A Customs Officer, Assistant Superintendent, Yakubu Shuaibu, has been shot dead in an ambush by suspected smugglers in Ogun State.
According to the spokesman of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A, Jerry Attah, another officer sustained gunshot wounds when the attackers laid ambush and opened fire on their way back to the base, after making seizure of smuggled rice.
“They were on a patrol; they had made seizure of smuggled rice while taking the rice to their base, they were ambushed.”
Four persons were feared killed, while six others sustained gunshot wounds following an alleged clash between men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and smugglers at a border town in Ogun State.
The incident was said to have occurred at Ilara, in Imeko-Afon Local Government Area of the state at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday.
The clash occurred when suspected smugglers in a bid to move prohibited bags of rice in a convoy of vehicles to Abeokuta, the State capital, were accosted by a joint anti-smuggling patrol team made up of the operatives of the NCS and soldiers on the “OP MESA”.
In a bid to confiscate the contraband goods the smugglers put up a stiff resistance during which guns were freely deployed to settle the score.
Confirming the infraction, the Ogun State Area Command Public Relations Officer of the Customs Service, Abdullahi Maiwada said he could not ascertain if there was casualty as investigation is still ongoing.
The Nigeria Customs Service Board is seeking the forfeiture of various illegally imported goods valued at N50,151,606.
The goods, said to have been intercepted between April and June, 2017, include loads of fairly used clothes, shoes, bags, bed sheets, breakable plates; 7,163 bags of foreign parboiled rice, and 147 jerry cans of vegetable oil.
The Assistant Legal Adviser of the Nigeria Customs Service Board, Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Ikeja, Mr. Shehu Bodinga, made this disclosure when he appeared before the Federal High Court on Monday with an ex parte application seeking a forfeiture order on the goods.
He also told the court that the Customs Service is seeking a forfeiture order on seven vehicles, intercepted within the same period.
Mr Bodinga said that since the goods were intercepted and seized, their owners had absconded and refused to show up to claim them, having realised the severity of the punishment for their offence.
He said the Customs Service had received a directive from the presidency that a part of the seized items should be distributed to victims of Boko Haram insurgency living in the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp in the North-East.
In a 15-paragraph which he personally deposed to, Bodinga said the goods were imported into the country in breach of Section 46(c) of the Customs and Management Act.
According to him, in some cases, the importers and their privies attempted to evade duty on the imported goods or the items they brought into the country were prohibited by law.
“Apart from acts of fraudulent evasion of duty, some of the defaulters brought in outright unlawful and prohibited items, which are so classified by the Customs laws and regulations.
“I verily believe that because of the severity of the punishment and sanction attached to the offences, the defaulters, along with their collaborators, have refused and or failed to come forward to claim the goods from the Nigeria Customs Service, thereby, abandoning same and same seized.”
The lawyer said there was an urgent need to order the forfeiture of the goods because some of them are perishable.
“In order to prevent complete deterioration of the said goods and total loss of revenue to the Nigeria Customs Service, the board now intends to sell the goods either by way of auction, allocation or by any other procedure.
“I verily believe that searches have been conducted in the court registry and there is no evidence of any court actions pending against the application in respect of the items, hereby sought to be condemned as forfeited to the applicant,” Bodinga added.
After hearing the lawyer, Justice Abdulaziz Anka adjourned till August 17 to rule on whether to grant the forfeiture order.
Twelve government agencies on Monday failed to appear before the House of Representatives Ad Hoc Committee probing the alleged undeclared crude oil and liquefied natural gas exports to global destinations.
Those that failed to appear before the lawmakers who summoned 15 agencies include: The Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, Nigeria Customs Service and Nigerian Ports Authority.
The Chairman of the House Committee, Honourable Adbulrazak Namdas, who seemed unhappy with the development, tasked government agencies to play their part in the fight against corruption.
“Reports have it that over 57 million barrels of Nigerian crude oil were illegally exported and sold in the USA between January 2011 and December 2014.
“The estimated revenue loss by the Government of Nigeria is around $12 million at an exchange rate of 196 Naira to a dollar; this translates to over two trillion Naira,” Honourable Namdas said.
The Minority Whip of the House, Honourable Yakubu Barde, who declared the event open, said the allegations and others have left a shadow on Nigeria’s development.
“The specter of oil theft and associated crimes in the industry in Nigeria is unending and has remained an albatross on the national development needs till date.
“The problem of oil subsidy and the ‘ripping off’ of Nigeria and Nigerians may be assuming the crimes of yesteryears.
The Committee was forced to adjourn its sitting till Tuesday, April 11.
The Nigerian Senate is set to investigate the allegation against the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, over the seizure of a bulletproof Sports Utility Vehicle by the Nigeria Customs Service.
The Customs was said to have seized the vehicle belonging to the Senate President for unpaid duties valued at 74 million Naira.
The Upper Chamber said it would also investigate the allegation that one of its members representing Kogi State, Senator Dino Melaye, did not obtain a degree from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria as claimed in the document submitted to the Senate.
