Customs in Owerri Seized trucks of wine falsely declared as salt
*As Comptroller Olusemire dares smugglers
By Udeme Clement
The news reaching us right now revealed that Operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘C’ Owerri, intercepted five trucks fully loaded with 5040 cartons of wine and 143 jumbo bales of garments within the Zone, worth N142,300,000, in Duty Paid Value , DPV.
The Customs Area Controller, CAC, of the Unit, Comptroller Olusemire Kayode, made this known during a press conference in Owerri, even as he unveiled the seized items before reporters.
Comptroller Olusemire disclosed that three of the containers loaded with wine were falsely declared as salt but his men uncovered it through intelligence.
He declared, “Our anti-smuggling operations are structured to outwit whatever strategy smugglers come up with.
“Despite government efforts to improve the economy, those we see as our albatross will not desist from going against government policies.
“For instance, we have three containers declared as industrial salt but during examination, no single bag of salt was found in those containers. Instead, we found red grape non alcoholic champagne, which is prohibited because it is non alcoholic and can be produced in this country.
The CAC frowned, “You can see the large number of cartons brought into the country under the guise of salt but it is not salt. It is non-alcoholic drink falsely declared to evade payment of duty and this is contraband. It was not even concealed at all”.
Comptroller Olusemire urged smugglers to embrace legitimate trade and key into government policies.
He informed, “Before government makes any policy, it is deliberated on by think-tanks to ensure the policy is of immense benefit to the nation. There is a recent policy being put in place regarding milk importation into the country. Such policy and prohibitions are deliberated on by experts, to see that the things brought into the country will not ruin the economy, will not make our factories go moribund and in turn give rise to unemployment. It ensures that we will have economic security.”
The CAC stressed, “With the tightening of the nation’s borders daring smugglers have changed their tactics by going through the ports to conceal offending articles of trade in containers”.
He revealed, “Two of the containers declared as agricultural spraying machines had 143 jumbo bales of male and female underwear concealed within.
“We have two containers here laden with ladies and men’s underwear but declared as agricultural sprayer, whereas we have just 23 pieces of agricultural sprayer in the container.
“The PAAR was issued and released as agricultural sprayer. But behind the first layer of agricultural sprayer machines are jumbo bales of pants and bra concealed to evade payment of duty. Agricultural equipment has 5% duty whereas garments attract 20% duty and 5% VAT. With the tightening of our borders it is difficult to smuggle through the border”.
He informed, “We always have credible intelligence from the headquarters. There is nothing you do, we do not know, no matter the time of the day, we are always on duty. False declaration under Section 46 of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) entails forfeiture to the government.
He urged Nigerians not to be hostile to officers in discharge of their official duties but support the fight against smuggling.
“We want people to know that under section 11 of the Customs and Excise Management Act if you interfere, hinder or obstruct officers from doing their job you are liable. We were attacked while making the seizures and under section 159 and 165 of the CEMA, if you attack an officer with harmful object you could be sentenced to death. We are employed to do our legitimate duty. We are working for the society to see how we can protect and improve our economy”.
While taking questions from newsmen, Comptroller Olusemire said that the border drill exercise has seen decline in rice smuggling, affirming that the Unit was ready to bring smuggling in the Zone to the barest minimum.
He said arrests were made in connection with the intercepted goods and investigation is on-going to prosecute the importers and their agents.
Financial Business News learnt that Comptroller Olusemire is experienced officer and highly competent in Customs operations. He has served the Service in various capacities before being posted to FOU Zone ‘C’, where he is curbing the menace of illicit traders in the region.