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Customs

WCO, Interpol crackdown on wildlife smugglers

—seize more than 1,000 big cats, turtles, birds in ‘operation thunder’
Eyewitness reporter
An international crackdown on smugglers of wildlife and other endangered species has led to the massive seizure of more than 1,000 big cats, turtles, and birds.
 The international trafficking operation, code names “Operation Thunder 2021” was coordinated by the World Customs Organisation and assisted by the International Police (Interpol) which involved wildlife enforcement agencies from 118 different countries.
 Sniffer dogs and x-ray scanners were used to check thousands of cargo ships, trucks, and cars.
The worldwide seizures included 75 big cat parts and 29 live big cats along with reptiles and birds.
 In Spain, more than 250,000 euros of protected items were seized. This includes turtles, items made from ivory, and parrots.
The operation ran for the whole of October and around 300 suspects were identified.

Jurgen Stock, the Interpol Secretary-General said “Organised crime networks are generating billions in illicit profits every year, at significant cost to our environment as well as the associated impacts of fraud, corruption, and violence,

“We are seeing the continued globalisation of crime, which means only an international response can be effective, as demonstrated with this latest Operation Thunder.”
“Every one of our 195 member countries has a role to play in combating this threat, either directly or in the follow-up investigations.”

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Customs

Customs, UN agency collaborate to fight smuggling

The Eyewitness Reporter

The anti-smuggling efforts of the Nigeria Customs Service has received a boost with the support of the United Nations agency,
United Nations Human Settlements Programme, UN—Habitat.
The Customs got the assurance of collaboration from the UN agency on Tuesday, September 19, 2023, when the acting Comptroller General of Customs, Adewale Adeniyi hosted the ambassadors of the global agency led by Dr. Raymond Edoh in his office.
Adeniyi told his guests that the Service, under his watch, will implement every necessary action against saboteurs of Nigeria’s economy to cripple their ‘illegitimate’ business of smuggling.

“On behalf of the entire Management Team of the Nigeria Customs Service, I wish to inform you that we will partner with you in this campaign, and we will grant you all forms of support you may need to carry out this campaign — and I want to assign one of our amiable DCGs, Abba Kura, to work with you closely.”

He appreciated how they traveled from afar to inform the Nigeria Customs Service of their campaign against smuggling, which, according to him, the Nigeria Customs Service has already started yielding positive results in suppressing the menace of smuggling.

The CGC also welcomed Dr Raymond’s offer to engage officers and men of the Service in capacity—building to enhance their understanding of digital literacy skills, adding that the Service has already started embracing technology to advance its work by introducing related courses to officers.

The CGC appreciated the collaborative effort between the Nigeria Customs Service and UN—Habitat and believes that the collaboration signifies a commitment to tackling smuggling and enhancing trade facilitation in the nation, setting the stage for a more prosperous future.

“What we’re trying to do is to raise a modern Customs Service through partnering with stakeholders to achieve our goals because we value partnership, and I am happy that you extended your hands of collaboration to work with us.”

He also appreciated their pledge to train officers and men of the Service in digital literacy skills, assuring that the Service will continue to prioritize proficiency in the fight against smuggling through a technological approach.

He underscored the importance of digital skills, promising that the relevant Service department will enhance trade facilitation.

On his part, the Director of UN—Habitat, Dr. Raymond Edoh, appreciated President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for reposing the responsibility of heading the Nigeria Customs Service on the Acting Comptroller-General, describing him as “a competent Customs officer who knows the terrain and masters the job.”

According to him, they decided to visit the Ag. CGC at the Customs Headquarters to express their interest in partnering with the Service.

He appreciated the Service for being a “gatekeeper of the country” that protects citizens against border threats, stressing that his organization will collaborate with NCS to mitigate the smuggling of illicit goods and train officers and men of Customs on digital literacy skills and certification.

