The Controller of the Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service Comptroller Hussein Ejibunu has stated that the Unit intercepted various prohibited goods worth N723.2million in the last three weeks and also arrested 37 suspects.
According to the Comptroller Ejibunu, items seized included 8,000 bags of smuggled rice at 50kg each; 1,419 jerrycans of vegetable oil; 1,301 bales and 128 sacks of secondhand clothing, 621 cartons of expired medicaments; 635 cartons of wine; 1,046 pieces of used tyres and 21 cartons of cutlasses at 60 pieces each.
Others were 531 pieces of the used compressor; 986 cartons of chocolate biscuit; 229 wraps of Indian hemp; 856 jerrycans of petrol at 25 litres each; 1,516 cartons of frozen poultry products; 751 pieces of AAA cartridges (7OMM) of live ammunition; 18 units of motorcycles, inclusive of 80 means of conveyance.
The items were seized at different flashpoints in the zone including Ado-Odo, Idogo, Sokoto-Ijoun, Ohunbe, Ilaro, Atan, Abeokuta/Sagamu Interchange, Ijebu-Ode in Ogun State, Iseyin, Igboora, Igbeti in Oyo State, Gbaji, Agbara in Ogun State and the creeks.
He noted that of the 37 suspects arrested, six have been charged to court, 12 on administrative bail while 19 are still in custody waiting to be charged to court or be released through bail.
Comptroller Hussein Ejibunu disclosed this in Lagos last week while briefing the media on the development, saying the massive use of motorcycles to smuggle parboiled rice through bush paths not accessible to vehicles is a disturbing new trend of smuggling being deployed by smugglers.
He added that another challenge that has remained unabated is the issue of ambush attacks on officers unprovoked.
“Just on Saturday 16th October 2021, my patrol team ran into a convoy of more than 24 vehicles laden with smuggled rice and they were able to intercept 12 along Abeokuta/Sagamu Interchange. As the officers made their way to Lagos, over 300 smugglers and hoodlums had mobilized and attacked the officers with pump-action rifles as well as cutlasses, pebbles and bottles. In the process, the patrol vehicle was riddled with bullet wounds while the windscreen was shattered. The aftermath of the attack was the forceful retrieval of 8 of the 12 intercepted vehicles and the injury of 2 officers. You can now see what we face every other day,” he said.
The Customs boss, however, said no matter the level of attacks on his officers, the unit will remain undaunted in the pursuit of its mandate in stemming the tide of smuggling and implementing government fiscal policies.
Ejibunu warned that the unit will not hesitate to deploy the rules of engagement governing the use of firearms over the continuous harassment and killing of customs officers.
“We remain undaunted in the pursuit of our mandate no matter the level of attacks on my operations in the field. Let me sound a note of warning to smugglers. No man has the monopoly of violence. We have the backing of the law to bear arms; and to that extent, we will not hesitate to deploy the rules of engagement in such dangerous circumstances. Parents should warn their wards on the dangers of smuggling,” he said.
Ejibunu said the unit is also beaming its searchlight on the seaports in a bid to minimize sharp practices credited to certain unscrupulous elements at the ports.
This, he said led to the interception of a 1/40 ft container along Amuwo Odofin in Ojo LGA of Lagos State being trans-loaded into two trucks.
He said as at the time of interception, 248 bales of secondhand clothing had been trans-loaded into a DAF truck, another 240 bales into Scania truck while 216 bales were still remaining in the container.
“Both the container and the two trucks were brought to FOU ‘A’ and converted to seizure. An investigation that is ongoing has so far revealed that the container left APMT Apapa on Transire to Fano Bonded Terminal. It was further revealed that the containers were 3 in number on one single declaration. We are on the trail of the remaining 2 and of course, those behind the dastardly act will not be spared as some people are already in the Cell helping in our investigation,” Ejibunu said.