……..Officers and men along Benin-Asaba-Onitsha road tackles die-hard smugglers to standstill.
….Steps up pre-yuletide anti- smuggling operations.
The Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone C of the Nigeria Customs Service, Owerri has recorded a total of two hundred and thirty-one (231) seizures of contraband goods with an overall Duty Paid Value (DPV) of one billion, nine hundred and fifty-seven million, five hundred and twenty nine thousand, three hundred and seventy-five naira (#1,957,529,375.00) in the third quarter of the year 2016.
The Customs Area Controller of the Unit, Comptroller Haruna Mamudu, disclosed this while briefing newsmen on the performance of officers and men of the unit in the third quarter of the year.
According to Comptroller Haruna, twenty-two (22) suspects were also arrested in connection with the seizures which were impounded on the Benin axis, Asaba-Agbor-Onitsha express way, Calabar, Enugu, Owerri and Port-Harcourt axis of the South-south and South -East zones of the federation, while sixteen (16) cases are pending in court .
He explained that the current seizures is in contrast to the three hundred and ninety-seventy nine seizures with a DPV of two billion,two hundred and twenty-four million, two hundred and forty-five thousand, seven hundred and ninety-seven naira (N2,224,245,797.00) seized in the year 2015.
According to him, when compared, the underpayment of five hundred and forty-eight million, seven hundred thousand, nine hundred and ninety-seven naira (#548,700,997.00) recovered this year (2016) amounted to an increase in the percentage of revenue generated by the NCS as one hundred and five million, two hundred and seven thousand, eight hundred and seven naira (#105,207,807.00) underpayment was recovered in the year 2015.
Alhaji Haruna stressed that the feat so recorded by the unit was made possible through the renewed determination and vigour exhibited by the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd.) to rid the country of all forms of illegal importation.
Giving a breakdown of the seizures, the Customs FOU Zone C boss listed the items impounded to include 121 vehicles; 3,082 bags of 50kg rice; 1,454 cartons /set of furniture; 5,120 pieces of used foreign tyres; 625 cartons of fake medicaments and 2,600 pieces of imported school bags.
Also seized were 63 containers of log of wood; 97 pieces of 14 -stroke engine generator; 30,181 cartons imported frozen poultry products; 1,148 bales of second hand clothing as well as 2, 331 cartons of foreign detergents and creams.
Making the list of items seized are 1,339 pairs of foot wears; 142 pieces of used refrigerators and compressors, 155 cartons of plastic and articles of plastics; 129 cartons of ceramics and articles of ceramics in addition to 803 bags of scrap metals.
According to inside sources within the Customs , the FOU Zone C is enforcing the ban on contraband goods effectively along the Benin –Asaba- Onitsha road, the gateway to the South east as a result of the zero tolerance posture to smuggling by officers and men of the Customs manning the bases along that route in strict compliance to the change mantra of the current Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali (rtd).
The teams, being supervised by a non- compromising well trained customs officer it was gathered, has continued to be a thorn in the flesh of die-hard smugglers who hitherto saw the road as a prosperous gateway to ply their trade and fritter their consignment of contraband goods to markets in the South East and South South.
As at the time of this report, officers and men of the bases along Benin-Asaba-Onitsha road and the Port Harcourt area are said to have intensified their operations and further placed their men on 24 hours surveillance as the people prepare for Christmas, which usually serves as a time for brisk business for the sale of assorted imported clothing materials and shoes smuggled into the country.
It was further gathered that the FOU Comptroller has since resuming duty in the unit early this year showed special interest in the teams working along the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha and Port Harcourt roads as available records showed that the route in the last three years had been the main avenue being used by traders and smugglers intending to bring such goods to the South East and South South as well as serving as a source through which the FOU revenue generation base is shored up from seizures effected.
As a good testimony to the credit of the FOU Zone C, for example, it is on record and public domain that the Zone within a period of two and half years before the assumption of Comptroller Haruna recorded five billion naira (N5billion) as revenue,most of which was from intercepted and seized contraband goods and underpayment for different kinds of exotic vehicles which were impounded and such monies were recovered or the cars sold through auction according to extant laws of the NCS.
Meanwhile, Comptroller Haruna has said that the NCS would remain resolute and undeterred in its efforts to stamp out the scourge of smuggling in the country, stressing that the NCS is always well equipped, mobilized and motivated to dislodge collaborators and agents where ever they hibernate.
He appealed to members of the public with useful information about smugglers to always make such information available to his officers and men as well as to other sister security agencies for necessary action, even as he once again assured that the identity of such informers will be concealed.