Onne Customs ready for battle with smugglers and drugs dealers


By Godwin Egna

Port Harcourt

The Nigeria Customs Service Onne Area II Command, Rivers State, has demonstrated its readiness and commitment to fighting killer drugs now ravaging the oil region. Most of these drugs are said to be rampant in the Onne industrial axis where money comes easily to the youths and import window is available through the dedicated port. The Customs said it has drawn a battle line saying it’s armed to the teeth to square up with smugglers of contraband goods who dare to rout their illicit cargos through the Onne Port.

In the history of illicit (killer)  drugs business and consumption across the globe, Nigeria was on the chart as a transit country for drugs like Indian hemp or cannabis, cocaine and other opium products. The rate of consuming them was significant compared to other regions of the world. Even despite stringent laws in some countries in Asia, Middle East, North and South America and Europe consumption of this drugs and the general business part of it were on alarming dimension.

However, patronage of many of these killer drugs has exploded in recent times in Nigeria as a dumping ground. The most popular ones that are making waves and ravaging the consumers especially the youths are Tramadol, Codeine Syrup, Tarmacking besides Indian hemp, cocaine and others.

Nigeria Government has just woken up to effect a total ban of Tramadol and Codeine after Cocaine in the country following the harmful effect or damage they are causing to the youths of all classes (students in post primary and tertiary institutions, the out of work young men and ladies even those in the entertainment Industry.)

Even then, Government ban on the products (Tramadol, Codeine and Cocaine) can hardly guarantee a panacea to eradicating their circulation and consumption as long as activities of smugglers across the nation‘s sea and Airports are concerned. The land borders are porous. This is where and why the existence of the Nigeria customs service is critical in the area of regulating and checking mating import of harmful products into the country.

The smugglers seem to be dare-devilish. Call them intransigent or recalcitrant it has been observed that some smugglers in this class had tried in recent past to beat the Onne command to their fraudulent practices either in attempt to fly containers from the port, under declaration of imports or concealment with intent to cheat or evade payment of correct duties to the Federal Government. But they are always losing their goods to the command through out-right seizure.

The Onne Customs Area Comptroller [CAC], Abubakar Bashir, said recently that it would not be in his time that recalcitrant smugglers would turn Onne Port as their smuggling route to the detriment of lives, security and economy of Nigeria.

He and his able and diligent officers made a public show of a large quantity of killer-drugs the command seized recently comprising Tramadol, Tarmacking and other fake pharmaceuticals of different composition.

Bashir declare that the anti-smuggling activity of 2018 resulted in seizing 9x40ft containers loaded with 8,245 cartons of different killer drugs consisting of 250mg of Tramadol and other analgesic drugs falsely declared as pressure reducing PVC valves. Duty values of these goods were put at ₦395m .

The CAC noted, “We are particularly delighted by this seizure because we recognize the harmful effect they have especially on our youth and the current national challenge of substance abuse. The cargos were imported from china and India”, he declared.

With regards to the public out-cry over the unmitigated dangerous, deadly effect of these drugs on the society especially youth as leaders of tomorrow, one could imagine the far reaching damages or enormity of destruction the 8,245 cartons of the various fake, killer drugs could have caused to hundreds of thousands of consumers if all the packets and pieces were successfully sold and shared out to gullible consumers.

An Onitsha based importer who chose to remain anonymous reacted that, “tramadol, codeine and others are ravaging the lives of our modern youth irrespective of religious or socio-economic background. Effects of these drugs are commonly noticed with both adults and youths who engage in one violence, crimes or social vices especially cultism among youth in schools or the unemployed”.

He further noted that despite the ban pronounced on the hard drugs, “our borders are porous and there are highly connected Nigerians who can smuggle in any of those killer-drugs, arms and ammunition into the country unchecked, so who can completely stamp out smuggling not even In the Asian, Middle East or Europe clime”.

The importers’ observation was not disputed by a cross-section of maritime stake holders who shared similar view. However, the Onne Customs boss, Comptroller Bashir enlightened the public in his recent media briefing on the activities of his command that, “the activities of the Nigerian customs Service cuts across all facets of life in the sense that, when we: seize items like elephant tusk; we are actually engaged in protecting wildlife and natural habitats.

“When we seize rice and other banned food items, we are actually engaged in enhancing the capacity of local entrepreneurs to employ Nigerians, improve local food production and to achieve self-sufficiency in agricultural growth. When we seize arms and ammunition, we are actually engaged in enhancing national security and promoting peace and harmony in the society”.

On the statutory duty of revenue generation, the command released a figure of ₦23.3Bn generated so far within the first quarter of 2018 compared to ₦22Bn generated in the first quarter of 2017, indicating that it is on track of diligence to make a good delivery of ₦117.8Bn as its 2018 target to the Federal Government.

Earlier in the year, the CAC in his media briefing disclosed that the command recorded ₦105 billion from January 2017 – February 2018, explaining that in 2017 the command was given ₦112.5 billion of which it was able to generate ₦93.6 billion and made 26 seizures with a duty paid value of ₦470m.

Bashir said with optimism that, “in line with the mission and vision of the service, the Onne command has once again resolved to improve on the achievement of 2017 by displacing greater diligence in all its activities for 2018”.