The lawmakers reached the decision to begin the investigations on Tuesday after the former Senate Leader, Ali Ndume, raised a point of order at plenary asking the Senate to look into the issues.
The matters have been referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions for investigation.
More reactions continue to trail the summoning of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hammed Ali (rtd), who was asked to reappear before the Senate in appropriate uniform on Wednesday, March 22.
This time, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, in a statement condemned the summoning of Mr Ali by the Senate.
He said although the Senate should not be treated with disdain, but the Upper Chamber should have appreciated the limit of its powers under the constitution.
According to the senior lawyer, instead of playing into the hands of the Customs boss by invoking the provision of Section 88 of the Constitution, the Senate could have summoned the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, to justify the policy of the Nigeria Customs Service, a parastatal under her supervision.
“No power exists under the section for general investigation, not for personal aggrandizement of the House. So the appellants were not entitled to have invited the respondent in the first instance,” Mr Falana said.
He noted that the Senate was not conducting an investigation but challenging the policy of the Service on payment of duties.
“With respect, the summons served on the CGC (Mr Ali) is illegal and unconstitutional as it cannot be justified under Section 88(2) of the Constitution”, he stated.
The lawyer stressed that the Senate engaged in another illegality when it exceeded its powers by asking the CGC to appear before it in customs uniform.
He added that neither the constitution nor the rules of procedure of the Senate has conferred on the Upper Chamber, the power to compel Mr Ali to wear Customs uniform when he is not a serving customs office.
Mr Falana said the directive was a reckless usurpation of the powers of the board which was the only competent body to decide on the wearing of uniform by Customs officer.
He noted that the Nigeria Customs Service should be directed by the Minister of Finance to cancel the illegal policy on payment of appropriate excise duties.
The senior lawyer stated that if the Federal Government fails to do so, he will challenge the policy at the Federal High Court.
This followed the uproar that trailed the Customs’ directive that duties be paid on imported vehicles.
While Nigerians expressed concerns on the issue, their representatives in the Senate were livid over the insistence of the Nigerian Customs Service to go ahead with the policy.
The Nigeria Customs Service has handed over the 661 pump action rifles seized in Lagos State to the Department of State Services (DSS) for proper investigations.
Spokesman for the Customs Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A, Jerry Attah, explains in a statement that two of the three suspects arrested in connection with the consignment have also been handed over to the Lagos State Director of DSS, Betty Adoki.
The two suspects in DSS custody are identified as Oscan Okafor and Mahmud Hassan.
Speaking on behalf of the Service, the Deputy Comptroller-General in Charge of Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation, Dan Ugo, urges Nigerians to support the anti-smuggling drive of government with necessary information.
The Nigerian Senate has asked the Nigeria Customs Service to stop its proposed clampdown on motorists in the country which the agency said have failed to pay customs duties.
The directive followed a motion of national importance moved by Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah at the floor of the Senate in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
The Service recently issued a statement signed on behalf of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, granting an extension till April 12 for all vehicle owners in the country whose customs duty has not been paid to do so.
The Senate, at its plenary on Tuesday, said the policy was undesirable and would only worsen the hardship Nigerians were going through.
Senator Dino Melaye and Senator Philip Aduda also condemned what they describe as “anti-people policy” at a time Nigerians are groaning under a recession.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, added his voice to the debate and wasted no time in confirming the stand of the Senate.
Meanwhile, a lawmaker representing Delta Central at the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, informed his colleagues at the beginning of the plenary that he has left the Labour Party for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Senator Omo-Agege’s defection has increased the number of APC Senators to 66.
Mixed reactions have continued to trail the alleged dumping of toxic waste in Koko town in Warri North Local Government Area of Delta State, with claims by the company that the allegation is malicious and untrue.
Ebenco Global Limited, through its Director of Operations, Mr Francis Akintunde, noted that the substance is not toxic, but a sludge which is being recycled to wealth.
Mr Akintunde told Channels Television that the allegation was a wicked and malicious campaign by some people to hoodwink the government with the aim of extorting money from the company.
He said the company is open to any form of investigation provided it is carried out by an authorised body, adding that they have been into oil waste management for 10 years and legally licenced by authorised parastatals.
“Our business is management of oil waste, making sure that the waste associated with crude oil are treated by us in such a way that they are no longer toxic, that they are compatible with the environment, and that they are biodegradable.
“Those who say it is toxic cannot shave our heads behind us and they are not the regulatory agencies that will give a confirmatory test or result.
“So I am surprised at the allegation because the relevant regulators have inspected this facility; the Ministry of Environment, Local Government Chairman and Delta State Ministry of Environment have all come and taken samples to test.
“Until the result of these analyses are made public confirming that the substance is toxic, the allegation is baseless,” the Director insisted.
The Delta State Government, through its Ministry of Environment, said it has swung into action to clear the uncertainty surrounding the issues.
The Commissioner of Environment, Mr John Nani, said samples of the substance have been collected for further laboratory analysis which he said the result would be made public for the interest of all.
