By SYLVANUS EKPO
A cursory examination of our society today will show some damning malfeances such as drug use and abuse, prostitution, human trafficking and smuggling. To curtail these challenges, government had set up agencies to deal with them but still they continue to fester.
They have become a part and parcel of the new social order. In the area of smuggling, things have taken a turn for the worse with the introduction of sophisticated methods by Nigerians and foreigners to deny government the needed revenue and flood the economy with substandard and banned items. Not to worry, something is being done.
At the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone “A”, Ikeja, Lagos supervises customs anti smuggling operations in the Western Zone comprising major commands in the South West to include Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo and Osun states. It is the policeman of the customs and is empowered by law to arrest, detain or seize any consignment it deems fit to have breached the law.
In fulfilling its mandate, it tries to ensure that appropriate customs duties are paid to the coffers of the federal government; it ensures that accurate declarations are made while also ensuring that banned substances are not allowed into the country.
Importers are often not forth right in their declarations and try more often than not to short-change the system through false declarations.
Under the watch of Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba, the anti-smuggling scenario has changed. The FOU henchman has provided inspirational leadership by living amongst his rank and file in the barracks unlike previous officers who preferred the comfort of their rented fire-star apartments in the city. This has endeared him to his subordinates’ who see in him an officer to be trusted and counted upon in times of emergency.
As part of a new work culture, he ensures that no file stays on his table till the next day, a small way to stay on top of situations and respond to issues that come up at the command.
Anti-smuggling is the very essence of the work of the command. As an enforcement agency, it continues to make remarkable progress in this direction working with about 1000 officers spreading tentacles to Benin Republic and Niger.
The unit’s anti-smuggling strike teams include the Lagos Roving Team, the CG Compliance Team, Patrol Teams, all combing the nooks and crannies of the various states for defaulters of the law.
Upon assumption of duty, Comptroller Garba promised at a Press conference in Lagos that he would wage a relentless war on economic saboteurs and urged journalists to preach the gospel of repentance to smugglers.
In the first quarter of 2017, the command netted impressive seizures whose Duty Paid Value (DPV) was one billion, four hundred and fifty million naira and recovered over a billion naira for duty payments and Demand Notices on goods arising from false declarations, transfer of value at seaports, airports and border stations. The total figure stood at two billion naira.
In the third quarter of 2017, the Zone seized 37 assorted vehicles worth a whooping N1.37 billion from smugglers. All of these seizures came through unapproved routes. Before the dust could settle over these seizures, in the next three weeks, another 27 exotic vehicles ranging from Toyota Prado Jeep, Toyota Hilux, Toyota Highlander, Mercedes and other vehicles worth N288,215,429 were again impounded.
Similarly, a total of 54 seizures of various items such as foreign rice, vegetable oil, poultry products joined the kitty of the brave officers and men of the customs. Comptroller Garba said through Demand Notices the unit saved a total of N783,649,203 for the federal government.
Speaking on these substantial seizure, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) said “Between Wednesday 2nd August and Thursday 3rd August, 2017, the CG compliance team and the roving team of the FOU zone “A” through intelligence report trailed the smugglers and seized 37 assorted vehicles smuggled through the illegal routes coming into the country.”
At the occasion, Comptroller Garba thanked the CG for motivating the officers and providing logistic support to enable them achieve the feat. He commended his officers and men for their commitment to the anti-smuggling war and urged them to continue to show dedication and strive to block all revenue leakages in the economy.
So far, a total of 95 suspects were arrested in connection with these seizures and 475 different seizures.
By half year, the sum of N1.2billion had been recorded into government coffers.
We can posit that Comptroller Mohammed Garba is a smugglers’ nightmare. His tactics, his commitment and his drive have tended to achieve outstanding results never before seen in the command.
Born on December 13, 1962, in Maigatari Local Government Area of Jigawa State, he finished Maigatari Primary School in 1975 and proceeded to Gumel Teachers College between 1975 and 1980. He was admitted to read Political Science at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria in 1980 and graduated in 1986. He grabbed a Masters in Public Administration from Bayero University, Kano in 2006.
He enlisted into the Superintendent Cadre of the Nigeria Customs Service in 1988 and rose to the rank of Comptroller in 2015.
A career officer and gentleman, he was once the O/C Export in TCIP, O/C Gate Onne Area II, Port Harcourt from 2004-2008. He was DC Valuation-Lilypond between 2009 to 2010, DC Import, KLT, TCIP and Ogun Area command between 2010-2013.
Garba became a full comptroller in 2015 and served at Zone “A” Headquaters, Lagos, Tariff and Trade Headquaters, Comptroller, Posting HQ- Januaary to Oct, 2016. He became Comptroller FOU zone “C” Owerri from October 2016 to May 2017 before his deployment on May 18 2017 to the Federal Operations Unit, Zone “A” Ikeja, Lagos.
Comptroller Garba has attended courses locally and internationally including Valuation and Modernization and was a pioneer member of the Modernisation process at headquarters which translated into PAAR.
He has received many awards for outstanding performance among which are Managerial Target Award by Customs Administrator Ango in 1996, Excellence Performance Award by Maritime Watch Newspaper 2013; Integrity Award by MSC Africa Magazine – 2016 at FOU “C” Owerri, Imo State, Health Ambassador Award by medical Students Association, Imo state University.
He is a Member of International Peace Congress and Movement for Progressive Nigeria, 22nd Peoples Parliament, ABU, Zaria, Kaduna State.