By Anthony Nwachukwu
Twenty drums of carbide – a chemical that can be used in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and could cause danger to life and property – have been intercepted by the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in South-Western Nigeria.
Ag. Compt. Hussein Ejibunu of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘A’, who disclosed this to newsmen Tuesday in Lagos while briefing them on the unit’s activities, said that 10 suspects were also arrested and at various stages of investigation and prosecution over the seizures in August 2022.
According to him, the seizures have a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N579.4 million, while N46.3 million was recovered from “duty under-payments, under-valuation of imported items and wrong harmonised system (HS) code classification.”
Ejibunu said the seizures were made at the port corridors, Idiroko, Seme Road, Ijebu-Ode Road and Oyo axis. They include 1x40ft of flavour seasoning falsely declared as auto spare parts; 1x40ft of auto interior accessories falsely declared as filters/pneumatic transmission, and 1x40ft of vegetable oil and foreign parboiled rice falsely declared as used vehicles.
Others were 20ft container of 21 pallets of tiles falsely declared as PVC floor tiles/floor bricks; 20ft container of Padi Bitters falsely declared as olive nuts; 20ft container of unprocessed wood falsely declared as aluminium ingots, and 20ft container of bales of used clothes and shoes, with a used fake seal/Dangote truck.
There were also 20 drums of carbide without end-user can, 5,593x50kg bags of foreign parboiled rice (equivalent to nine trailer-loads), 56,725 litres of premium motor spirit, 375 bales of used clothes, 242 parcels of Indian Hemp, 41 pieces of military camouflage bags, 11 imported used cars, and 29 motorcycles.
Of the 20 drums of carbide, Ejibunu said “such importation raises concern on national security because it is a chemical used in the manufacture of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and could cause danger to life and property.
“Allowing things like this chemical into the society uncontrollably could create serious security challenge for the country. Carbide is flammable, reactive and can cause explosion hazards when mixed with other chemicals and exposed to water or moisture.
“It forms flammable acetylene gas that could be used to endanger lives by lawless persons. Aside other health hazards, the chemical on exposure can irritate the mouth, nose and throat if not properly handled.
“Inhaling calcium carbide can irritate the lungs. Higher exposures may cause a build-up of fluid in the lungs and could lead to emergency medical situation. Its importation is therefore strictly controlled by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA).”
Meanwhile, he attributed the seizures to the operatives’ commitment to duty and non-compromise of their functions of protecting the nation’s economy and preventing importation of prohibited and harmful products.
He expressed hope that the seizures, recoveries and arrests would deter other smugglers and duty evaders, adding that the unit was already intensifying efforts to continually seize smuggled items, arrest and diligently prosecute those who violate the provisions of Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP C45 LFN 2004.
According to him, the agency is “not unaware of the likely increase of smuggling activities as we gravitate towards the yuletide period, when smugglers desperation is on the increase.
“Our strategies are constantly being reworked in our efforts to think ahead of economic saboteurs towards defeating their game of concealment, false declaration, under-payment of duty and trying to bring in dangerous items like illicit drugs.”