The Nigeria Customs Service says it has smashed a syndicate which specialised in falsification of sensitive documents of the Nigeria Customs Service.
The document-falsification-gang, commonly known as the "oluwole boys” was uncovered by the Customs in July in Apapa. Various sensitive documents and items, including two fake Seals of the Comptroller General of Customs were recovered from them.
There were also stamps of Deputy Comptrollers General, as well as those of Releasing Officers at Apapa, Tin Can, Seme and Idiroko commands of the Customs Service.
Deputy Controller in charge of Enforcement at the Tin Can Pport Command of Customs, Mr Kabiyeesi Akintola confirmed the development when he received the newly-elected executives of Tin Can port chapter of Association of Nigeria Customs Service (ANLCA) on Monday. They were led by the new chairman; Prince Segun Oduntan.
Akintola disclosed that eight members of the syndicate who were arrested have been prosecuted and jailed two years each. He added that he was personally in court to testify against them.
The Tin Can Customs Enforcement officer said that the Customs Area Controller at Tin Can Port is worried about the development and has determined to fish out corrupt officers who may be working with the fraudsters.
He said: "The ingenuity of these boys in manipulating customs papers cannot be over-emphasised, we have been able to arrest some of them, last month they were jailed about eight of them for two years each, I even went to court to defend it".
"When we went to Apapa to arrest these guys, it was a replica of 'Oluwole', I couldn't believe what we found there, in their system there is no paper of the Nigeria Customs Service that is not duplicated"
"In fact there are two seals of the Comptroller General of Customs. There were stamps of DCGs, releasing officers at Apapa, Tin Can, Seme and Idiroko. They even had stickers you place on vehicles that read 'LAGOS' after importing"
"They have different kinds of auction papers, as customs is issuing auction in Abuja, they are also issuing their own in Apapa. But to God be the glory, we arrested them" Akintola stated.
Akintola who is recognised in customs for his anti-smuggling prowess recalled that he was posted by the former CG of Customs; Dikko Abdullahi to the Tin Can Port to sanitize it.
He said "the place was in a mess then, there were a lot of things happening like falsification of papers, flying of containers, the port was noted for that, but today there are evidences of what we have done"
"Smuggling cannot be exterminated, you can only reduce it to the barest minimum. But we have been able to sanitise Tin Can"
He charged Prince Segun Oduntan and his executives to cooperate with customs to eliminate touting at the port, lamenting that his predecessor; Prince Kayode Oyinlola's administration failed much in that regard.
He advised that ANLCA under Oduntan should work against clearing agents sub-letting their jobs to second and third parties. According to him, the genuine agents are not even getting jobs; it is the touts that get jobs.
Looking at the new Tin Can chairman, he said: "I am repeating it to your regime now, whatever you can do to put your name in the Sands of time, Tin Can port is noted for touting, and the only way you can do it is to discourage agents from sub-letting jobs"
"My advice to you is to make your executives one through prayer and commitment, there should not be any crack or disagreement in your ranks”
Make sure that if there is any misunderstanding among your executive, it is resolved" he said.
Speaking earlier, the Tin Can Chapter Chairman of ANLCA pledged to work together with Customs to achieve its revenue target, even as he sought the cooperation of customs officers.
Oduntan who emerged winner in the recently- conducted ANLCA Tin Can chapter elections is currently on a familiarisation tour of the Tin Can Port and visits to sectional heads of the customs.
Earlier, he was at Car Park 'C' at the port where he paid courtesy call of various customs tables to introduce the new executives.
"After our swearing in, because of the good vision I have for the association, after paying our visit to the Area Controller, I told him that I need to go round and meet with sectional heads and pledge our allegiance so that the peace that is reigning in Tin Can will continue"
"I and my executives are not here to hamper you from doing your jobs, the revenue you signed to collect must be realised and Tin Can port will continue to maintain its high profile"
"We are ready to work with you, and at the same time we seek your hand of cooperation so that we will both achieve our goals" Oduntan said.