Officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), attached to the Federal Operation Unit (FOU), Ikeja, have intercepted some contraband and 64 exotic vehicles at Omole in Ogba and Lekki, Lagos valued in the last one month.
The vehicles and other contraband were valued at N1.59 billion.
The service also noted yesterday that five smugglers were arrested in connection with 13,333 bags of rice and other contraband.
This came as the Controller in charge of the Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC) Compliance Team, Mr. Ahmed Azarema, said that because of the intensified fight against smuggling and importation of banned goods into the country, the service had seized 42000 bags of foreign rice in the last six months.
The FOU Controller, Comptroller Mohammed Uba, noted yesterday that one of the smugglers in Lagos had been released on bail.
He explained at the Government Warehouse, Ikeja that the 64 vehicles alone were valued at N1.3 billion.
Uba added that while 57 of the vehicles were evacuated along Omole Estate, Ojodu and Olayiwola Close, Lekki Phase One, the remaining seven were intercepted during a patrol on Ijebu-Ode Expressway and Olorunda.
The FOU boss said that two bulletproof Lexus Jeeps and, one bulletproof Toyota Land Cruiser, nine Toyota Hilux, eight Toyota Hiace buses, 26 Toyota Corolla, nine Land Cruiser Jeeps and five Toyota Camry, one Land Rover, one Nissan Sentra, one Pajero, all 2017 model, were seized.
He added that one Sienna 2015 model and one Lexus RX 350 were also seized.
Uba said that all the vehicles had no customs papers and end users’ certificates for the bulletproof vehicles. According to him, nobody has come forward to claim ownership of the vehicles.
The comptroller listed other seizures as 15 parcels of India hemp, 205 bales of second-hand clothing, 1,390 cartons of frozen poultry products, 1,101 pieces used tyres, 835 jerrycans of vegetable oil, 17 containers laden with wood, 385 cartons of Tiffany biscuits, 2,300 cartons of chocolate cream fudge and toffee sweet and 137 cartons of block engine cylinders.
Meanwhile, speaking when he led the Compliance Team to visit the Imo/Abia Command of the NCS, Federal Operations Unit, Zone C, Owerri, Imo State, Azarema disclosed that the service seized 25,000 bags of foreign rice in Lagos alone, while 11,000 bags and 7,000 bags were seized in the North, South-East and South-South respectively last month.
He added that the service made the huge interceptions because the awareness on smuggling of banned products was gaining grounds.
The Customs chief also disclosed that the service had seized 1,258 bags of 50kg rice, 1,028 bags of 20kg rice and 111 bales of second-hand clothing with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N74,854,000, N8,224,000 and N10,656,000 respectively, totalling N93,734,000 on Asaba-Onitsha, Port Harcourt-Aba and Aba-Umuahia expressways.
He nevertheless, said that the smugglers met their waterloo in the areas under the jurisdiction of NCS Zone C, owing to the diligence and dexterity of the operatives of the zone.
He wondered why the smugglers would be thwarting the economic efforts of the Federal Government now with the availability of resources to support local production of rice in greater quantity and generate more employment for citizens.
Azarema, however, regretted that Nigerians frown at goods locally produced adding that they were more interested in the ones imported.
He said: “Nigerians don’t like to eat the rice produced here but can spend fortunes to buy the ones imported from China, Brazil, Singapore and Switzerland among others.
“As you can see, this seized rice is imported from Dubai.”
Our people need to understand that for every bag of rice imported from outside the country, you are creating jobs for youths of those countries and impoverishing our economy and the Federal Government is not prepared to take that.”
Azarema also disclosed that most of the goods imported were preserved with chemicals, just as he added that the chemicals used in the preservation were dangerous to human health.
He advised Nigerians to avoid importing goods the Federal Government placed ban on because, according to him, the government in its wisdom has cogent reasons for such bans.
According to him, from every indication, made in Nigerian rice tastes better and is more nutritious.
Azarema added that when patronised, it would boost the economy and create jobs for the unemployed youths.
Fielding questions from journalists, Azarema said that the NCS was more interested in seizures of rice and other contraband now that the Yuletide was fast approaching.
The comptroller added that efforts were on by the operatives of the NCS to seize smuggled goods and arrest smugglers in the country.
He said: “We will continue to intercept and seize any contraband and arrest smugglers. This is because it is one of the surest ways of stopping smuggling in this country and so far, we have arrested two suspects in this command.”
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