Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘C’ Owerri, has made various seizures with a cumulative duty paid value of N501, 650,025 between the period of July 2019 till date.
The Area Controller of the Unit, Comptroller Olusemire Kayode disclosed this recently during a media briefing in Aduwawa, Benin.
While taking newsmen round the warehouse where the seizures were displayed, Comptroller Olusemire said that rice still tops the list of items seized by the Unit with a record of 3433 bags of foreign rice seized from July till date. Other items include medicament, cars, second hand clothes and used tyres.
He added that over 3433 bags of 50 kg foreign rice were intercepted. Despite the fact that government has said a lot on importation of rice into the country and measure put in place such as overtures been made and incentives put in place to stop the nefarious activities of rice smugglers, which directly impacts on the economy of the country, people still are not ready to key in to government’s programme.
“Go over there you will see rice, medicament, used tyres and bales of second hand clothing. These are items we believe that by now with all the efforts being made by government ought not to be smuggled into the country again.
“It is quite unfortunate for them because no matter the way they come in, we are there to nip their activities on the bud. Anywhere they pass through, we will catch them, no matter how clandestine we will get them”. he said.
Pointing to a Dangote vehicle carrying rice at the back concealed with cement, Olusemire said “Anybody that sees it will think that it is conveying cement. About two months ago, we showed you the silos that carried rice and tanks concealed with rice. This has not deterred us. We are always ready to thwart their antics”.
He warned rice smugglers to desist from smuggling and look at local production of rice to boost food sufficiency in the country.
According to the unit boss “If you pass through Ondo State, through Ifon Sabe our patrol teams are there. If you come out through Mfum and try to come out to anywhere we are there. Ikot Ekpene, Sapele just try it, we are there. We are moving round the zone and making people to know that this business is no more viable”.
“Nigeria aims at food sufficiency. We have rice in abundance and we have arable land for planting rice in Nigeria. Everywhere is green, so why are we in the habit of bringing in what government says we should not bring in,” he queried.
He also disclosed that seven suspects were arrested in connection with the seizures.
While displaying a truckload of medicament with no NAFDAC registration number or generic name, Olusemire condemned such importations, describing it as being harmful to the health of Nigerians.
In his word “Here, we have a truckload of medicament. The Service has destroyed 49 trucks of medicament weeks ago but despite that, people are still going about doing the same business.
“These are drugs to be sold to innocent citizens without NAFDAC number, neither does it have a generic name known to anybody. Can’t we just change our means of livelihood? If you know this is not good for the people, why do you go about bringing it in?
He also said “We have rice here concealed with electronics. When you see it on the road, you will think they are carrying something else. Some transport companies are in the business of conveying contraband goods. So, my appeal to everybody is that, if you are transporting your consignment, please be sure of the transport company you are using to carry your goods. When they are loading your consignment at any of the parks, be there to ensure your consignment is not loaded with contraband. You can go to Customs website and see the contraband listed there. There is no ignorance in law.
Our dragnet is everywhere to get those involved in smuggling of second hand clothes. These are clothes worn by other people and are not unhygienic for any Nigerian to wear. That is why it is under absolute prohibition. You cannot bring it in under any disguise but some people are still into the business. However, we are working towards eradicating smuggling in the country,” he said.
“I am using this medium to appeal to the public that whenever you see Customs officers on patrol, please be patient with them. It is our duty to pick up any good that is banned. We have the statutory duty to do this.
“We work with information. This truck was intercepted because we had information that the truck carried plastics with 165 bags of 50 kg rice. It was caught at 2am when they thought no one was at alert. It takes intelligence to pick something of this nature.
“Please, we appeal to the masses for information. We need your assistance because most of these smugglers are members of the society. Information given to us will be treated discreetly. Nobody will disclose your information”.
Displaying the vehicles intercepted in Benin axis he said, “We have 16 vehicles seized from July to date. We have armoured Land Cruiser and Lexus 570, among others. I wonder why one travels abroad to buy a car, pays over there and comes to Nigeria without paying the duty.
“Many people said they bought their vehicles from car dealers and we have been advocating that if you go to any car mart, ask for the ‘C number’ that is the Customs number. With this, you will be able to confirm if the document given to you is genuine. Call any Customs formation, we have Help Desk with information pertaining to any vehicle you wish to purchase. So, before you buy a car in Lagos and it is seized in Benin or Warri, and you start telling us that you didn’t know, please confirm your ‘C number’ to know if duty was paid on the vehicle,” he advised.He urged importers to pay appropriate duty on their vehicles, adding that even if they went through the seaport and duty was paid, if confirmed the duty paid was no enough, DN.will be raised.” We have accosted containers and cars and we raised DN because we discovered the duty paid on it was not enough,” he declared
He however advised Nigerians to acquaint themselves with the country’s import and export prohibition list to avoid running a foul of the law.
Adding that the Service is not against legal trade or business, but against illegal importation and smuggling.