Interviews

INTERVIEW: We Are Now Diligently Sending Smugglers to Jail – Ejibunu


Comptroller Hussein Ejibunu, Controller Federal Operations Unit, Zone A Lagos told journalists recently that the tempo of anti smuggling activities in the South West is now backed up by arrests and prosecution of suspects.

According to figures he released recently, 2023 featured a more suppressed smuggling activities when compared with 2022 which had higher figures.

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Joshua Okoria was there

Excerpt

Sir just articulate the point you raised earlier with regards to your enforcement achievements for the year 2023


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Comptroller Ejibunu standing in front of the rice pyramids

For the year 2023 whatever must have been seen or recorded here was as a result of the support from the Comptroller General of Customs and his management team. Right from time all logistics needed to tackle anti-smuggling activities were given without any problem.

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Aside the logistics, officers where often moved around so that to ensure that they do not over stay and that is part of the very essence of why we were able to go this far.

Aside that, we were given welfare, as a matter of fact, before now even if you traveled officially you will be granted whatever that is recommended and required by law to be given to you. So since all these incentives were put into play and the housing scheme that the CGC said the other time, I think he has lunched one now in Ibadan.

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Seized vehicle

What is causing corruption tendencies in the Service he has started tackling them one after the other and I am very sure this 2024 we’ll go far.

Let’s look at the rice pyramid behind us, how did you come about it?

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Yes, the rice pyramid I keep saying it and you know right now what they smuggled mostly in Nigeria now is this rice and that is the more reason why it is becoming a recurring decimal every point in time and every month that we come on air to brief Nigerians about our activities.

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Now what you have seen behind me was just an activity for one month only in December 2023, but all others cumulatively we have a total of over 83,000 bags in one year worth about 139 trailer loads.

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Seized tyres

Now one cannot clap with one hand like I just said we have the enabling support from the management and the officers here are resolute to continue the activities of the Service as being expressed by the management

When you looked at the quantity of rice seized last year as compared to the quantity seized the previous year is like there is a spike, a substantial difference in the quantity. What accounts for this, would you say that Nigerians are taking more to smuggling despite the ban?

You see year 2022 we made about 92,000 if I am not mistaken and 2023 we made about 83,000 now there is short fall from 2022 to 2023. Obviously we have short falls in most of the seizures made in 2022 and those ones made in 2023.

IMG 20240110 125236 035In 2022 I remembered we had a very huge volume of tramadol with duty paid value of over N3 billion. But you can see the tramadol we were able to gather in 2023 is not up to what was gotten in 2022. So on the average holistically you can say that with our resolution to ensure that smuggling is reduced to the barest minimum.

There is visually no country that can stamp out smuggling. All we do is to reduce it to barest minimum and with the quantum of what we have now, it is evidently clear that there is significant short fall.

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IMG 20240110 130825 726 1If I may ask this talking about short falls and reduction in some of the seizures that where recorded as much as you say your officers were resolute would you also agree that smugglers are also resolute in beating your tactics and strategists and of course coming in with some of this things without you knowing and all of that?

I think there are two ways, one, in smuggling we have approved and unapproved route we man most of the unapproved route at the borderline and obviously if you go to Idiroko now a single route can link you up to 10 other routes.

So even if you follow one route and they discover you are here, they make use of informants too, they monitor us as we do to them. But by and large I want to put it on record that since my arrival here we have started prosecution and prosecution to the latter.

IMG 20240110 125058 278Now some of them are cooling off their feet at different correctional centres which hitherto was not the case before my arrival and I want to say without mincing words that smugglers are afraid of going to jail that is the more reason why you see now most of the seizures we get now most of them are abandoned why because they don’t want to be caught doing it they know the moment they are arrested they are going to jail.

Right now we have many of their cases in court that we are facing and those ones that have been concluded we won the matter. If we are winning the war against smuggling then I think Nigeria is good for it. We may not have won totally but step by step we will get there.

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IMG 20240110 122528 460Alright, moving forward, this is 2024 and the issue of illicit trade like you said cannot be totally stamped out, so in that regard are we seeing new strategists?

Yes, obviously we have to restrategise. The strategy we employed in 2022 and 2023 will be a different from what we are going to adopt now.

We are going back to the drawing board to chart the course, remove encumbrances, and remove some teething issues that could inhibit our success in 2024 and to make sure that whoever is arrested will follow due process to have them prosecuted.

We are law enforcers and we are supposed to ensure that whoever is caught on the other side of the law is dealt with professionally and judiciously.

IMG 20240110 131253 590What about those caught on your own side of the law, talking about compromising officers

Anyone that is found to have contravened it the Nigeria Customs Service Act 2023 has taken care of how to deal it such officers. If you get to understand what I said. I said initially part of the tactics you don’t allow an officer to stay too long, postings come randomly now.

So if you think you are here and you are not being monitored all our officers are been monitored even right from headquarters because we monitor them they have to monitor us too.

IMG 20240110 122221 757Even there are situation where the CGC himself will send an intelligence to me. I am here I may not know all, but he has his own way of getting information and immediately when he gets it he will act on it



Joshua Okoria

Joshua Okoria is a Lagos based multi-skilled journalist covering the maritime industry. His ICT and graphic design skills makes him a resourceful person in any modern newsroom. He read mass communication at the Olabisi Onabanjo University and has sharpened his knowledge in media practice from several other short courses. 07030562600, hubitokoria@gmail.com

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