The container laden with 661 pump-action rifles intercepted by the federal operations unit (FOU) zone A Ikeja, Lagos of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) last week, was released by some officials of the Nigeria Customs Service without the mandatory inspections that ought to have been carried out, LEADERSHIP findings have revealed.
Checks by our correspondent showed that neither physical examination nor scanning was conducted on the container before it exited the Lagos port, even as it was further gathered that the case of the 661 rifles was not the first time containers were exiting Apapa port without proper examination conducted on them.
The Assistant Inspector General of Police, Maritime Command, Musa Katsina, had in May, 2016, intercepted a truck conveying a 40-foot container which he alleged was moved out of the ports at midnight.
Under examination, it was discovered that it contained used tyres that were not declared, as well as used vehicles that were under-declared, leading to leakages in revenue accruing to the federal government.
Confirming LEADERSHIP’s investigation, the public relations officer, Apapa Command of the service, Emmanuel Ekpa, said preliminary investigation by the command showed that the container was not examined before being released by officers of the command.
He said, “This said container was not dropped for examination. I can authoritatively tell you that no examination was conducted and it was not among the list of containers to be examined the day it was released. When a container is brought in, it will be brought for examination or scanning to determine what it contains, but nothing of such was done on this.”
When asked why it was released by the command when it was not scheduled for examination, he said, “Only investigation can reveal why the container was released without scanning or examination.”
Meanwhile, clearing agents operating at the Apapa port have accused Customs officers of abetting and aiding containers leaving the port without proper examination.
According to the coordinator, Save Nigeria Freight Forwarders Importers and Exporters Coalition (SNFFIEC), Ositachukwu Patrick: “It has always been happening like that; you know that in every 12, there must be a Judas. They have their ways of accomplishing this act. I was the first person to allege that containers were leaving the port without being examined.
“There are lapses in the Nigeria Customs Service. Sometimes you go there and they would tell you that the server is not working, and the government itself is shying away from its responsibilities. The container did not go through proper procedures. There are officers who aided and abetted it; the real officers were not aware of the exit of that container.”