The trial of Patrick Akpobolokemi, a former Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), and Ezekiel Bala Agaba before Justice R.I.B. Adebiyi of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja for an alleged N754.8 million fraud continued Friday, March 18, 2022, with the trial judge reserving ruling for May 6, 2022, on an application filed by the prosecution seeking to have its next witness based in the United States of America to testify through electronic means.
The defendants, who are alleged to have defrauded NIMASA, were initially charged alongside Governor Juan, Vincent Udoye, Ekene Nwakuche, Adegboyega Olopoenia and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Ltd. before the charge was amended to involve only the two defendants.
At Friday’s sitting, the prosecuting counsel, Kufre Uduak, moved the motion of the prosecution seeking the witness, one Charles Aroawode Oboh, a Director in Aroward Nigeria Limited based in the United States of America, to give evidence through electronic means.
“The prosecution is seeking an order granting leave to call the witness based in the United States of America to testify through electronic means; and for such other order, as this Honourable Court may deem fit, to make in the circumstance,” he said.
Counsel for the first defendant, Collins Ogbonna, raised no objection to the application.
However, counsel for the second defendant, E.D. Onyeke, opposed the application in his counter-affidavit and further argued that “it will be prejudicial, as he is not situated within the jurisdiction.”
“We believe his evidence could be manipulated,” Onyeke added, as he prayed the Court to dismiss the application.
In response, the prosecution argued that “the objection on the point of manipulation is only an assumption.”
“We urge this Honourable Court to discountenance the submissions of the defence and grant our prayers,” Uduak said.
After listening to the arguments, Justice Adebiyi adjourned till May 6, 2022, for a ruling.
Tin Can Customs nets N574.3 billion in 2022 —–records N242.365 billion in exports
Oloyede said the figure represented an increase of N80.90 billion or 16.39 percent when compared with N493.4 billion recorded in 2021.
“This feat can be attributed to the constant rejigging of the existing measures geared toward sustaining the command’s revenue profile.
“It is as well as utilisation of some disruptive strategic measures such as: periodic capacity building, reshuffling and redeployment of officers using the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis and implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation,” he said.
He noted that the command also ensured robust and continuous stakeholder engagements and collaborations with all sister government agencies and maritime associations.
“These led to timely intelligence sharing, utilisation and voluntary compliance to government’s extant laws by the trading public,” Oloyede said.
He added that the command increased surveillance on declarations made in order to sniff out improper declarations as well as offending items.
He pointed out that the system paid off with the command recording a total of 38 seizures with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1.85 billion.
“These seizures comprise 763kgs of Colorado (Cannabis Sativa) weighing 345.1kg with a street market value of N714.6 million only as given by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), 5 x 40 containers of used motor tyre (5,060 pieces).
“Also among seized items are 1,150 bales of second-hand clothing, 1,190 cartons of 20 per carton of potassium bromate and baking powder, 11,392 cartons of 1,200 per carton Pharmacol injection chloroquine phosphate 322.5mg.5ml (IV and IM), 206,000 pieces of finished machetes.
“Also, 1,383 cartons of 50 rolls per carton of cigarettes, 650 cartons of 50 pieces per carton of new ladies shoes, 2,666 pieces in 36 pallets of new starter Ex-Premium Inverter Battery, 1,980 cartons of assorted non-alcoholic beverages and 1,048 cartons of Tilda basmati rice,” he said.
Oloyede listed others as 2,594 pieces of ammunition and 20 pieces of arms comprising of one pistol with 611090 (S/W) model JCP 40mm, one used Co2 air pistol with accessories cal 117(4.5m)BM, one marksman repeater pistol, six Mace pepper gun and 10 suspected arms of various types.
He said that the seizures when compared with the 2021 record of 27 seizures with a Debit Note of N607.27 only, show an increase of 11 seizures and N1.24 billion.
He said that the increase in the DPV rate could be associated with increased surveillance and intensified anti-smuggling drive, the high value of seized items and Naira depreciation that led to higher exchange rates on imported items.
“These prohibited items were seized and forfeited to the Federal Government in line with the provision of Sections 46 and 161 of the Customs & Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45 LFN 2004 and Absolute Prohibition List of CET 2022- 2026.
“The command pertinently acknowledges the prominent roles played by the Customs Intelligence Unit, Valuation Unit, Federal Operations Unit, CGC Strike Force as well as interventions of Sister Regulatory Agencies like the NDLEA, Standards Organisation of Nigeria SON, the Nigeria Police and others in ensuring these seizures and detentions were made.
