FOU ZONE C: Customs Threaten ‘War’ Against Smugglers


…Received 14 patrol vehicles to combat smuggling

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Operational Unit Zone ‘C’, has received additional four (4) brand new operational vehicles to facilitate the suppression of smuggling and other Customs related Operations within the Zone.

The Area Controller of Zone C Command, Comptroller Ali Ibrahim disclosed this on Wednesday while displaying the additional four (4) brand new Toyota Land Cruiser in Owerri that has been equipped for anti-smuggling patrols.

Comptroller Ali praised the initiative as he said, they came timely adding that the Toyota Land Cruiser operational vehicles will help to fight smuggling activities. 

In his words: “The CGC has magnanimously given us 14 operational vehicles in total, which means he is determined to ensure that we succeed and this no doubt, will boost our morale in combating Smuggling”

While showcasing the new operational vehicles, Ali stated that it was in line with the CGC’s strategies to enhance operational effectiveness and promise to cut off the “supply chain” of smugglers as he promise to get to the roots of sponsors of smuggling.

Ali expressed concerns over smuggling of arms and ammunition, maintaining that the ammunition fell under Schedule 4 of the Common External Tariff, which importation is absolutely prohibited, he wondered what would have happened if these cartridges get to its destination unchecked, considering the nation’s fragile security situation.

Ali further attributed success in interception of smuggled arms and ammunition to intelligence and professionalism of NCS officials.

He added that the NCS will not relent in contributing its quota to ensuring peace in Nigeria as all prohibited consignments like arms and ammunition will be confiscated while the owners are tracked down and prosecuted.

“For the avoidance of doubt, compliant traders have nothing to fear as our offensive will only be targeted at unpatriotic and non-compliant trans-border traders.

According to Ali: “We appreciate the support of CGC’s and his Management Team, Col. Hameed Ali Ibrahim (Rtd) and wish to restate our determination to do all it takes, as the operational vehicles will help facilitate the suppression of smuggling and other Customs related Operations within the Zone.

He further expressed his innermost desire for the officers to support him in taking the Unit to greater heights. He appealed for unity among officers in the course of discharging their duties.

He encouraged his officers to utilise their physical and intellectual capacities by making positive inputs that would take the service to great heights.

HYBRID NEWS observed that it is innocent Nigerians who pay the price for the economic wastage allegedly carried out by Nigeria’s West African neighbour. Factories in Nigeria are losing capacity due to smuggling and breadwinners are being kicked out of their jobs.

This underscores why the Nigeria Customs Service has intensified the fight against smuggling to protect local industries, create employment and prevent the use of the nation’s markets as dumping ground for fake, substandard, unwholesome and prohibited items.

The size of Nigeria as a geographical and economic giant on the continent of Africa leaves the country with the challenge of having to confront the menace from diverse points. 

Not much is heard or said about strong smuggling chains in the South South and South East Geo-Political Zones comprising eleven states–Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Anambra and Rivers States. Other states are Delta, Bayelsa, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Edo States.

Saddled with the task of fighting smuggling in these states is the Zone C’ Federal Operations Unit of Nigeria Customs Service with Headquarters in Owerri, the Imo State capital.

A rare combination of tact, intelligence and swift enforcements by officers and men of the Command led by Comptroller Ali Ibrahim is yielding results as heavy blows are being dealt unrepentant smugglers with massive seizures and arrests of suspects.

With the renewed vigor the Comptroller-General of Customs Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) is brought into the Service. For Ali, no smuggler would be spared, fighting smuggling to save the economy and lives of citizens has almost become a mantra for Ali who took over the leadership of the Federal Operations Unit Zone C, barely two months today.

Comptroller Ali Ibrahim said that all patrol teams are situated 40 kilometres in the areas of jurisdictions, in line with extant rules while its information patrols keeps a round the clock vigil in all its areas of coverage.

According to him, “This act is not only illegal but unpatriotic against Nigeria and President Muhammadu Buhari has not hidden its determination to stamp out all forms of corruption and fight against all the illegalities that have been drawing the country backward.

“The commands’ intelligence has revealed that the present desperation of smugglers is borne out of their desire to make ‘quick money’ for the Yuletide season due in December. Ali promised to continue encouraging legitimate trade while frustrating unlawful imports and smuggling.

“We will continue encouraging legitimate trade while frustrating unlawful imports and smuggling. 

“We know that criminal cartels must fight back but we know they are fighting a lost battle as we shall continue to interdict, seize prohibited and smuggled goods as well as arrest suspects involved in the acts within the law.

“We find it imperative to educate members of the public that we implement government extant laws as enshrined in the Customs Excise Management Act (CEMA) and other enabling legislation.

“We are not and will never be open for any form of dialogue to compromise our statutory duties”

“The command seems undeterred and ready to strengthen its fight against illegal exports and imports as all its unit’s patrols are backed by strong intelligence with quick information sharing”

“This makes it almost impossible for suspects to escape as interdiction is done on a close-up strategy from different directions to the target’s stationed smuggled wares or suspected moving vehicles. 

“The patrols check internal smuggling of escaped consignments that beat other customs checkpoints moving in from other parts of the country and checking the various maritime borders.” he said.

Explaining to HYBRID NEWS the challenges faced by the Customs in intercepting arms and ammunition seizures, Comptroller Ali Ibrahim labelled low compliance level on the part of importers as a major challenge confronting the Service.

In his words, “A major challenge in enforcing the law is down to lack of compliance on the part of importers. Zone C is renewing its onslaught against smuggling of contraband and fake goods, vehicles with fake documents, and others into the country. Smuggling is a national problem and those who engage in it are considered economic saboteurs.

“Nobody brings in dangerous consignments and declares that the container contains arms and ammunition. It is through rigorous examination by Customs operatives that these dangerous consignments are exposed.

“The compliance level is very low. People like to bring in prohibited consignments and then make false declarations.

“Also, lack of equipment that can help discover these dangerous consignments also put pressure on Customs in their quest to nip shipment of dangerous cargoes into the country.

“In the absence of equipment to discover this arms and ammunition imports, we are increasingly relying on intelligence to nip this dangerous imports in the bud.

“At our land borders, the porosity of this borders is a challenge. Especially in the dry season, everywhere is a road for this smugglers.

“Lack of cooperation by some border communities is another challenge. Some of this communities are induced by rich smugglers. The smugglers give the community leaders money and in turn get cooperation from the community.

“If Customs patrol is heading to point A along the border, members of such communities inform the smugglers, thereby frustrating government effort in tackling the menace of smuggling.” he said.