Barely two months after the Nigeria Customs Service headquarters in Abuja appointed Deputy Comptroller Kayode Kolade as the new Acting Controller, Federal Operations Unit, Zone ’C’, in Owerri, Imo State and he assumed duties, the Unit has started experiencing a new lease of life with the operations retooled and rejigged.
Evidently, the office complex and the general environment of the Unit are now wearing a new look in the real sense of the word when Inside Watch Africa (IWA) visited.
The Acting Controller, while addressing newsmen during his maiden press conference recently, said the Unit had in the first two months of his taking over intercepted and arrested five sacks of pangolin scales, hard drugs and other contraband worth N2.75 billion (Two Billion, Seven Hundred and Fifty-Seven Million, Six Hundred and Seventy-Six Thousand, Three Hundred and Ninety Naira only).
The Unit also recovered the sum of Sixty-One Million, Four Hundred and Sixty-Seven Thousand, One Hundred and Nine Naira only (N 61,467,109.00) from demand notices raised based on some infractions discovered, making a cumulative sum of Two Billion, Eight Hundred and Nineteen Million, One Hundred and Forty-Three Thousand, Four Hundred and Ninety-Nine Naira only (N 2,819,143,499.00) within the months under review from January 25th to March 25th 2023.
In all, thirteen (13) suspects were arrested in connection with the seizures.
Apart from the above-listed items; 398 sacks of Cannabis Sativa popularly known as Indian Hemp, weighing 8,756kg and 2,308 compressed parcels of the same Indian hemp 1kg each totalling 2,308kg, were also impounded during the period under review.
Others were 26 cartons of CMC Cough Syrup with codeine 100mg containing 2,600 bottles; 3 units of exotic vehicles all bulletproof; 931 jumbo bales of second-hand clothing; 484 bags of smuggled rice; 31 cartons of various medicaments including 4 rolls of ZH tramadol containing 40 packs; 32 jerry cans of PMS (25litres each) and 540 pieces of used pneumatic tyres.
Kolade said that their operational modalities in the Unit are in line with the mandate he was given by the management of the Nigeria Customs Service led by Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retired), which includes: 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-Southeast zone.
According to the acting controller, all the interceptions were made based on credible intelligence as the smugglers tried to manoeuvre and beat the system within the Southwest zone.
Kolade said: “Remarkably, the five sacks of pangolin scales weighing 413.1 kilograme and the 11,064kg of the Indian hemp are the highest if not arguably the first seizure of such endangered species and hard drugs in the history of Federal Operations Unit Zone C.
“The 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, 2x40ft containers number: MRSU 135969/6 and MAEU 356823/5 carrying 518 bales, and 392 Jumbo bales of used clothing mostly concealed in heavy-duty trucks, and buses were intercepted along the 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 the Benin-Okada expressway.
“The three exotic armoured vehicles without customs documents and End User Certificate 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.”
The Comptroller described the seizures as a further affirmation of the determination of the Service to enforce all laws, relating to the importation and exportation of goods into and out of Nigeria thereby contributing to the economy, security, and general well-being of the country.
“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,” Kolade told newsmen.
He called for improved cooperation of all stakeholders and the general public with Customs to “humbly comply” when stopped for search and show mutual maximum 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 (SOP) with a touch of human face.
Kolade ended the press conference on an appreciation note by thanking the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd), and the entire Management Team of the Nigeria Customs Service for the necessary logistics support they continued to provide and for recognizing commitment, dedication, and hard work.
He also thanked the Customs Intelligence Unit, and Customs Police, for their cooperation and for prompt intelligence sharing, their resilience and doggedness that brought about the Units giant strides.
To the media, the Comptroller lauded journalists for their level of synergy while urging them to join the Nigeria Customs Service in the advocacy campaign against the menace and effects of smuggling on the nation’s economy.