“A total of 60 suspects were detained in 2022 and were granted administrative bail while the command has 8 cases pending in court,” he said.
Oloyede said the command recorded a significant increase in the Free On Board (FOB) of exports in the period under review to the tune of $589,696,648 (N242,365,322,333.00) as against the $496,075,796 (N141,985,109,159.00) recorded in 2021.
He attributed the increase of 34.4 percent in the FOB to the high quality and value of exported commodities.
“However, the export report shows a decrease in tonnage of export from 1,723,986.8 in 2021 to 336,179.5 in 2022.
“The decrease in tonnage could be connected to current government fiscal policy which prohibited the export of wood and wood products as well as the global unrest with its concomitant economic challenges,” he said
He listed the commodities exported through the command to include: cocoa beans, insecticides, dried ginger, empty bottles, soya beans, cashew nuts, cigarettes, rubbers, cocoa butter, frozen shrimps, copper ingots, aluminum ingots, sesame seeds and other manufactured items.
“Cocoa beans were the highest exported commodity while the legend stout was the least exported commodity.
“The future of export in the command looks brighter as the command in line with the headquarter circular on Export Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) released a Port Order on the Command’s harmonised SOP for the seamless facilitation of Export Trade in strict compliance with Extant Laws and guidelines on Export,” he said.
CBN succumbs to pressure, extends use of old naira notes to February 10
Up till Saturday, CBN had insisted on the 31st January deadline for the validity of the old N200, N500 and N1,000 despite overwhelming complaints that the notes are either not available or in short supply in the banks or their Automated Teller Machines.
Last October, Emefiele announced the Naira redesign policy which entails the issuance of new notes to replace the existing N200, N500 and N1,000 series.
”No container will leave Apapa Port without 100 percent physical examination”
declares Auwal Mohammed as he takes over as new Apapa Customs Area controller
—promises to surpass N1 trillion revenue mark
—vows not to facilitate non-compliant traders
The Eyewitness reporter
Despite the deployment of cargo scanning machines, the new area comptroller of the Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service, Comptroller Auwal Mohammed, has vowed that no container shall leave the Apapa port without a 100 percent physical examination.
Comptroller Mohammed, who formally took over the mantle of leadership of the command Friday, 27th, January 2023, from Ag. Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs(ACG) Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf, said that the decision to subject all cargo to physical examination was meant to account for every content of container passing through the command and to maximize revenue returns to the Federal Government.
He, therefore, warned non-compliant traders to steer clear of the command as he would not facilitate their trade as he desired to surpass the one trillion revenue mark achieved by the command under the former area controller Yusuf.
”We shall continue to conduct 100 percent physical examination of cargo so that we can account for all the cargo in the containers and to generate more revenue so that we can surpass the one trillion revenue collection that the command has already achieved. No package, no container should leave Apapa port without a proper 100 percent physical examination.” the new Comptroller told his officers who had gathered to welcome him.
He continued ”Today marks another era in the history of the Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service. I am inheriting a well-structured area command. The level of achievements and status achieved under my predecessor will be sustained while I will look for all means to surpass them.
I am ready for the job. I am aware of the big shoe I am stepping into but I am well prepared for it”, Comptroller Mohammad said.
He, therefore, asked the officers to be at their utmost best to cooperate and work with him to sustain and surpass the legacies of his predecessor.
He also solicited the support and cooperation of stakeholders whom he promised to engage with and updated frequently on all issues and policies that will enhance their trade and performance of the command.
The new helmsman also charged all the releasing officers and the image analysts who will be conducting the scanning of cargo to be diligent and exhibit the utmost sense of responsibility and professionalism in their duty so as not to release uncustomed goods.
Mohammed, who was redeployed from Onne Port Area Command when he was the area controller, also enjoined the importers and their agents to be compliant with the cargo clearance procedural processes in order to enjoy a seamless cargo release.
”The goods clearance procedure is simple. Everything starts and ends with declaration and if there is a proper and correct declaration of cargo, there won’t be any need for delay and unnecessary interference with the process”, he admonished.
Earlier, the outgoing Area Controller, Ag. Yusuf, while handling over the operations and procedures of the command to his successor, solicited the support and cooperation of all the officers and other stakeholders for the new helmsman, urging them to avail the new comptroller of the same level of support, guidance, and cooperation and advice they gave him.
He also lauded the untiring efforts of his officers whom he said were instrumental in the monumental achievements recorded by the command under his watch.
Consequently, some officers who excelled in the discharge of their duties were commended and awarded certificates of merit, including the indefatigable Public Relations officer of the Command, CSC Abubakar Usman.
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