Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba

Comptroller Mohammed Uba Garba is a crack enforcement officer deployed from Federal Operation (FOU) Zone ‘C’, Owerri where he recorded some daring performances. His string of  achievements in Zone ‘C’ made the Customs top hierarchy to redeploy him to FOU, Zone ‘’A’’ which accounts for 70 per cent of Customs revenue as well as being the hot bed for smuggling activities in the country.

But since he assumed duties few months ago, his achievements in his new duty post have clearly justified the confidence of his superior officers. In this exclusive interview with FUNSO OLOJO, Comptroller Garba gives an insights into the operations of the Unit, his challenges, aspirations and how the biggest arms haul at Tin Can port was recorded.

 

You were redeployed from FOU, Zone ‘C’ to come and head Zone ‘A’ which is by far the busiest and most notorious in terms of smuggling activities. Were you in anyway scared?

 

No. On the contrary, it was a challenge for me to do better. As a trained officer, we were trained to face challenges and surmount them. This Zone is the biggest in terms of revenue generation because 70 per cent of Customs revenue is being generated in this zone.

So my coming here was a call of duty for greater responsibility and commitment as well as an opportunity for me to surpass my achievements in Zone ‘C’. It also affords me the opportunity to increase government revenue by blocking all revenue leakages and also complement the operations of other commands in the Zone.

To achieve this, I looked at the structure I met and solidified it and made necessary adjustment by redistributing officers to units where they are more suitable and competent.

It is no gainsaying that the level of activities and work in this Zone far out strip the ones that obtain in Zone ‘C’. With that at the back of my mind, I knew I have great challenges and responsibility ahead of me in this Zone.

 

 What was your most challenging situation you faced when you assumed duty in this Zone?

 

The most challenging situation I face is how to coordinate and manage the vast array of human and material resources at my disposal to achieve effective and efficient service delivery.

That is a very big challenge because if you cannot competently handle that, then you will have a problem. That is what I did to achieve maximum results.

 

How do you coordinate your anti-smuggling activities in view of the Federal government disbandment of checks points and restricting patrols to certain metre radius?

 

We are able to carry out our anti- smuggling activities without falling foul of the directive, having known the approved checks points and the approved metre radius for patrols.

However, sections one to eight of CEMA allows a Customs officer to patrol freely anywhere in Nigeria for the purpose of enforcement of Customs and Excise laws.

It says that when you are outside that barrier based on information, no road blocks should be erected and the patrol team should not pass beyond 24 hours after which you move to other areas where you have reasonable suspicion that government revenue is being compromised. That is what we do.

 

How do you deal with the public outcry and odium which normally follow the raids your men carry out in warehouses and markets?

 

By the CEMA law, section 147 of the CEMA allows Customs officers, without warrant, to move into any premises or warehouse where there is a reasonable suspicion that Customs goods are domiciled and are either contraband or appropriate Customs Duty was not paid.

By law, a Customs officer is permitted to open, if necessary, by force, such premises, evacuate the goods and bring them to the government warehouse with the purpose of collecting the maximum duty if duty was not paid or confiscate and forfeit to the Federal government such goods if it is prohibited so that it does not get into the market.

The so called outcry of people against this measure is by few but vocal individuals who engage in these heinous activities for selfish reasons.

Customs officers are to provide community service and ensure harmful goods are not circulated among the people and of course, to generate revenue for government that will enable it carry out its statutory responsibility to the people.

The argument which some people canvases against this mode of operation that, why these goods are not intercepted  on the roads before they get to their warehouses, does not hold waters in the face of so many unapproved routes with the limited numbers of officers to man these routes.

Smuggling is an international business and no country can effectively totally eradicate it except to bring it down to the barest minimum.

There are also some individuals who are non-conformists, the undesirable elements bent on sabotaging the economy. These are the people who make the loudest noise.

They have their collaborators who may be in the service and if such officers are caught, we have our own mechanism to handle such saboteurs among in service.

You are aware that in no distant past, some Customs officers were dismissed or reduced in ranks or suspended, this is the internal mechanism that is applied to deal with non-conformists among us which is common everywhere.

Every organisation harbours such elements and not peculiar to Customs alone.

 

Since most of your raids are based on information, what happens if any of these raids is erroneously carried out on wrong information where the owner of the goods has incurred losses before you discover the error?

 

There are three types of informants. There are patriotic informants; we have the revenge informant and economic informant. There are some people who give information for economic reasons, others do so to carry out revenge while other do so for patriotic reasons.

All information given to us are painstakingly analysed and verified before we embark on our operations. We also carry out raids on reasonable suspicion just like the Police and when we find out the contrary situation, we apologise to the owner and explain that we do not mean any harm.

If all these information are not treated, we may allow some grievous crime against the state to be committed. That is the reason we don’t discard any information but subject them to rigorous process of analysis.

We always let people know that we are part and parcel of them and we mean no harm. We are only trying to carry out government instructions and that one day, when we leave this job, we will come and join them as traders or businessmen.

But you know, people do not like revenue collectors, which is the reason why some people do not like Customs officers. But somebody has to do the job; otherwise   government may fail.

 

How do you the discovery of 1100 fire arms at Tin Can command?

 

On the container of firearm discovered yesterday (last week Monday), you know we have our clearance procedures for goods. Before goods are examined, payment

must have been made. But this container was dropped for examination with an assessment but no payment was made. This elicited suspicion from the officers.

Also, nobody can break a seal of a container without recourse to a Customs officer.

That Container was not meant for that examination, just like I told you, there are non-conformists who wanted to aid the clearance of the container.

In the Customs clearance procedure, there are two Zones, the trader Zone and Customs Zone. After you profile your document, you made your payment. When your payment hits Customs server, your goods would then be positioned for examination.

But it was only assessment that was carried out on the container and no payment was made before its seal was opened and positioned for examination.

That was how it was discovered.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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