UN-Habitat is the United Nations entity responsible for developing urban policies and translating them into action to create sustainable cities and promote viable urban development and adequate shelter for all.

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Customs

MARAN raises alarm over continued depreciation of Customs’ N180 billion boats on Lagos Marina waters —- calls on CGC Adeniyi to deploy the assets

Wale Adeniyi, Ag, CGC
The Eyewitness Reporter
The Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) has called on the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Adewale Adeniyi, to rescue the N180 billion Customs patrol boats from further depreciation on the Lagos Marina waters.
In a statement issued by the foremost maritime journalists group, the anti-smuggling patrol boats procured by the former President Goodluck Jonathan Administration for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), have been abandoned since 2015 at the Marina Lagos waterfront.
The group noted with concern that more than eight years after procurement, and many years after the immediate past administration of Customs led by Hameed Ali promised that the two patrol boats would be rescued from disuse, the boats have rather become a pitiable sight as most of its gadgets have gone useless.
” More pathetic and anger-inducing is the fact that the patrol boats, which consume more than N5 billion as annual maintenance fees have, however, not been put into use even after being commissioned by former Customs boss, Rtd Col. Hameed Ali.
“It is more unpardonable to note that while these vessels are being eaten away daily by termites, the officers and men of the Western and Eastern Marine Commands of the Customs go on patrol operations on the waterways with obsolete and smaller patrol boats that have made them easy prey for smugglers.
“Many have lost their lives in the process.
“Inside sources claimed that the boats are more than overdue for dry-docking and routine maintenance, going by the manufacturer’s specification.
“It will be recalled that the procurement of the patrol boats was initiated by the management of NCS  led by the late Abdullahi Dikko Inde, to boost its marine anti-smuggling operations.
“At that time, the NCS operations, according to research, were at their lowest point because of a lack of functional patrol boats and other operational equipment to withstand smugglers with sophisticated fast-moving equipment, fully armed.
“The government awarded the contract to build the boats to a South African firm, Kobus Naval Design , KND, in 2012.
“The then Jonathan-led Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved N3 billion for the procurement of the two NCS patrol boats for the surveillance of Nigeria waters.
“Based on the order, the two vessels, named ”Customs Pride” and” Group of Nine”  were slated to be delivered to the NCS within  10 months but were not until April 2015, three years behind schedule.
“The total cost of building the two patrol boats by the firm catapulted to over N180bn from the initial approved sum, raising questions about perceived sharp practices.
“The patrol boats, which were delivered to the NCS in April 2015  have since then berthed at the Marina Waterfronts, Lagos, where it is idling and rotting away at significant cost of maintenance to the NCS.
“While commissioning the two sea-going boats in September 2019, the CG of Customs, Hameed Ali, admitted that the Service has been weak on the waterways compared to the land and that this necessitated the purchase of the two boats.
“This situation, he agreed, led to the death of nine Customs marine officers while confronting deadly petrol smugglers on the sea in 2012.
“It was in honour of this group of nine gallant officers who died in the service of their fatherland that one of the seagoing vessels was named ‘Group of Nine’ while the other represents the ‘Customs Pride’ on the sea.
“One would expect that since the Service now has four marine commands, namely Western Marine, Eastern Maritime, North-Western Marine and North Eastern Marine commands, there is no better time than now to put the boats the effective.
“Presently Nigeria is going through economic turbulence, and cannot afford the culture of waste amplified by the past administration”
The group therefore called on the Acting CG of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, to deploy his dynamic attention to this issue and take immediate steps to get the boats functional as the Customs operations, more than ever, require these vessels to confront smugglers.
“We advise that the issues surrounding the abandonment of the vessels should be sorted out immediately or the Customs management should seek the help of experts to rescue them.
“Nigeria Customs management should purge itself of the indifference and above board attitude of its immediate predecessor that led us to this sorry state”
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Customs

