Ogun Customs Command dares smugglers

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  • Arraigns 4 Suspects In Court for economic sabotage

(Report by Udeme Clement):

The Customs Area Controller (CAC), Ogun – I Command of Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Peter Kolo and his team are giving smugglers a tough time.

Comptroller Kolo, stressed that smugglers sabotaging the nation’s economy must face the full wrath of the law.

According to him, prosecuting economic saboteurs working against government policies would serve as deterrent to others.

As such, Comptroller Kolo and his men arrested and arraigned (4) four suspects In Court for smuggling and evasion of import duties on trade goods.

The four suspects, who are members of a smuggling syndicate, specialised in illega
importation of foreign rice into the country without payment of approved import duties,
appeared yesterday before the Federal High Court, sitting in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.

The four suspects; Azeez Zonu, Ebenezer Adeyemi, Adeniyi Olalekan and Salahudeen Taiye; were separately arraigned on charges bothering on smuggling, evasion of import duties, possession of smuggled items, as well as aiding smuggling, among others.

The charge sheet against them showed suit numbers: FHC/AB/73C/2021, FHC/AB/74C/2021, FHC/AB/75C/2021 and FHC/AB/71C/2021 respectively, even as the accused persons were allegedly caught with bags of foreign rice smuggled into Nigeria with motorcycles and cars through unapproved routes for the purpose of evading payments of stipulated import duties.

When the matter came up for hearing yesterday, the lead counsel for Nigeria Customs, Barrister Abbas Ibrahim told the Court that the offenders committed infringement punishable under section 47 of the Customs and Excise Management Act, Cap C45 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.

After pleading not guilty to all the charges brought against them, two defense counsels; Barr. S.O. Kayode, who stood for
Olalekan and Barr. A.I. Nadir, who represented the trio of Zonu, Adeyemi and Salahudeen prayed the Court to admit the four suspects to bail, stressing that the accused persons are presumed not guilty until proven otherwise.

Citing sections 158, 162 and 164 of Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, as well as Section 36, sub-section 5 of the 1999 Constitution, of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (FRN), the two defense counsels prayed the court to invoke these appropriate sections in favour of the accused persons.

But the prosecution counsel, Abbas’s opposed to the bail application for the accused on the ground that there was no formal application for it, and that offenses committed have a damaging impact on the economy of the country.

The NCS counsel insisted that the offenses for which the accused persons were arraigned is too rampant in the communities from where they were arrested, emphasising that they could return to the same crime, even more deadly to Customs’ operatives before the final determination of the case.

In his response, the dou of Nasir and Kayode argued that conditions for admitting an accused persons to bail is an “unfettered discretion of the Court”, insisting that the essence of bail is to ensure the liberty of accused persons, who are presumed innocent and particularly to enable them attend to their trials.

Thus, in his ruling, the presiding Judge, Justice Muhammad Shittu Abubakar, granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N2 million, with two sureties in like sum.

Justice Abubakar, who held that formal application was not mandatory to admitting suspects to bail, further ruled that one of the sureties must have a valid international passport or a valid National I.D. card and must be resident within the jurisdictional powers of the Court.

While ordering that the accused persons be remanded at Nigerian Correctional Center (NCC), the Judge thereafter adjourned the matter till 26th April, 2021 and May 4, 2021 for commencement of trial.

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