 has been a productive year for officers and men, as our anti-smuggling operations resulted to 192 seizures of several items with DPV of over N2billion. The seizures made from January till June 2019 include
- 13000 bags of foreign rice
- Over 50 assorted cars
- Over 200 bales of used clothing, used shoes and used bags
- 609 pieces of used tyres
- 580 cartons of medicament including codeine, tramadol and piroxicam
- Others include various containers of furniture.
“The Unit also made underpayment recovery of over N49million within the same period”.
On seizures made so far, “Comptroller Olusemire said, “The Service is gaining ground on the fight against smuggling, as smugglers in the zone daily count their losses.
“We have various seizures from rice to cars. As smugglers move a step, we move two steps ahead of them. As they plan, we also strategise using intelligence and ingenuity to catch up with them. We have been decimating their means of livelihood but we wonder why they still do the same thing. For instance, your vehicle has been caught once, twice and the third time, yet you are still smuggle.
“We have appealed several times. We have advocated several times that people should stop smuggling of rice. Nigeria is where we can plant rice. There is no land in this country that is not arable enough to grow rice. There are so many fiscal policies supporting agriculture. We have ABT; the Anchor Borrowers programme that people can get loan. But most of these deviants, enemies of the country will prefer to take the little foreign exchange we have out of the country to bring in rice.
He informed, “We have discovered that Republic of Benin is the second importer of rice from Thailand. What is their population? Their population is estimated at 11 million. This implies that most of the rice imported will end up in Nigeria. That is why we are on our toes, prepared and enhancing our capabilities to protect the economy of this country” .
Comptroller Olusemire explained further, “Second hand clothing is absolute prohibition. This is one of the things we have been advocating that people should stop importing into this country.
“Take a look at the medicament seized. Tramadol and Codeine are drugs meant to cure but their abuses have in turn become inimical to the health of the nation. They now fuel vices in the country. An armed robber under the influence of drugs is prone to mood swings and sees other people as lesser beings. Codeine is meant to treat cough but the way it is being abused has informed the government to ban its importation.”
While showcasing 1x40ft container of steel doors and other items used to conceal imported soup, the CAC urged smugglers to turn a new leaf and engage in legal business.
“You can see different kinds of soup imported with labels in foreign language. Anything brought into the country and not labelled in English is contraband. If you are bringing anything from any country to Nigeria, it should be labelled in English.
“In Owerri alone, we have different types of soups and in Nigeria too. We are trying to see how we can grow the economy and someone is busy importing soup. This is to tell everyone that some people are still deviant and they are not ready to key into the policies of government.
“We want to grow the economy. You do not need to bring in rice because we can grow rice in Nigeria. You do not need to bring in soup because we have different kinds of soup in Nigeria. For the dutiable items used to conceal the soup they are liable to seizure.
“Used tyres can cause accidents on our roads and that is why the Federal Government has said under no disguise should anyone bring in used tyres. It is absolute prohibition. These tyres have already been used abroad and are being brought into Nigeria. Why should we be the ones to start using them? Why are we risking our lives? It is better to buy brand new tyres.
“Government policy is that cars should be brought in through the seaports. Bringing in cars through the land border is prohibited. Look at the Ford Edge, Toyota Hilux 2019 model, Bentley, Mercedes Brabus G Wagon. Whoever that can afford to buy these cars should be able to pay duty on them. The idea of saying I bought it from a car mart is unacceptable. If you want to buy a car in Nigeria try and reach out to any Customs formation. We have help desks where you can confirm the status of the car, all you need is the C- number of the car. With that, you will know if duty was paid on the car, or if it was smuggled”.
Some of the cars intercepted were armoured vehicles and the CAC explained the reason for their interception. “The importation of armoured cars is controlled. It should have an end user certificate, so that they do not get into the wrong hands. The end user certificate is obtained from the office of the national security adviser,” he said.
On the evolving methods of concealment, Comptroller Olusemire wondered at the ingenuity of smugglers at concealing contraband and urged them to channel their resourcefulness to productive and lawful means.
“People are so incredulous. Someone will conceal rice in silos; conceal rice in Gpee tanks in a bid to escape the watchful eyes of our officers. People use silo meant to transport flour, to conceal hundreds of bags of rice. We got intelligence that lead to the interception of these trucks. Before now they concealed the bags of rice in trucks conveying cement. They have now changed tactics. Gpee tanks meant for water storage has been turned to a means of conveying smuggled rice.
“How do we stop the shenanigan activities of smugglers because what they do hinder the economy of the nation. Government is trying to provide jobs by giving out loans for agriculture that will lead to more employment in the sector. But if these people work and still cannot sell their produce because of the influx of rice in the country by smugglers, then the effort is defeated.
“The onus is on pressmen to help us sensitise the society that smuggling is inimical to the health of the country”.
Comptroller Olusemire while expressing his sadness at the death of 5 officers so far this year, further commended the collective sacrifice and efforts of his officers in protecting the socio-economic well-being of the country through enforcement of fiscal policies and anti-smuggling operations .
His words, “People should be patient with our officers on the road. When you see our officers on the road we are performing our statutory duties. Section 158 of the Customs Excise and Management Act grants officers the power to patrol and Section 165 Sub Section 2 deals with the penalties of attacking a Customs officer performing his duty.
“My officers acting on intelligence intercepted a luxurious bus with large amount of cannabis concealed in the storage compartment. Anyone passing by may wonder why Customs should stop a luxurious bus. It took diligence, doggedness and effort to rummage and detect cannabis in that bus. This is Indian hemp”.
He appealed, “We know it fuels vices in the country and we advocate that no one should transport it. We urge anyone with credible information to forward it so that they can be arrested. We need to keep this country clean and we need to keep the country safe. Please, people should be tolerant with the Service”.
“If you want to know anything about importation, go to our help desk or website. All prohibited items are listed there. Watch our programmes on television and listen on radio and get information on what to bring and what not to bring in,” he said.
The CAC reaffirmed that the second half of 2019, will yield more achievements, to ensure that the purpose for which the Unit was established will be realised.
He advised, “Whoever that is bringing in goods should be prepared to pay duty. You can see that government warehouse is littered with seizures worth billions of naira, so let us desist and save money for legitimate trade through payment of appropriate duty”.