Nigeria, Republic of Benin deepen cross-border trade facilitation

The Director General of Benin Republic Customs, Alain Hinkati, signing the agreement while CGC Adeniyi looks on
— as importers of both countries can clear goods, pay duties at either of the countries’ ports
The Eyewitness Reporter
The Nigeria Customs Service has signed an agreement with the Customs administration of the Republic of Benin where importers of both countries can use the ports of either of the countries to clear their goods and pay the relevant customs duties.
Consequently, a Nigerian importer can use Benenoise port to clear his goods destined for Nigeria and equally pay customs duties.
The same scenario applies to a Benenoise importer who can equally make use of Nigerian Ports.
This was part of the agreement reached by the two neighboring countries at the end of the two-day interactive session between the Customs Administrations of the two countries.
The session, which started on Monday, 11th September 2023, at the Abuja Intercontinental Hotel, is expected to deepen the relationship between Nigeria and Benin while promoting their age-old bilateral trade ties.
The Acting Comptroller-General of Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi therefore expressed his commitment to synergize with the Benin Republic to enhance trans-border security and regulate trade between the two countries.
 “We are building confidence in the system offered by the Republic of Benin; our importers will use their ports and vice-versa.
“If there are people in the Benin Republic who want to use our ports, we try to build trust in our systems.
“And by virtue of this agreement, what it means is that Nigerian importers willing to use the ports in Cotonou can have their goods cleared in those ports because there would be an opportunity for them to pay duties on goods that are liable for payment of duties.”

Adeniyi made this known on Tuesday, 12th September 2023, when he officially received Senior Officers of Benin Customs, led by their Director-General, Alain Hinkati, at the Nigeria Customs Headquarters Abuja, in continuation of their two-day interactive session.

Other areas that the partnership will address include enhancing the proper use of International Transit Guidelines to govern transit-bound goods and fees from Cotonou Port to Nigeria and integration of Nigeria into the Interconnected System for the Management of Goods in Transit.

The Customs boss further highlighted that the treaty between the two Agencies “will prepare the way for an in-depth mechanism to harmonize the import prohibition lists of products banned by the two countries.

“In view of our commitment to curb smuggling and unlawful trade through our borders, we deemed it necessary to meet and form a strong agreement that will support our strategic plans to implement technological-base measures of clearing and tracking of items at our borders.”

The Ag. CGC, however, affirmed that the Nigeria Customs Service has concluded plans to promote good relations with border communities with a view to actualizing full participation of private sectors and frameworks of border Customs Units.

Speaking further, the Ag. CGC appreciated the Benin Customs and Embassy of the country for expressing interest in collaborating with the Nigeria Customs Service to enhance trade facilitation.

“The Customs administration in both countries have a very good idea and technical know-how on what it means with trade; thus, we are back with a renewed enthusiasm to foster our relationship and make an impact on our trade facilitation roadmap.

“We hope that the program will address the issues of trade and set a roadmap for the implementation of new strategies that will enhance the economy and revenue in Nigeria and Benin Republic.”

The Director General of the Benin Republic Customs, Alain Hinkati, said, “It is our hope that the program will address the issues of trade and set a roadmap for implementation of new strategies that will enhance the economy and revenue in Nigeria and Benin Republic.”

According to him, the two organizations need to develop ideas to address transit issues and other progressive measures.

He said with the increasing global security challenges, the need for both customs administrations to work in synergy cannot be over-emphasized, adding that their intended mutualism will boost their relationship to improve the economy of both nations.

Meanwhile, the joined communique signed by the Ag. Comptroller-General of the  Customs, Bashir Adewale Adeniyi and Director-General of the Bennese Customs, Alain Hinkati, highlighted that their meeting favours the desire of the two countries’ presidents: Bola Ahmad Tinubu and Patrice Talon to strengthen the shared commitment to enhancing trade facilitation and promoting economic development.

Other areas that will benefit the countries are fostering closer ties to Nigeria and Benin and reactivating the joint committee for monitoring trade and transit relations.

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