By Steve Agbota
The Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) said it arrested 23 suspected smugglers at various points in connection with smuggling activities, even as it intercepted 68,225 litres of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) equivalent to more than two tankers and other contraband items worth a total duty paid value of N767. 633 million in March.
Other seizures include 6,747 bags of foreign parboiled rice at 50kg each equivalent to 11 trailers load; 2,150 cartons of frozen poultry products; 526 bales of second-hand clothing; 447 parcels (2,056kg) of Cannabis sativa (Indian hemp) and 927 pieces of used pneumatic tyres among others.
Acting Controller of the unit, DC Hussein Kehinde Ejibunu, who disclosed this during a press briefing where he displayed the seizures and suspects to newsmen, said the command also collected N89. 347 million as revenue within the period.
While frowning at smugglers’ recalcitrant behaviour to always engaging in illegalities, the Controller said operatives of the unit would always be unrelenting in its 24-hour patrols to intercept any means of conveyance of smuggled items, seized them and arrest suspects involved in the act.
He added that the fight against smuggling would always be reinvigorated to sustain the tempo of economic protection and prevention of dangerous goods from entering the country through any entry point in the South West.
However, he condemned the gruesome killing of Inspector of Customs A Onwegbuzie by suspected smugglers in Ogun State while discharging his official duties, adding that the long arms of the law would catch up with such murderers who dumped the murdered officer’s body in a pit.
The unit has also declared an onslaught against illegal bunkering activities, which is evident in the seizure of petroleum products by a designated team against it.
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Smugglers, according to him would always face stiff confrontation as the unit would never be deterred by the attacks and the recent killing of one officer in the line of duty.
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‘The fight against smuggling is becoming more and more intense and fierce due to increased level of crime. Smugglers are more determined than ever before to confront officers on patrol even unprovoked.
‘This new wave of the daring attitude of smugglers has claimed the lives of many officers; the latest being the hacking to death with a machete of Inspector of Customs Onwegbuzie A along Senator Road, Ilaro axis of Ogun State after making a seizure on Wednesday 2nd March 2022.
‘The officer was not only gruesomely murdered but his body was dumped in a deep pit. Interestingly, newspapers were not awash with the report of the incident. Were it the other way round, there would have been noise everywhere,’ he said.
Nevertheless, he said with the timely arrival of other patrol teams, three arrests were made in connection with the murder, 78 bags of smuggled parboiled rice at 50kg each and six motorcycles were equally seized.
‘On Wednesday, March 9, 2022, a patrol team uncovered several rice barns in a thick bush behind Dangote Cement Factory in Ogun State. The discovery which was made at night triggered gunshots from smugglers directed at officers. Officers never bulged and in the morning, evacuated 845 bags of foreign parboiled rice to the Station.
‘Another attack took place on Wednesday, March 16, 2022, along Oyan-Oni-Chain, Idere at Ibarapa area of Oyo State after making a seizure of 105 bags of foreign parboiled rice at 50kg each. During that attack which was repelled, a fleeing smuggler dropped his locally made pump action rifle with four cartridges which the team brought to the Station.
‘In the same vein, a team that intercepted two Toyota Camry vehicles laden with 86 bags of smuggled parboiled rice at 50kg each along Owode/Idiroko road of Ogun State was again attacked by smugglers,’ he added.