“This has caused apprehension on the minds of all stakeholders and thus, there was urgent need to effectively manage the situation for the benefit of Delta residents.
“I am pleased that the Nigeria Customs Service, personally led by the Comptroller of the Edo/Delta Zone, Ona Eboma, is here with us for the on-the-spot assessments of the waste dumpsite and the facility.
“Samples of the substance have been collected for further laboratory analysis and the outcome of the analysis will be made public for the interest of all,” he said.
The lawmaker representing Warri North Local Government constituency at the State House of Assembly, Honourable Michael Diden, also corroborating the company’s statement.
“Everything is politics and hatred. That land in question is in dispute between two family heads and landlords and the man in question paid to some group of persons.
“The other group which claimed to be the rightful owners are the ones behind the toxic allegation. If there’s toxic waste, will it not affect me too?” Diden asked.
For now, it is business as usual at the premises of the company as all have been advised to keep calm until there are results from laboratory tests undertaken by the relevant authorities.
The House of Representatives says it will review the National Automotive Policy, in order to set an effective implementation framework and incorporate a number of suggestions offered by local automakers and other stakeholders in Nigeria.
The lawmakers made the resolve as industry players in the automobile sector sought for a ban on importation of used vehicles through land boarders.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Peugeot Automobile Nigeria in Kaduna State, the House Committee Chairmen on Customs and Special Duties, Rufai Chanchangi and Hussein Dangiwa, maintained their position on the ban on importation of vehicles through land boarders.
They also directed the Nigeria Customs Service to intensify surveillance within the borders, with a view to ensuring that import duties were collected from vehicles entering into the country.
The lawmakers said their visit was to get an in-depth knowledge about the operations and challenges of auto companies across Nigeria, and to see how such problems can be addressed to revive vehicle assembly operations and develop local content.
The Managing Director, Peugeot Automobile Nigeria, Mr Ibrahim Boyi, noted that a ban on the importation of used cars will boost local production of vehicles.
Mr Boyi, who was represented by the General Manager of Strategy, Bawo Omagbese, expressed worry at the influx of used vehicles into Nigeria which he said has a consequence on local assemblers.
He appealed to the National Assembly to make laws that would enhance the growth of local industries, stressing that it would greatly contribute to the growth of Nigeria’s economy.
The auto policy, which was introduced by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan to encourage auto firms to set up assembly firms in Nigeria, had been criticised by some stakeholders,
For about a year, there has been no official pronouncement on whether it would be retained or cancelled.
The Nigeria Customs Service has declared that it has constitutional right to raid any shop or warehouse suspected to harbour smuggled goods in the country.
This defence is coming days after crisis erupted in Sango Otta, Ogun State, over the Customs raid on some shops suspected to be dealing in smuggled goods.
The Customs Area Comptroller for Oyo and Osun Area Command, Temitope Ogunkua, while speaking with journalists on the achievements of the command in the last quarter of 2016 and 2017, maintained that there is no action taken by Customs officers without the backing of the law.
Citing section 147 of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1990, Ogunkua said officers of the service are well empowered to embark on raiding at any time, anywhere and that the fact that they don’t do that regularly does not mean they lack the power to.
Ogunkua, also disclosed that the command has recorded a significant feat despite the economic challenges, noting that many seizures amounting to 14.9 billion Naira within the months of January to December in 2016.
He reiterated the determination of the command to contribute her quota to national development through income generation.
He disclosed that “the command has made a total of 18 seizures with duty paid value of 20.9 million Naira. Apart from these, another seizure of almost 9,000 bags of imported rice with duty paid value of 88.9 million Naira was arrested and evacuated in a ware house in conjunction with the Federal Operations Unit zone A.
“Am using this medium to reiterate the commitment of this command to contribute its quota as it plays a strategic role of revenue collection, trade facilitation and border security”.
Ogunkua also emphasised the fact that the ban on importation of rice and fairly used vehicles through the land borders, is still in force as his command is committed to enforcing this to the latter.
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), has come under fire from members of the Senate Committee on Customs for taking some actions without the approval of a Customs board.
The committee invited Colonel Ali to the National Assembly in Abuja to give reasons for certain actions he took in the last few months.
Some of the actions that were criticised by the lawmakers on Thursday include the promoting and dismissal of some officers in the service.
The senators noted that the Customs boss went above his powers in performing the actions without the approval of a Customs board.
They added that they were not satisfied with the explanations given by the Comptroller-General and frowned at his refusal to wear the uniform of the service.
In a separate session, the lawmakers met with former Comptroller-Generals of Customs to discuss ways of improving the revenue collection of the service, as well as the amendment of the Customs Act.
The committee noted that it would call a public hearing on the amendment of the Customs Act.
In the meantime, the lawmakers said they might reverse some of the decisions made by the Customs boss, as they were made without the approval of a Customs board.
However, a Customs board has not been constituted by the Minister of Finance since the last board was dissolved.