• Arrests 9 suspects in connection with various seizures

By Steve Agbota

Amid food crisis in the country, the operatives of the Federal Operation Unit Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Friday said it intercepted export bound three trucks laden with 880 bags of white beans, 584 bags of onions and 18 bags of dry pepper on the verge of being smuggled to Benin Republic.

The food items were seized at Ajilete/Idiroko road in Ogun state less than 24 hours after the Seme border command of the Nigeria NCS intercepted 400 sacks of grains illegally exported to the same neigbouring country Benin Republic.

In a press briefing in Lagos, the Customs Area Controller, FOU, Zone A, Compt Hussein Ejibunu said instead of seizing the food items, the Unit ensured the trucks were re-directed to the Nigerian markets where they were sold to Nigerians by the owners while nine suspects were arrested in connection with various seizures.

The Customs boss also raised the alarm over smugglers new defined means of smuggling foreign parboiled rice in petroleum Jerry cans.

According to him, the act is not only illegal but also exposes the potential consumers to the risk of eating contaminated grains that have ingested poisonous properties possibly from premium motor spirit (PMS), diesel, or other petroleum products.

“Due to violation of various sections of the Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023, and the federal government import and export prohibition guidelines, we vigorously and relentlessly prosecuted our anti-smuggling campaign which resulted in a total number of 93 seizures, arrest of mine suspects made to prevent smuggling and protect our national economy. The seizures made are worth a total duty paid value of N751.1million.

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“As usual, rice was top on the list of our February 2024 seizures in terms of volume and value. A total of 3,779 X 50kg bags of suspected foreign rice equivalent to over 7 trailer loads worth over N365m were seized from various parts of the South West. Other items seized in the month under review include one locally made gun and six pieces of empty cartridges at Abeokuta road, 731 parcels of Indian hemp weighing 482kg, 1 X 40ft container found to contain 286 cartons of new rubber slippers, 7 units of used motorcycles, 28,000 litres of premium motor spirit (PMS) and 2,420 pieces of used tyres.

“Worthy of note is the interception of export bound three trucks headed to the Republic of Benin laden with 880 bags of white beans, 584 bags of onions and 18 bags of dry pepper at Ajilete/Idiroko road in Ogun state. Instead of seizing the food items, this Unit ensured the trucks were re-directed to the Nigerian markets where they were sold to Nigerians by the owners. The seizures made are worth a total duty paid value of N751.1million,” he said.

Ejibunu also disclosed that N78.16million was recovered as revenue into the federation account through the issuance of Demand Notice (DN) on Customs duties that were discovered to be underpaid.

“We also prevented the smuggling of eleven exotic used vehicles worth over N200 million into the country through our area of responsibility. Smugglers of these vehicles met our stiff resistance against their duty evasion and deviant behaviour.

“The sum of N78,164,255.20 was recovered as revenue into the federation account through the issuance of demand notices (DN) on Customs duties that were discovered to be underpaid. These outcomes were achieved despite the unrepentant behaviours of economic saboteurs who deploy many tricks and antics to beat our checks but they failed.

“As we approach the Easter celebration, we have strengthened our intelligence-led anti-smuggling operations strategies to forestall any attempt by smugglers and duty evaders to circumvent the law,” he stated.