…Four officers killed by smugglers
Despite the ban imposed on foreign rice by the government to encourage local production and self-sufficiency, the commodity still topped the list of smuggled and seized items by the anti-smuggling unit of the Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone ‘A’ with a total of 93,102 bags of 50kg rice equivalent to about 156 trailer loads seized in year 2022.
Acting Controller of the unit, Hussein Ejibunu, who disclosed this at a press briefing in Lagos on Thursday said the Unit also seized vehicles, drugs, textiles, petroleum products and other items in the import and export prohibition lists worth N13.9 billion from January 1 to December 31 2022.
He said the unit also recovered N878.3 million revenue through its interventions within the review period.
Ejibuu said, aside from protecting the national economy, some of the seizures achieved protection of citizens’ health as dangerous, expired and harmful products were prevented from being smuggled into the country.
He said four officers of the unit, however, lost their lives while confronting smugglers last year.
He said, “In terms of volume, rice topped the list of our seizures. We seized 93,102 X 50kg which amounts to about 156 trailer loads of rice. Even our newly constructed warehouse had an overflow of seized rice.
“A total number of 108 automobiles comprising trucks, tankers, cars and motorcycles were seized either as smuggled items or means of conveyance of smuggled items.
“Illicit drugs seized within the year under review are; 2,354 kg and 4,976 tablets of Cannabis sativa, 233 cartons X 225 milligrams, and 82 packs X 225 milligrams of Tramadol. It is pertinent to remind us that these hard drugs fuel crime and insecurity.
“For petroleum products, this Unit seized 656,414 liters of premium motor spirit (PMS); that is, about 20 tanker loads of fuel from economic saboteurs who seek to impoverish the majority of our country people by taking out petrol subsidized for citizens’ benefit to be sold in other countries.
“We arrested 176 smuggling suspects last year, secured 7 convictions, 14 were charged to court and are at various stages of investigation and prosecution, 7 suspects are in detention; 2 suspects were handed over to NDLEA, and 1 suspect was handed over to the Nigerian Police respectively, while 151 are on administrative bail.
“On a sad note, four of our officers namely; Late Inspectors of Customs TP Astor, and A Onwueguzie, and Assistant Inspectors of Customs, Musa, R and Bristol, E lost their lives in active service while confronting smugglers last year. While we frowned at such murderous acts, we also ensured that those behind some of the killings were arrested to face justice.”
Expressing appreciation to the Customs management for their unflinching support throughout last year and the previous years, Ejibunu assured that the unit will sustain and increase the tempo of its anti-smuggling operations, ensuring zero compromise, arresting perpetrators and seizing their wares.
He advised smugglers and their collaborators to seek legitimate means of livelihood this year as the unit will continually make life unbearable for them through interdictions, arrests, seizures and diligent prosecution.