By Steve Agbota, Lagos
The Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A, of the Nigeria Customs Service, on Tuesday, has announced the arrest of five suspected smugglers while conducting series of covert operations on criminal hideouts in Lagos and Ogun States, respectively, in the last ten days.
The raids may not be unconnected to the killing of a Customs officer by suspected smugglers at Owode-Idiroko end of Ogun State.
It said over N116 million worth of contraband allegedly being smuggled into Nigeria through unapproved routes in Ogun State were also seized during the ten days operation.
Items seized include bags of rice, vegetable oil, uses tyres second-hand clothing, frozen poultry products among others.
Customs Area Controller in charge of FOU Zone A Hussein Kehinde Ejibunu, while conducting media men round Customs warehouse in Ikeja, vowed to evoke the rules of engagement governing the use of firearms over the continuous harassment and killings of Customs officers by suspected smugglers.
Ejibunu pointed out that customs officers could no longer fold their hands and watch while their colleagues are being slaughtered like goats by criminals who ambush them while on duty.
‘Barely 24 hours when I assumed duty as the controller of FOU Zone A, I was greeted by the news of the killing of an officer at Owode-Idiroko by suspected smugglers. I have met with traditional rules in the area over the killing. As if that was not enough, two of my men were also macheted by smugglers. The good thing is that they are responding to treatment in the hospital.
‘For the purpose of clarification, NCS, is not responsible for banning certain items from coming into the country neither is it responsible to make laws. Our job is simply to implement the government’s fiscal policies and laws. We draw our power from customs and Excise Management Act CAO C45 LFN 2004 as amended,’ he said.
Speaking on the involvement of military and para-military men in smuggling, he said he would soon meet with the General Officer Commanding (GOC), 81 Division of the Nigerian Army, and the Commissioners of Police, Lagos and Ogun States to address the issue.
Ejibunu who also expressed concern over the involvement of Dangote trucks in smuggling revealed that he has written to the management of the company and that he would soon meet with the management to also addressed the issue
‘How could it be said that someone could conceal bags of rice with cement knowing full well that cement is poisonous,’ he added.