The Tin-Can Island Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), on Friday, said it arrested a syndicate responsible for illegally exiting foreign used vehicles also known as ‘Tokunbo’ from the seaport.
The command also said it intercepted 300 rounds of live ammunition, one pistol and two empty magazines alongside a suspect that has connection to the importation of the contraband.
Speaking to journalists in Lagos, the Customs Area Controller, Tin-Can Island Port, Compt. Adekunle Oloyede, said the syndicate, which comprised of four clearing agents, forged his signature to exit four heavy duty trucks and three Jeeps.
Oloyede further explained that luck ran out of the four clearing agents when they attempted to take another set of imported vehicles out of the port using forged signatures.
He said, “We discovered an incident of forgery of the signature of the Area Controller that is why you have these vehicles here. The standard procedure for the clearance of non-standard Vehicles Identification Number is that the CAC must approved the use of that particular code. I don’t know why because they applied and their papers are still on my table but they went ahead to forge my signature on another application.”
Explaining further, he said, “They were trying to escape and get out of the terminal, the officers that were supposed to release were vigilante enough. Because I sent to all the terminals a specimem of my signature. So these four trucks belong to four different people and they actually forged my signature. They were apprehended and locked up for sometime but for the sake of human right, they are on administrative bail for now. But as we go ahead, definitely we are going to prosecute them.
“You know that the signature aspect of the clearance procedure has not been automated and very soon, we will be automating that aspect too. It’s because the signature aspect of the clearance procedure has not been automated, these unscrupulous agents, four in numbers, attempted to clear some imported vehicles out of the port with my forged signature but for the eagle eyed Customs officials who detected and arrested them.”
Giving details, he said, “Four units of used Mack truck heads, one unit of used Toyota Sequoia 2008 model; one unit of used Mercede, Benz GL450 2008 model andone unit of used 2011 Toyota 4Runner was arrested in their possession.
“It was the case with the ‘Machine Outside’ era, but when we automated our processes, that stopped. Now, when these unscrupulous agents saw that automation has stopped the ‘machine outside’ activities, they now shifted attention to forging of signatures.”
Meanwhile, speaking on the interception of arms and ammunitions, Compt. Oloyede said the contraband have been handed over to the Department of State Service (DSS) for further investigation and action.
He said, “In the area of enforcement and anti-smuggling, the command handed over one suspect, one arm pistol gun, two empty magazines and 300 rounds of live ammunition to the DSS for further action.
“Other seizures include, 640 bales of used clothes, 236,500 pieces of used shoes, 62,500 pieces of lady’s shoes, 1.7million pieces of Chloroquine injections (5mg/5ml), 1.8million pieces of Novalgen injections (500m/5ml), 48,450 rolls of cigarettes and 23,800 tins of sodium bromate and baking powder.
“In addition to the above other detentions made include 3,303 pieces of motor batteries found in three containers falsely declared as three units of Toyota Haice buses.”
He, however, added that the import of the seizures and items detained contravened sections 46, 47 and 161 of the Customs and Exercise Management Act (CEMA) CAP 45 LFN 2004, adding that the value of the seizures amounted to N1.30billion
In the area of trade facilitation, he said the command has continued to provide a conducive environment for and collaboration with relevant stakeholders and regulatory agencies of Government.
On the implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) Valuation, Controller Oloyede explained that the operational processes of the Service in the year under review strongly align with the theme for the 2022 International Customs Day of scaling up digital transformation by embracing data culture and building data ecosystem.
He said, “This is evident through the implementation of the VIN-Valuation service, a service that depends solely on the information stored on Customs and third party databases to determine the value of an imported vehicle for the purpose of determining customs duty.
“VIN Valuation was deployed in March 2022 as a Service which uses information obtained through Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assign values to an imported vehicle based on its unique identification number otherwise known as the chassis number.
“The objective of the VIN-Valuation Service is to simplify and facilitate the customs clearance process of legitimately imported vehicles by providing a uniform, fair and neutral value across board on vehicles with identical brands, model and year of manufacture in line with the provision of Atticle VII of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) of 1994.”