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28.02.2024 Featured EXCLUSIVE: Nigeria Customs Smuggling Terrorist Motorcyles, Hard Drugs Into Northern Nigeria

Published 28th Feb, 2024

By 'Fisayo Soyombo

Motorcycles used by bandits and insurgents to inflict terror on innocent civilians, as well as hard drugs, including tramadol, are among the goods being smuggled into northern Nigeria by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the agency that should be checking the crime, FIJ can report.

The revelations are coming after FIJ’s undercover investigation unveiling, among other things, how smuggling is aided by Customs bosses who take bribes from smugglers and then betray patrol teams by updating smugglers on their colleagues’ itinerary.

On Tuesday, February 20, FIJ released the trailer of the undercover investigation — “Undercover as a Smuggler” — by ‘Fisayo Soyombo, its founder and editor-in-chief, and followed it up with a multimedia story on Wednesday and a 16-minute documentary on Thursday.

FIJ now understands that in a bid to be discreet with its smuggling operations in the south west, the NCS streamlined the passage of smuggled goods across six states in the region to just one area of Ogun State — the one controlled by Ibrahim Egungbohun Dende.

READ MORE: Undercover as a Smuggler

“Every work that belongs to Zone A, all the work that Seme should do, that is Badagry side, all smuggled goods that should pass through Idi-Iroko, all smuggled goods that should pass through Oyo or Saki or Iseyin, Nigeria Customs decided to use sense to centralise it to Dende,” a senior security source, who asked not to be named, told FIJ. 

“Dende handles them all. They banned all the consignments from passing through all the other roads so that Dende can continue moving them. All those movements are known as ‘headquarters’ movement’. For that reason, no Customs officer can challenge or stop it. The headquarters of Customs monitors the movement by themselves. 

“They positioned Dende as the spearhead, but he is merely a figurehead; it is Customs moving the consignments in by themselves. Dende is merely an intermediary who collects money from the importers, that is the smugglers, and hands over part of the money to the hierarchy of Customs led by the Comptroller-General of Customs  (CGC) and other officers at the headquarters. The CGC, all the Deputy Comptrollers-General of Customs (DCGs), all the Assistant Comptrollers-General of Customs (ACGs) know about it.”

WATCH: DOCUMENTARY: Undercover as a Smuggler

Multiple sources confirmed to FIJ that there was indeed no movement of smuggled goods in Oyo, Saki and Badagry on Tuesday and Wednesday. However, after a lull occasioned by the release of FIJ’s undercover investigation, smuggling along the Oja-Odan-Ilaro axis resumed on Tuesday, with 50 trailers of unknown contents linked to Dende smuggled into the country.

“They now use the Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit Zone A, Hussein Ejigbunu, to monitor the movements, which all go through Oja-Odan,” the source continued. “The most powerful comptroller in the south west in Customs is the Federal Operations Unit comptroller. So, all comptrollers in the Federal Operations Unit are used to monitor the consignments sent through Dende, to be delivered to all the geopolitical zones in the country.

CONTENTS OF THE CONSIGNMENTS?

They are drugs such as tramadol, and motorcycles used by bandits and terrorists, especially in the north. 

“Dende got the contact through one of his northern friends in Kano. All the motorcycles that bandits and terrorists use for their operations, Dende is the one moving them in on behalf of the Customs. The tramadol he imports for Customs also goes to Kano,” said the source. 

“The Customs know about it; remember, it is their consignment and Dende is only the front. The Customs officials in Abuja get paid in dollars; Dende understands how he collects dollars from people and gets it to Abuja every month for the Customs hierarchy to share it among themselves. I’m talking dollars, not naira. They use Dende to smuggle in theory, but it is the Customs Service itself engaging in the smuggling.

READ MORE: BREAKING: IBD Dende Suspends Daily Turkey Smuggling After FIJ’s Investigation

“They call it ‘headquarters’ movement’. Everyone thinks the consignments are Dende’s, but it is Customs passing them by themselves. Otherwise, how can only one person be selected by Customs to handle goods that should pass through six states? They blocked all the people previously in charge of this in six states, forcefully collecting it from them, and centralising it to Dende alone so that they can be retrieving the money from him directly. That is exactly what they are doing.”

SIMILAR TEMPLATE IN THE NORTH

The claims on the distribution of dollars by Dende in the South West to Customs bosses in Abuja are similar to what Premium Times uncovered in the North, with at least 40 NCS personnel, most of them in the service’s highest hierarchy, indicted in a robust EFCC investigation into the proceeds of bribes paid to customs officials by smugglers importing and exporting contraband goods through the Nigerian borders.

At least seven of these officials were detained by the EFCC for days late last year – with some of them spending the festive period in detention – when proceeds of bribes allegedly from smugglers totalling over N12 billion were traced to them, the paper wrote.

Credit: Premium Times, February 27, 2024

FIJ’s undercover investigation established Dende as the main smuggler in the southwest, as smugglers who thought the undercover journalist was part of them gave him out.

FIJ is also in possession of video footage confirming the powerlessness of Customs officials at preventing Dende from smuggling — a development the source said is not one-off.

“Now, if Customs officials stop people from smuggling, they have never stopped Dende for one minute,” the source continued. “And these are consignments containing illicit items, highly contraband items, and they are called ‘headquarters’ movement’. What is the Customs headquarters doing with the movement of illicit items through our borders? Out of the six states in the south west known as Zone A, all movement of goods are now channelled through Oja-Odan for Dende to handle.

“How can a smuggler be moving a consignment and everything in it is contraband — no dutiable item, not even one — and no single Customs officer has the power to stop it? Because it is ‘headquarters’ movement’? All the ACGS, DCGS, the CGC, that is the money they’re sharing now; the Nigeria Customs is so corrupt, very corrupt. The most corrupt organisation I have ever seen in the entire world is the Nigeria Customs. They are sent to stop smuggling, but they are the ones doing it by themselves.”

READ MORE: IBD Dende Sends IGP After FIJ

Asked why Customs would centralise movement of smuggled goods to Dende, the source replied: “They know that Nigerian smugglers can put them in trouble. They trust Dende; they know that if he collects money from other smugglers, he will deliver their share. But if they collect money from five or six different smugglers, then any one of them can use that information against them. That’s why they closed all the other roads in Zone A, leaving only Dende in Oja-Odan.”

THE POSITION OF NIGERIA CUSTOMS

Abdullahi Maiwada, the spokesman of Nigeria Customs Service

Before it began running its recent stories on smuggling, FIJ sent WhatsApp messages to Abdullahi Maiwada, spokesman of the Nigeria Customs, every day between February 16 and 18, asking to be allowed to present the findings of this investigation to the Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC), Bashir Adewale Adeniyi MFR, so he could respond to them. However, Maiwada did not reply to any of the three messages. 

When FIJ rang him on WhatsApp on February 18, Maiwada answered the call but protested that the medium of reaching out to him with “the information against Customs” was “unprofessional”. He still did not budge when he was told the caller was out of the country and so could not have made cellular calls or sent a Short Message Service (SMS).

When asked to supply the details of the ‘professional’ medium through which he or the CGC would rather receive the enquiries — an email address, another phone number or a physical address — Maiwada angrily terminated the call.

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Published 28th Feb, 2024

By 'Fisayo Soyombo

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