By Ray Ugochukwu
Less than two weeks after it unveiled exotic vehicles it impounded from smugglers, the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’ of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), has intercepted again made some startling seizures.
This time around the seizures in question are elephant tusks and pangolin shells with Duty Paid Value of N493.4 million found at the residence of a Chinese in Ikeja, Lagos.
Though the Chinese has been arrested but he insisted he knew nothing about the contraband goods, except being invited to see them, inside a Customs patrol vehicle.
However, the Customs Area Controller (CAC), Comptroller Mohammed Garba Uba, who confirmed the seizure, and the value to newsmen in Lagos, on Thursday, revealed that the warehouse operational team of the unit, led by Assistant Comptroller Mutalib Sule, made the seizure at about 2.00 p.m. on Tuesday, based on tip off.
MaritimeFirst quoted him saying, “The unit received an information on Monday that there were some export products that were prohibited by government located somewhere in Ikeja, precisely along Allen Road.
“On the 13th of February, the Surveillance Team was able to locate the building as No 38, Ogundairo Street, Off Allen, Avenue, Ikeja and the genuineness of the information was established.
“Sule moved his men and he was able to intercept 55 sacks of Pangolin and 218 pieces of Elephant Tusks in a building where a Chinese national leaves”, he disclosed further, adding that a Chinese man was apprehended and detained, while investigation was ongoing on the seizure.
The Customs chief explained that the pangolin shell was a product of mammals, which were endangered species, saying that they were prohibited under Schedule 6 of the common External Tariffs (CET).
He said that the section emphasized those wildlife animals classified endangered species were not allowed to be exported.
Uba said that 55 sacks of pangolin measuring 2,001kg, while elephant tusks weighing 343kg were intercepted.
He said that the intercepted goods would be handed over to the Nigeria Environmental Standards and Regulatory Enforcement Agency (NESREA) for further investigation and collaboration.
Uba said that the Chinese, Kio.Soi-Ying, was found in the premises and his watchman testified to Customs that the Chinese was his employer and they lived together in the premises.
The suspect however, swiftly denied the allegation, while speaking through an interpreter, as he vehemently denied living in the house where the goods were seized.
“The goods were not found in my house. Customs arrested me in my house at No. 4 Ondo Close and brought me to their office. I just saw the goods in the Customs’ patrol vehicle,” Soi-Ying said.
The lawyer to the Chinese man, Mr. Francis Obaseki, also corroborated Soi-Ying statement, adding that the goods were actually brought from another premises.
“Customs arrested the security to that premises who brought officers to Soi-Ying’s house.
“The security man testified that he knew Soi-Ying as one of his bosses,” the lawyer explained, leaving the rest hanging, in terms of how many bosses the security man had.