How container bearing 661 rifles evaded scanning at Lagos port – Customs Controller
By Udeme Clement
The on-gong investigation into the seizure of a container imported into the country with 661pump action rifles has taken a new dimension, as Sunday Vanguard while visiting Customs Commands for information about the condition of scanning machines at the ports and borders, gathered that the container bearing the arms was not booked for scanning by the importer.
Speaking exclusively with Sunday Vanguard, the Customs Area Controller (CAC) of Apapa Command, Comptroller Jibrin Musa, disclosed that the container was not dropped by the terminal operator, for scanning. “The container was not booked, neither was it dropped for scanning, showing that this particular container was not examined”, he said.
On how consignments coming into the country through the seaports are examined to check prohibited items like arms and ammunition, he said, “In Customs operations, risk management determines the type of examination to be carried out on goods. For example, high risk goods trigger 100 percent physical examination, while low risk goods are channelled through scanning.”
Responding to question on how goods are examined when the scanning machine is faulty he explained, “In any event of faulty scanner, it slows down the process of scanning goods that are coming in, but they are still being scanned and well examined, only that it will slow down the process. At present, we have two scanning machines at Apapa port, the fixed scanner and the mobile scanner. All goods coming into the country through Apapa Command are not only scanned but also physically examined by our officers who are well trained on the job”.
In the same vein, the Public Relations Officer of the Command, Mr. Emmanuel Ekpa, while responding to question on the assertion by CGC Ali Hameed, that the scanner at Apapa is faulty, said, “We have been told that all other scanners in the federation are not functioning. At Apapa Command for instance, we have two scanners, the fixed and mobile scanners. The mobile scanner is bad while the fixed scanner is the only one working now, but not optimally.”
On how long the scanner developed fault, he said, “The mobile scanner has been down for about six months now. But we are still examining consignments coming into the country, only that the process is slow. The fixed scanner at Apapa is still active now because the officers manning the machine are well trained. At times, they go to other Commands where the scanners are not working to get spare parts for the one we have here, since Apapa is the premier port.”
About the involvement of Customs officers declared wanted by CGC Ali, he said, “Since the case is under investigation, I do not want to pre-empt the outcome, but from the preliminary investigation carried out by the CAC of Apapa Command, it has been discovered that the container itself was not booked or dropped for examination by the importer”.
On why Customs is not fixing the machines to fast track their operations, he added, “Well, that is a policy issue, which I do not want to comment on. The machines were bought by COTECNA, but are now under Customs, because they were handed over to Customs. CGC Ali has promised that something will be done to put the scanners in good shape.”
On other challenges facing Apapa Command, he said, “Generally, we are doing our best, aside from this unfortunate situation. Equipment for 100 percent examination is needed. When officers are given a condusive operating environment, their work will be done efficiently.”
Visit to Customs Commands
When Sunday Vanguard visited Customs Commands in specific areas, it was discovered that some scanning machines were not in good shape.
The scanner at Seme, which is the largest border within the West African sub-region, was down as at Wednesday, February 1, 2017, during the visit. All efforts to reach the CAC of Seme, Comptroller Victor Dimka were unsuccessful. Calls made and messages went to him were not responded to.
Meanwhile, the officer in charge of the scanner who spoke at the scanning site explained that their machine was not functioning and will remain inactive until February 13, 2017, when the manufacturer comes to fix it. “He said, “The scanner is down presently. What we are experiencing now is down-turn. It is a problem of software, which is something that can only be corrected by the manufacturer.
This is because the software the scanner is using is not something that can be bought easily in the market, so we have to wait”. Also, the statements signed and made available to Sunday Vanguard by the Public Relations Officer of Seme, Taupyen S.K, shows that the Command is working effectively and has raked in N594.1million in January 2017.
The Command also made 43 seizures with the Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N92.3million, and the source of revenue generated is dominated by imported general goods and Baggage Assessment using the Passengers Baggage Entry System (PBES) platform. “The Command will continue to perform its statutory functions of revenue generation, legitimate trade facilitation, combating smuggling acitivities across the frontier and securing the nation’s territorial integrity. The anti-smuggling unit of the Command is already frustrating attempt by smugglers who dare to try the might of government in smuggling fairly used vehicles through the land border”, he stressed.
Idiroko (Ogun Command)
A visit to Idiroko border, under Ogun Command revealed the same challenge. Their scanner is not functioning at the moment. The Public Relations Officer of the Command, Usman, who spoke on behalf of the CAC, explained that their scanner has been faulty since February 28, 2014, but they were still carrying out their normal duties of curtailing smuggling and generating revenue for government, notwithstanding the condition of the scanner. “The current CAC of Ogun Command has stepped up our operational strategies, in order to tackle the menace of smugglers in the region”, he pointed out.
FOU Zone A
At the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) Zone A, Ikeja, where the arms laden container was intercepted, the Public Relations Officer, Jerry Attah disclosed that the Customs Officers previously declared wanted have reported themselves to the Customs management. He said, “Investigation on the case is still on-going and the officers have already surrendered themselves to Customs. They are being interrogated and investigation will continue, in order to unravel the syndicate behind the seized items.”
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