By Ifeyinwa Obi

AFTER engaging in  anti-smuggling activities geared towards maintaining its role as a flagship Command,  the Federal Operations Unit Zone A Ikeja, Lagos in its anti-smuggling activities for the  year ended January to December, 2013  has  disclosed that it  has made a total seizure of about 3,553  assorted prohibited goods valued at N1,294,211,018 with a payable duty of N227, 073, 983 and a Duty Paid Value DPV of N1,521,285,001.

The Controller, Federal Operations Unit Zone A Ikeja, Comptroller Nuhu I.M, who disclosed this  in an interaction recently explained that this figure represents a significant improvement from the report of the preceding year (2012).

Comparatively,  the figure  accounted  for over 50% in terms of the Duty Paid Value and other variables.

He said,“it is important to state that consequent upon the ban on Rice importation through the land borders, the command beamed its searchlight on some volatile areas, particularly along the waterways, which have been identified as flashpoints with a view to blocking all loopholes and supply chains.

“The same strategy was also adopted in the case of foreign frozen poultry products and all of these strategies provided the unit the necessary impetus to raise the standard of our anti-smuggling activities over the period.

Proactive measure

“Recall that the Federal Government of Nigeria in its wisdom placed this ban on foreign frozen poultry as a proactive measure to protect the investments of our local farmers who have invested heavily on poultry farming and other agro-allied industries.

“Also the issue of job creation for our teeming youths made it more imperative for the Service to enforce the ban. Beyond this, also is the need to safeguard the Health of the nation in view of the understanding that these imported foreign frozen Poultry Products contain chemical substances that are injurious and detrimental to health.”

Operational strategy:

The Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘A’, according to  Nuhu, employs strategic planning in all areas and spheres of its operation.

However, the Unit, he said  takes serious cognizance of the six point’s agenda of the CGC and this has the issue of capacity building, welfare, ICT, collaboration with stakeholders, coordination and integrity, he said  are all essential ingredients which we carefully integrate, adding that these factors into operational strategies have led to increased and remarkable successes.

“We also engage the concept of risk management, cargo profiling, and selectivity in our attempt to align with latest and acceptable standards in modern Customs operation. Our operatives have also benefitted very immensely from the capacity building programme of the present Customs administration under our  indefatigable CGC Dr. Abdullahi Dikko Inde CFR and his management team.

We have also intensified efforts toward effective collaboration and synergy with members of the host communities where we operate. This strategy has helped in winning the confidence of the host communities who hitherto were very unaccommodating and sometimes exhibited violent characteristics which hindered our operations.

“The hostile tendencies were doused through continuous dialogue and interface with the host  communities where they were sensitized on the dangers of smuggling to their lives and the nation’s economy. Periodically we embark on enlightenment campaign aimed at educating the public on the dangers of smuggling” he explained further.

Summary of activities:

In the light of the renewed vigour of the Unit to take up the ante in anti-smuggling activities by maintaining its  role as a flagship Command, the Unit, he said in the report  embarked on, aggressive patrol activities along the border areas and sea ports.

This, he said  was intended to complement the efforts of other Customs Command in terms of ensuring maximal revenue generation.

Future strategies:

According to him, the  Unit has re-strategized its operational modalities to ensure remarkable results for 2014 in order to justify the confidence which the Customs management reposed on the unit.

“We have, therefore, put all necessary measures in place for effective synergy with critical stakeholders including the host communities where we operate and other relevant security agencies for the actualization of our operational goals and objectives.

“We have in fact started reaping the result already, with the spectacular seizure of 3,997 (three thousand, nine hundred and ninety seven) cartons of suspected fake pharmaceutical drugs with six drums of fake multivitamins valued at N5,850,000 (five million, eight hundred and fifty thousand naira only) with a Duty of N1,170,000 (One million, one hundred and seventy thousand naira only) and a DPV of N7,020,000 (Seven million and twenty thousand naira only) at the beginning of the year 2014.

He commended the  support and cooperation of the Comptroller General of Customs and his management team in terms of staff motivation/remuneration, training and re-training, enhanced welfare, provision of functional patrol vehicles etc.

Message to smugglers: Nuhu warned the smugglers to  avoid any act or conduct that will have a devastating effect on  the Nigerian economy, saying that the  Nigeria Customs Service  was fully determined to aggressively tackle smuggling to its logical conclusion.

“I must warn all those who engage in the unpatriotic act of smuggling to desist forthwith as the unit is even more propelled to deal ruthlessly with these enemies of our dear country. I assure you that we will not rest one bit until we bring down smuggling to its barest minimum” he said.

Facilitating legitimate trade

The Federal Operations Unit Zone A Ikeja-Lagos is an arm of the Nigeria Customs Service, charged with the responsibility of suppressing smuggling and facilitating legitimate trade within the confines of its area of jurisdiction.

Beyond this, the Unit is also involved with the provision of security escorts to visiting VIPs in the Zone. This responsibility entails providing water tight security and other services that will guarantee the safety of visiting VIPs and other very senior officers of the Service.

The FOU A by its strategic importance is seen as a flagship command in anti-smuggling activities and this crucial role has resulted in several monumental achievements, which lend credence to the necessity of existence of the Unit.

It is instructive to note that assignments of this nature required a pragmatic and practical approach, and this therefore makes it a more herculean task.

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