Owerri: Customs intercepts N5.35bn contraband, N152m from importers in 2023

The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone C, Owerri, recovered N5. 5billion from smugglers and fraudulent importers from January -December, 2023.

Blueprint gathered that the unit intercepted contraband from smugglers worth over N5.35 billion and 152 million from importers who made under declaration at seaports in the year under review.

The FOU Zone C covered all the states in the South East and South South region including Bayelsa, Port Harcourt 1 and 2, Edo, Delta, Cross River, Enugu, Ebonyi, Anambra, Imo and Akwa Ibom

Recall that since the appointment of Comptroller Kayode Kolade, as the Customs Area Controller of the units, smugglers have been losing huge millions of naira to the federal government on a daily basis.

The contraband seized are five sacks of pangolin scales; 398 sacks of Indian hemp, weighing 8,756kg and another 2,308 compressed parcels of Indian hemp of 1kg each. The five sacks of pangolin scales weighing 413.1kg and the 11,064kg of Indian hemp are the highest, if not arguably the first seizure of such endangered species and hard drugs in the history of the zone.

Also intercepted were 31 cartons of various medicaments including tramadol; 32 jerry cans of petrol and 540 pieces of used tyres and between July 25 and September 23, 2023, the FOU Zone C intercepted cannabis sativa; raw materials for production of explosive devices, as well as other contraband with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1.6 billion.The Zone also arrested nine suspects in connection with the seizures.

Other items seized are fake pharmaceutical products, tramadol, used vehicles, used tyres, used clothing and explosive raw materials among others.

In total, the unit further seized goods worth over N5 Billion in the total Duty Paid Value (DPV) category in the 2023 fiscal year.

Also, in the year under review, the officers of the unit under the leadership of Compt. Kolade, the unit raised Demand Notice (DN) worth over N152 million to fraudulent importers, thereby, saving the federal government revenue that would have hitherto been lost to fraudulent importers.

However, a clearing agent operating at the Onne seaport, Chukwu Okenwa, applauded the Compt. Kolade, for blocking revenue leakages from the eastern port.

They also applauded him for facilitating trade and ensuring that genuine importers are not frustrated after clearing their cargoes from the seaports.

“Compt. Kolade has been supportive to clearing agents operating in the eastern zone. We don’t have FOU indiscriminately arresting already cleared cargoes from the Eastern seaport.”

“The FOU C roadblocks have been reduced, he has streamline the roadblocks even as he told us he’s more concerned about facilitating trade being the agenda of the current Comptroller General, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi,” he said.

Also speaking, Bright Amaechi, said Compt. Kolade, has dealt decisively with smugglers on the eastern axis.

“Within the first three months of his resumption as the Comptroller, Zone C, in 2023, he dealt the first blow on smugglers with the interception of contraband goods valued at N2.8 billion between January 25 and March 25. During that time, I know the unit arrested 13 suspected smugglers during the period,” he said.

“He has worked in various Customs formations and in different capacities. He was DC in charge of SIFAX bonded terminal in Apapa Port, he was D/C B1 Tincan Island Port, position he occupied before he got appointed as the Acting Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit Zone C Owerri based on his track records in revenue and anti-smuggling exploits. He’s one of the finest officers of the service,” Amaechi said.