A syndicate which specialises in the cloning of customs documents with a view to smuggling into the country more than 600 assorted vehicles has been smashed by men of the Federal Operations Unit zone A, Ikeja. Two of the suspects have already been arrested and they are helping the service with information to fish out other accomplices connected with the criminal act.
Controller of the Unit, Hussein kehinde Ejibunu told newsmen in Lagos today that the suspects have been forging several import documents, customs stamps and other vehicle registration documents which may look authentic to unsuspecting members of the public. ‘In continuation of our onslaught against smuggling and economic saboteurs, this Unit made a major breakthrough in the bursting and arrest of a two- man syndicate that forge customs clearing documents.
Sequel to the arrest of one suspect (Shuaibu kolo) with a 2007 Mercedes Benz along Ajilete-Idiroko Road of Ogun state, whose address and indepth investigation that led to the unravelling of over 600 pictures of vehicles domiciled in Benin Republic awaiting to undergo forged clearing process by the same criminal syndicate’
The Controller said items recovered from the suspects in the course of arrest and investigation include, fake customs valuation stamp, fake customs Duty Chart Book on vehicles, fake customs documents and vehicle registration documents. Others are four computer monitors, three computer processing units, one keyboard and one printer. The implication of the criminal act, when perfected and successful would imply that the customs will be losing huge revenue, if undetected, but noted that they would not have beaten the several layers of checks and enforcement by the service.
Ejibunu alerted Nigerians who want to buy vehicles to first cross-check thoroughly from any customs formation to confirm that clearing and import documentation were processed through the legal system. He stated that the suspects now in custody will soon be charged to court.
He regretted that in their resolve to safeguard the national economy and prevent revenue loss, officers on legitimate duties are ambushed and attacked by suspected smugglers and their sympathisers, using guns, charms and other dangerous items “ the most recent incident of these kind of assaults on officers is the one arrested using charms to attack personnel at Owoyele Igbogila Road of Ogun state”
Ejibunu also said 5,328 bags of foreign parboiled rice (equivalent of nine trailer loads) as well as 1×40 ft container with 2,298 cartons of half gasoline engines on detention on false declaration. Other seizures include 29,875 liters of premium motor spirit, 283 cartons of foreign frozen poultry products, 75 kilograms of cannabis sativa, 5 units of foreign used vehicles and 1×40 ft container of charcoal meant for export.
He said the effects of smuggling of these wares have a very significant negative impact on our economy. They include loss of revenue, distortion of market prices, and collapse of local industries, noting that all patriotic citizens must join the fight against economic saboteurs. The seizures have a total Duty paid value of N501,460,875. In their quest to prevent revenue loss through under-valuation, under payment and wrong classification, the sum of N103,604,297.32 was collected following the issuance of Demand Notices to defaulters.
Ejibunu assured the business community that the Unit is ever ready to encourage compliant traders by facilitating their legitimate businesses as enshrined in the extant laws. ‘However, recalcitrant traders are strongly advised to desist from violating the extant regulations or be ready to face the full wrath of the law’, he deposed. Two weeks before the elections the Unit ‘A’ continued with its gains in the anti-smuggling front disarming traders who engaged in the importation of dangerous explosive materials as well as those who deal on drugs-cannabis sativa.
Apart from 9 trailer loads of rice seized in the month of January, 450 drums of carbide as well as 68 pieces of military wares-camouflage were intercepted. The trading on carbide and military camouflage are all dangerous trends which criminals can latch on to precipitate violence during the upcoming elections.
Hussein kehinde Ejibunu, the helmsman of the Unit told newsmen that his men are spreading their dragnet to nip the importation of such unwholesome materials in the bud. According to him, the smuggling of drugs which has become a recurring decimal was a notorious practice that can endanger the lives of the youths who are easily prone to crime.
‘Considering the spate of insecurity across the country, and the upcoming general elections, it can be postulated that the importation of Indian hemp, and the military camouflage could be used to fuel crimes and electoral violence by unpatriotic elements.While the former is under prohibition, the latter are under the control and supervision of the office of the National security Adviser, which requires End -user certificates’ he deposed.
He was however quick to state that the carbide is under detention pending when the suspect brings the documents authorising him to deal on it. Other seizures include 314 pieces of used tyres, 11 units of used motorcycles and 13 units of used cars.
Ejibunu stated that most of these goods were intercepted along the border corridors of the South West fir contravening different customs laws. Eleven suspects, he said were arrested in connection with some of the wares, while the Federal High Court has convicted 3 people for smuggling.
Ejibunu pointed out that the total Duty paiPd value (DPV) of the seized goods is N517,918,790, while the sum of N86,117,398.50 was recovered as revenue into the federation account through the issuance of Demand Notices (DN) on customs duties that were discovered to be unpaid. He revealed that in continuation of the Unit’s anti-smuggling drive and protection of revenue loss, it has restrategised its operations and re-injected new schemes to tackle the economic menace caused by recalcitrant importers and agents.
‘We did not only re-strategise our operations but our officers are urged to be more professional, and have keyed into the Service’s standard of Operations procedure, ( SOP) aimed at facilitating legitimate trade. ‘In doing this, we are assuring all compliant traders and importers that they have nothing to fear. He advised recalcitrant ones to resist because we are better mobilised with high morale to arrest, prosecute and make them lose their wares in forfeiture to the Federal government ‘
He also counselled members of the public to key into the prevailing security concerns by providing useful information that would expose and lead to the arrest of the enemies of the state. At the briefing today, Ejibunu handed over 2,135 wraps (1,163kg) of Indian hemp to the National Drug law enforcement agency.
The NDLEA representative, Mr Moshood Ibrahim Aluko expressed joy at the level of the inter agency co-operation between his agency and the customs Answering reporters questions on why his agency seems to be shirking its responsibility Aluko said they were working and prosecuting offenders, noting that his agency has got 10 convictions since this year.
Last year alone the Unit, FOU ‘A’ impounded contraband goods with Duty Paid Value, DPV, worth N13.9 billion in 2022.
This is even as the Unit recovered about N878.3 million from goods cleared at the seaports and border stations with under payment of accruable duty.
Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos, Customs Area Controller, CAC, of the Unit, Hussein Kehinde Ejibunu, disclosed that the Unit arrested 176 suspects during the year. He said: “In terms of volume, rice topped the list of our seizures. We seized 93,102 bags of 50 kilograms rice which amounts to about 156 trailer loads. Even our newly constructed warehouse had an overflow of seized rice.
“A total number of 108 automobiles comprising of trucks, tankers, cars and motorcycles were seized either as smuggled items or means of conveyance of smuggled items. “Illicit drugs seized within the year under review are, 7,354 kilograms and 4,975 tablets of Cannabis sativa, 233 cartons of 225 milligrams, and 82 packs of 225 milligrams of Tramadol.
“It is pertinent to remind us that these hard drugs fuel crime and insecurity. For petroleum products, this Unit seized 656,414 liters of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS); that is, about 20 tanker loads of fuel from economic saboteurs who seek to impoverish the majority of our country people by taking out petrol subsidized for citizens’ benefit to be sold in other countries.
“We arrested 176 smuggling suspects last year, secured seven convictions, 14 were charged to court and are at various stages of investigation and prosecution, seven suspects are in detention: two suspects were handed over to NDLEA, and one suspect was handed over to the Nigerian Police respectively, while 151 are on administrative bail.
“On a sad note, four of our officers lost their lives in active service while confronting smugglers last year.”