From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
No fewer than 15 exotic cars and 9,049 bags of 50kg foreign parboiled rice, among other smuggled items, with an approximate Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1.35 billion have been intercepted by the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in the past three weeks.
Unveiling the 112 seizures to newsmen at the FOU Headquarters at Ikeja Wednesday, Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba said the unit also arrested 12 suspects in connection, and “recovered N59.51 million from underpayments,” bringing all to N1.41 billion.
According to Comptroller Garba, the feat was made possible through the unit’s interventions and re-invigorated anti-smuggling operations, mindful that smugglers would up their game while traders would cut corners to make more profit, especially ahead of festivities.
He listed the detained cars to include three Toyota C-HR (2018 model), one each of Toyota Camry LE (2018), Toyota Prado (2018), Toyota Hilux (2017), Ford F150 (2017), Pajero Jeep (2017) and Mercedes Benz (2017), among others.
There were also 15 trailers (9,049 bags) of rice, 1,464 cartons of frozen poultry products, 870 Jerrycans of vegetable oil, 273 bales of used clothing and 592 pieces of used tyres.
Meanwhile, Garba disclosed that two containers numbered PCIU850134/9, PCIU8278544, which conveyed a combined 8,633 pieces of empty gas cylinders (valued at N41.6 million, with DPV of N49.9 million) as against the plumbing materials declared “have been seized for false declaration.”
Similarly, FCIU983753 and TGHU6924330, which had a combined 120 bales of new jeans (valued at N54 million, with DPV of N64.8 million) but falsely declared as punching machine, were seized.
He explained that the seizures followed a full implementation of government’s policy banning importation through the land borders. Therefore, “we re-strategised our operational modalities and beamed searchlight at the creeks, waterside, and various locations in the southwest zone, hence the massive rice seizure within the period under review.
“We will continue to make sure that smugglers within our areas of jurisdiction count their losses until they repent from sabotaging our economy. Smuggling is a global phenomenon that cannot be eradicated entirely, but if all hands are on deck it will be reduced to the barest minimum.”
Garba further expressed concern at the two Dangote Cement trailers intercepted with 600 and 500 bags of rice respectively, as trucks belonging to corporate organisations were increasingly being used for smuggling, even when the companies concerned would not engage in such illicit trade.
Nevertheless, he assured that the vehicles would be detained while the companies pay excise duty on the goods brought in before repossessing their trucks.
Likewise, all vehicles and items under detention for underpayment are expected to come forward with the relevant documents to prove otherwise or pay up the balance within the specified period and claim the respective seizure.