Officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos and those of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Lagos State Command, are engaged in supremacy contest over the arrest of suspects and detention of contraband seized from smugglers.
Trouble had started last month when nine vehicles alleged to have carried smuggled rice from Idiroko border, Ogun State, were intercepted and detained by the NPF, Denton Police Station, Oyingbo, a suburb of Lagos.
Personnel of the NCS, FOU were said to have trailed the nine vehicles on their way to discharge their wares at Oyingbo market when officers of NPF Denton Police Station intercepted and brought them to the police station.
Impeccable sources at NCS, FOU, Zone A, hinted that the command had made several efforts at bringing the vehicles to the Federal Government Warehouse, Ikeja, Lagos but such efforts were said to have been thwarted by the Divisional Police Officer (DPO), NPF Denton Police Statation who insisted that the vehicles would not be released to NCS whose duty it is to examine and ascertain the contents of the vehicles.
A similar incident also occurred in Apapa between NCS officers and men from FOU, ZONE ‘A’, Ikeja, Lagos and those of the NPF Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Monitoring Team led by one Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Abubakar.
The Apapa altercation took place on Tuesday, March 13, 2018 when NCS officers and men intercepted a suspected container with numbers PCIU865957-1 and while they tried to evacuate the same container to the Federal Government Warehouse, Ikeja, Lagos. The IGP Monitoring Team was said to have accused them and told NCS that the Police authorities were interested in the said container.
The sharp disagreement was said to have ensued between the two government para-military agencies over who would take possession of the suspected container. When contacted, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of NCS, FOU, Zone A, Mr. Jerry Attah confirmed that the nine vehicles bearing smuggled rice were arrested by Denton Police Station, Oyingbo on their way to discharge their contents in the Oyingbo market.
He also confirmed the case of the suspected container but said it was brought to FOU custody later the same day.
Senior NCS Officers at FOU, Ikeja who commented on the consequences of the clashes and pleaded not to be identified in print due to the sensitive nature of the issue, said it was time the Comptroller-General of Customs (CGC), Colonel Ibrahim Hammed Ali (retired), intervened in the matter to avoid further clashes which they said might result in causalities.
They insisted that both NCS and NPF should face their statutory duties without encroaching on those of others.
It was argued that since the police cannot issue Debit Note or Demand Notice (DN) on behalf of NCS, it would be ideal for the NPF to refer any arrests they made to NCS who have the statutory mandate to handle issues of smuggling of any kind.
They stated that it was not among the duties of the NPF to block containers in the custody of shipping lines for suspected infractions. According to officers of FOU, the NPF various commands Lagos have the habit of arresting containers and taking them to their offices for examination.
At the time of filing this report, the nine vehicles carrying the rice were still at the Denton Police Station when this reporter visited.
Efforts made to speak with Police Lagos State Commanded Public Relation Officer, Famous Cole, proved abortive as he would not pick calls made to his mobile telephone.