By Frank Odinukaeze
At the first media briefing of the new Customs Area Command, Tin Can Island Port Command, Comptroller Olukunle Oloyede, last week; it was disclosed to newsmen that the Command Seized 8 Containers of Machetes said to have been imported from neighbouring Ghana.
This seizure by the Tin Can Island Port Customs raises a lot of critical questions seeking resolution.
The Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45 LFN 2004, Sections 46, 47 and 161, clearly spelt out prohibited and contraband items. The Act unequivocally listed items that are prohibited by law.
One is then forced to ask: Is machete a contraband? And if the answer is in the negative, why was it listed as contraband and seized? According to Comptroller Oloyede, one of the reasons for the seizure of the 8 containers is that the importer did not provide an End-User Certificate, which normally is issued by the National Security Adviser (NSA).
This issue leads to the next question: Is the importer aware that importation of Cutlasses require an End-User Certificate? And is it the first cutlass being imported into the country? It’s obvious that this may not be the first time the importer is importing cutlasses into the country.
At a time shippers and port users are clamoring for trade facilitation, one expected that since cutlass is not a prohibited or contraband cargo, the importer would have been profiled and find out who his buyers are, where he sells the cutlass, among others. Rather than outright seizure, efforts would have been made to let the importer know that he has to provide an End-User Certificate while the cargo is released and post –release audit conducted.
However, given the security situation in the country and considering the fact that 2023 is by the corner, one would but only sympathize with the Tin Can Island Port CAC, for genuine concern over the security situation of the country.
“The cutlasses give one a level of concern because of the insecurity in the nation”, Oloyede said.
As one determined to make a name in a hurry for himself and uphold his integrity, credibility and values that have ensured his metoric rise to his present position as the Tin Can Island Port CAC, one thing he holds sacrosanct is his honour and integrity. Hear him, “I told my subordinates that nobody should be involved in any form of illegality because we place national security over revenue”
Other seizures made by the Command include 145kg of Colorado (Indian Hemp), concealed in two units of Ridgeline trucks, and two units of Toyota Corolla vehicles, 640 bales of used clothes, 236,500 pieces of used shoes, 62,500 pieces of new ladies shoes, 1,670,400 pieces of Chloroquine injection (5mg/5ml), 1,814,400 pieces of Novalgin injection (500mg/5ml),48,850 rolls of Cigarettes and 23,800 tons of sodium bromate and baking powder.
According to the CAC,” The import of these products contravenes Sections 46, 47 and 161 of the Customs and Excise Management Act CEMA, Cap45 LFN 2004. The duty paid value of these seizures amounted to N1,048,810,579.
While the CAC and his team deserve commendation for their diligence and commitment; they should ensure that these seizures should not go the way of obscurity like other seizures.
It is pertinent to note that most of the seized items like used clothes, used shoes, among others, are all found in various markets. Overtime, the public only know when seizures are made, but barely know what happens to the seizures thereafter.
Can the Area Controller guarantee that these seized items, especially the clothes and machetes can’t be found in the open market some day? Why are there records of perishable items destroyed often, yet no records of vehicles and clothes destroyed?
In the area of revenue, Comptroller Oloyede disclosed that his command made a significant impact in its revenue drive in the first quarter of 2022, as it generated a whopping N135.44bn..
He said the amount generated shows an improvement on N22.7 billion, which represents a 20.18 percent increase, when compared to N112,695,158,66 billion realized in the same period in 2021.
He explained that the command’s operations for the first quarter significantly aligned with the statutory responsibilities of the service.
He said this was particularly so, in the areas of revenue generation, trade facilitation, enforcement and anti snuggling activities.
On export, Oloyede said the total tonnage of goods exported through the command for the period under review was 71,014,4 metric tonnes with a total Free on Board ( FOB), value of #56,203,901,229.
He noted that in the preceding year, January- March 2021, the total tonnage of goods exported through the command was 44,502,.9 metric tonnes with total FOB value of N31,371,825,950.
“Comparatively, from January to March 2021, and 2022, the tonnage of goods exported through the command increased from 44,502.9 metric tonnes to 71,014.4 metric tonnes,showing an increase by 62.67 per cent.
“The FOB value in Naira of the tonnage also increased from N31,371,825,954 to N56,203,901.295, representing an increase by ,55,82 percent within the period under review”, he said.
Oloyede disclosed that commodities exported through the command included,copper ingorts, Stainless steel ingorts, Sesame seeds ,Cashew nuts , Cocos beans,Rubber,Cocos butter leather, frozen shrimps, amongst others.
On the issue of the 19 missing containers, Oloyede said a high-powered 3- man committee headed by DC Admin,OC Bond and Legal adviser had been constituted to unravel the mystery behind the missing containers.The committee had one week to submit its report.