- Ag. Controller Hussein Ejibunu (right) during one of the recent media presentations of seized smuggled items in Lagos
- 146 arrested in connection with seizures, N878m recovered raised from DNs
By Anthony Nwachukwu
Approximately N13.91 billion in duty paid value on intercepted smuggled items, and N878.34 million from underpayments and under-declarations have been declared by the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for the period January to December 2022.
Reviewing the unit’s operations on Thursday in Lagos, Ag Controller Hussein Ejibunu regretted that four officers, Inspectors TP Astor and A Onwueguzie, and Assistant Inspectors Musa R. and Bristol E. were lost in 2022 during anti-smuggling campaigns, adding that their suspected killers have been arrested to face justice.
He listed 656,414 litres of petroleum products (20 tanker loads), and 93,102x50kg rice (156 trailers), which overflowed the unit’s new warehouse, as top among the seized smuggled items.
The others included 108 automobiles, comprising trucks, tankers, cars and motorcycles, which were seized either as smuggled items or their means of conveyance, as well as 7,354kg and 4,975 tablets of Cannabis sativa, 233 cartons of 225mg and 82 packs of 225mg Tramadol.
In connection with some of the contrabands, 176 suspects were arrested, seven of whom have been convicted, 14 at various stages of investigation and prosecution, seven still in detention, two handed over to the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (DLEA), one handed over to the Nigeria Police, and 151 released on administrative bail, he stated.
According to him, “these hard drugs fuel crime and insecurity,” while the smugglers of the PMS were economic saboteurs seeking to impoverish the majority of the citizens by taking out petrol subsidised for citizens’ benefits to other countries.
Therefore, the seizures not only protected the national economy but also citizens’ health by foiling attempts to bring into the country some dangerous, expired and harmful products.
He noted that 2022 witnessed a sustained anti-smuggling onslaught, zero compromise on duty evasion and diligent facilitation of trade through a combination of vigour, logistics and field intelligence.
“We prosecuted our core mandates without fear or favour in the six states of the South-West: Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo. Even in the face of resistance, attacks and tricks in the mode of concealments, we were duty-bound to carry out our responsibilities,” he said.
“I am glad to report that we shook the smuggling world within our area of responsibility. This unit also prevented loss of government revenue, as our assigned position of being a layer of check uncovered attempts at evading duties.
“We recovered the discovered shortfalls through issuance of demand notices (DN). We did all these at the expense of our lives, placing national interest ahead of any narrow or personal gain.
“It is sad to note that some of our officers paid the supreme price last year when they got killed by smugglers. For us, they are the heroes of the anti-smuggling battle and they will never be forgotten.”
He added: “As approved by our enabling laws, the unit patrolled within its area of responsibility and ensured that smuggled items were uncovered and seized wherever they were hidden.
“Our round-the-clock patrol is ever recharged as we don’t believe in leave, not even during the yuletide. Those who doubted this and attempted smuggling during the yuletide were shocked at our Christmas and New Year period operations.”
Meanwhile, he explained that the unit also facilitated legitimate trade, ensured ease of passage for compliant trades and double-checked suspected non-compliant traders, as well as provided escort services for cargoes under bond to their respective destinations across the country during the period.
For 2023, he promised that the unit will sustain and increase anti-smuggling operations, stick to zero compromise. He urged smugglers and their collaborators to seek legitimate livelihood.