Customs in Owerri seizes 3 bulletproof cars, hard drugs, contraband worth N2.8bn
...Arrests 13 suspects
The Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operations Unit, (FOU) Zone ’C’, Owerri, has demonstrated superior intelligence over economic saboteurs, as the Unit intercepted five sacks of pangolin scales, hard drugs and other contraband worth N2,757,676,390.00, (approximately N2.8billion).
The Unit also recovered a whopping sum of N61,467,109.00 (approximately 61.5million) from Demand Notices (DNs) raised on some infractions, making a cumulative sum of over N2.819billion within just two months, (January 25 to March 25, 2023).
Most impressively, the Unit, through its strategic anti-smuggling operations, arrested 13 suspects in connection with the seizures within the period under review.
The Customs Area Controller (CAC) of the Unit, DC Kayode Kolade, unveiled the massive seizures during his maiden press conference in Owerri, yesterday.
Kolade, who assumed office on January 25, 2023, said that the seizures were among his significant achievements.
He listed other seizures to include 398 sacks of cannabis sativa popularly known as Indian hemp weighing 8,756kg and 2,308 compressed parcels of Indian hemp 1kg each, making a total of 2,308kg.
Other seized items include 26 cartons of CMC Cough Syrup with codeine 100mg containing 2,600 bottles ; three units of exotic vehicles all bulletproof; 931 jumbo bales of secondhand clothings; 484 bags of smuggled rice; 31 cartons of various medicaments including 4 rolls of ZH tramadol containing 40 packs; 32 jerrycans of PMS (25litres each) and 540 pieces of used pneumatic tyres.
The CAC informed : “The successes so far recorded were in line with our management mandate, which include blockage of all revenue leakages, trade facilitation and intensification of anti-smuggling operations at various entry points: Seaports, land borders and Airport within the Unit’s areas of jurisdiction in the south/south-South/East zone.
“After reviewing and re-jigging our operational modalities based on approved Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), the unit lived up to its responsibility by intercepting banned items with duty paid value (DPV) of N2.8billion”.
He stressed : “ Remarkably, the five sacks of pangolin scales weighing 413.1kilograme and 11,064kg of Indian hemp are the highest, if not arguably the first seizure of such endangered species and hard drugs in the history of FOU Zone C.
“Effort towards combating illicit trade on endangered species is to ensure that such animals don’t go into extinction. Hence, Nigeria, a signatory to CITES (Convention on International Trade on Endangered Species), categorizes the scales under absolute prohibition, making its importation or trade illegal globally.
“ While the predominantly white belly Pangolin scales were intercepted along Benin-Lagos expressway, the 398 sacks and 2,308 parcels of Indian hemp were intercepted at Ewu-Auchi road and Asaba/Onitsha Expressway respectively. Also, a 2x40ft containers number: MRSU 135969/6 and MAEU 356823/5 carrying 518 bales and 392 Jumbo bales of used clothings, mostly concealed in heavy-duty trucks, and buses were intercepted along Benin/Okada axis and Umeikaa/Aba Road respectively.
“The 26 cartons of cough syrup with codeine and 31 cartons of unregistered medicaments including tramadol were all intercepted along Asaba/Onitsha Expressway. The 484 bags of 50kg each of the foreign parboiled rice were intercepted along Benin-Okada expressway. The three exotic armored vehicles without customs documents and End User Certificate, were intercepted along patani/Bayelsa/PH expressway and Okada/Benin Expressway include two Toyota Land cruiser 2022 models and One BMW 2022 model. 540 pieces of used pneumatic tyres were also intercepted along Ihiala/Onitsha road and Cross River waterside “.
According to the CAC, all the interceptions were made based on credible intelligence.
He described the seizures as affirmation of the determination of the Service to enforce all laws relating to importation and exportation of goods in and out of Nigeria, thereby contributing to the economy, security and well being of the Country.
“ Only God knows what will happen, if these items, especially the hard drugs get to their destinations unchecked, considering the security implication. The interception of these items and other previously related seizures further justify why you see our field operatives on surveillance patrol along our highways within our areas of jurisdiction, as empowered by sections 158, 149, and 150 of Customs and Excise Management Act CAP C45 LFN 2004, which allows Customs officer to patrol freely, Search Vehicles and Persons respectively “.
Speaking further, he called for improved serenity and cooperation of all stakeholders and the general public to comply when stopped for search and show mutual respect to field officers and the Service in general.
He promised that his officers would always act professionally while performing their statutory responsibilities based on the approved Standard Operating Procedures, with a touch of human face.
He, however attributed the sterling feats to the leadership style of the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC Hameed Ibrahim Ali and the entire Management Team of the Nigeria Customs Service for their efforts in recognizing commitment, dedication, and hard work.
His assertions : “ Without the Management incentives and necessary logistics support, we would not have attained this feat within this short period. We hope to achieve more.
“To my dear colleagues, Customs Intelligence Unit, Customs Police, I must commend your prompt intelligence sharing, resilience and doggedness that brought about these giant strides.
“ You will agree with me that the fight against smuggling can only be won, if all hands are on deck. “
He also thanked journalists for their level of synergy while urging them to join the Service in the advocacy campaign against the peril of smuggling to the Nation’s economy.”