By Udeme Clement
The Ogun Command of Nigeria Custom Service (NCS) has recorded losses of two patrol vans, three vehicles belonging to officers and one operational check-point at Atan community, along Idiroko road, the border between Nigeria and Republic of Benin. This is happening just few weeks after smugglers from the same axis attacked officers on duty and shattered their patrol vehicles with bullets.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the Command incurred the losses in a vicious attack by smugglers at Atan, who set their vehicles ablaze, attacked officers on duty and destroyed the entire check point. The smugglers attacked the officers in an attempt to prevent them from securing seizures of 285 cartons of foreign imported poultry products and 45 bags of rice, brought into the country illegally, against government’s trade policy on ban of poultry products and rice importation through land borders.
During a visit to the scene of attack at Atan, Sunday Vanguard observed that the only things left on ground were the burnt vehicles, while the check-point was totally destroyed. Two individuals at Atan who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed displeasure on incessant attacks on Customs by smugglers, stressing that some dare-devil smugglers at Idiroko see illicit border trade as their birth right.
When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Command, Abdullahi Maiwada, explained that the contra-band items were fully loaded in a Passat vehicle without any registration number. ‘The officers intercepted the prohibited items and on their way to carry the seizures, there was a mob attack on them. Earlier that same day, there was a clash between smugglers and Customs officers at the toll-gate, and the hoodlums went on reprisal attack, burnt two of our operational vehicles, three private cars belonging to officers and the check-point, the situation would have escalated if not the tactful withdrawal of our officers ’, he said.
Arrests 21 suspects in Owerri
Meanwhile, the Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘C’ Owerri, has arrested 21 suspects for smuggling of contraband items into the country, even as 25 cases recorded by the Command are currently in court.
The Customs Area Controller (CAC), of the Command, Comptroller Mohammed Uba, disclosed this, saying that the suspects who are in their custody will be charged to court, to serve as a deterrent to other economic saboteurs. “The Unit does not engage in arbitrary seizure or detention of commodities but exercises due diligence and operates within the ambits of the law, to thwart efforts of unscrupulous individuals bent on economic sabotage”, he said.
He added, “In the month of April, we made 15 seizures with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N865.5million and underpayments recovery of N23.3million. The Unit has a track record of success in anti-smuggling operations and the officers remain unflinching in their resolve to bring smuggling in the area to its barest minimum.
A breakdown of the seized items include:
- 1605 bags of rice with DPV of N58,245,000,
- 2 trucks of seizures for N12,225,000,
- 24,032 cartons of imported frozen poultry products for N291,988,800,
- 1158 cartons of medicaments, including 635 cartons of Tramadol, for 494, 959,080,
- 845 used tyres for N8,112,000.
Some of the seizures deposited in government warehouse in Benin, Edo State were made in Benin, Calabar, Enugu and Owerri axis of the Zone. The commodities seized are of high value, hence the huge amount of the DPV. Also, there are commodities in detention and intense investigation is ongoing”.
He went on, “We are not here to intimidate anyone or discourage genuine traders, but to facilitate trade with a view to generating more revenue for government. Government is ready to assist any citizen willing to undertake legitimate trade. Let smugglers desist from illicit business and engage in legitimate trade. Let us join hands in economic development of our nation.”
The CAC handed over the seizures of medicaments to the representative of National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) Pharmacist Esther Itua, who lauded the Service for efforts in safeguarding the health and safety of the nation. She called on other security agencies to emulate Customs spirit of comradeship.