By DAPO OLAWUNI
Barely one month of assuming office at the Western Marine Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Abubakar Alhaji Umar has announced seizure of a large quantity of Cannabis Sativa, known as indian hemp, as well as bags of contraband rice, and other cargoes estimated at N190million.
While displaying the seizures to journalists in Lagos on Thursday, the new Sheriff in town, read the Riot Act to waterways smugglers, advising them to ply their trade elsewhere.
Umar, explained that the illicit hard drugs amounting to 32 sacks, 2,520 pieces, and weighing 1,437kilogram, were seized on the 30th of March, 2022, following credible intelligence within a creek adjoining the Badagry Lagoon.
Giving the breakdown, the WMC boss said, “On Wednesday, 30th of March, 2022, at about 0330hours, the operatives of the command while on credible intelligence accosted and intercepted a wooden boat at Oko-Ajah beach containing sacks suspected to be Cannabis Sativa.
“The goods were brought to the Western Marine Command of the NCS, and upon physical examination, found to contain 32 sacks, 2,520 pieces, of Cannabis Sativa weighing 1,437kg. The Street Value of the Marijuana is N168, 000,000.00 only. This is a case of absolute prohibition and contravenes Section 24(b) of CEMA Cap C45 LFN 2004 as amended.
“On Thursday 7 April 2022 at about 1930hrs; our operatives while on credible intelligence along Badagry waterways intercepted and seized One wooden boat laden with Foreign Parboiled rice suspected to be smuggled from the Benin Republic.
The smuggled foreign rice and its means of conveyance were brought to the Command for examination. On physical examination, it was found to be 503 Bags of foreign parboiled rice.”
He continues: “In a related development, on Wednesday 25 May 2022 at about 1900hrs, following credible intelligence, the operatives of the command intercepted and arrested two, 2, wooden boats laden with foreign parboiled rice at Oniru Beach. The boats and the smuggled rice were counted and found to be One Hundred and Thirty Six, 136, bags of rice.
“For the period under review, the operatives of the command have under my watch arrested and seized total of Eight Hundred and Twenty Eight, 828, bags of foreign rice suspected to be smuggled from Benin Republic, with Duty Paid Value of Twenty Nine Million, Six Hundred and Eighty Four Thousand Naira, N29,684,000.0only.”
The CAC disclosed that seizures have been recorded at different locations under the command, including Idiroko, Badagry, Bar Beach, and the sea sides of items that are in violation of Section 46(c), 167 and 169 of CEMA Cap C45 LFN 2004 as amended.
The additional seized items include foreign parboiled rice concealed in 35 Jerry cans of Vegetable Oil, 30 kegs of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, 10 sacks of second hand clothing, 4 boats and 2 engines, being the means of conveyance; amongst others.
Umar said the combined Duty Paid Value of all the seizures is One Hundred and Ninety Million, One Hundred and Forty Five Thousand, Five Hundred Naira, N190,145,500.00, only; this is even as he disclosed that the some of the inflammable seized items like fuel have been auctioned and the proceeds paid to the federation account.
He explained that despite the desire of the command and his officers and men to tie seizures to suspects, the marine environment has proved to be a real challenge as the smugglers who are swift swimmers, more often than not escape arrest by jumping into the water.
“Due to the nature of the seized items, PMS, the command on the approval of the the Headquarters auctioned the product and the amount generated as fees has been remitted to the Federation Account.”
“Unfortunately, no arrest was made in connection with these seizures as the smugglers dived into the waters while some took to their heels on sighting the patrol officers/men.” he said.
While appreciating the support of the Comptroller General and his management team, Comptroller Umar stated that some of his command’s strategy to sustain the war against smuggling is to continue to strengthen existing collaboration between the command and sister agencies along the South Western waterways and creeks.
“The command would continue to engage the traditional and community leaders to address smuggling activities in their axis as well as engage in intensive patrol and surveillance of the waterways to send smugglers out of business.”
He warned smugglers to keep away from the length and breadth of command, or be ready to be taken down at every attempts, noting that the service and command under his watch will not negotiate the CGC’s zero tolerance to acts of economic sabotage.
“To smugglers, I want them to know that smuggling in whatever form is an act of economic sabotage, the Command would ensure that it pursues smugglers to their trenches. Consequently, let me use this opportunity to warn the smugglers and would-be smugglers to abandon their unlawful trade as the Command will soon catch up with them and their illegal wares, with a view to arresting and prosecuting them.
“It is better for them to turn a new leaf and embrace legitimate trade, so that they can also contribute their quota to the GDP of the Nigerian Economy,”
In line with the existing inter agencies Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, between Customs and sister agencies, Umar handed over the seized 32 sacks of hemp to the Commander of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, Marine Unit, Mr. Isaac Uzah on behalf of the agency.
Responding after receiving the hemp, the NDLEA Marine Commander, Uzah, lauded the command and service for constantly being supportive of the fight against drugs.
“When this quantity of drugs is removed from circulation, the contribution to national security and other negative consequences is in no small measure.
“The seizure is very important at this particular time because of the hazards of drug trafficking and abuse in our society today. Almost every family is affected one way or the other. So, this is what everybody must put their hands together to fight just as the marine command is demonstrating,” he said.