Officers of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have rejected N50million bribe in connection with the seizure of unregistered pharmaceutical products at Tin Can Island Port (TCIP).
The Customs Area Controller, TCIP, Comptroller Olakunle Oloyede revealed this while briefing journalists in Lagos today, noting that two suspects were arrested following the seizures.
According to Oloyede, one of the suspects, Mr.Boniface Ike, claimed to be the importer of the two seized containers and sought to bribe Customs officers with $54,300 equivalent to N50million.
His words: “Mr. Boniface Ike accepted that he is the owner (Importer) of the two containers and sought to discuss privately with OC Enforcement DC GI Aliyu and Team Manager CIU AC H Abubakar. I instructed my officers to play along, the request was granted in expectation of receiving vital information from the suspect but to their bewilderment, the suspect pleaded for his freedom from detention and release of the containers while offering gratification to the tune of N50,000,000.00 equivalent to $54,330 at the current exchange rate N920. The money was collected and kept in safe custody at the Enforcement Unit to be tendered as exhibit.”
The bribe had been in connection with the importation of unregistered regulated pharmaceutical products valued at N550,265,669 were concealed in two (2) by 40ft containers with Bill of lading Nos 227578945 and 227898171, while the consignments were declared as ceiling fans and graters.
“On arrival of the vessel in Tincan Island Container Terminal (TICT), the containers MRSU 592397/0 and MRKU 553432/1 were transferred immediately to the Enforcement Station for 100% physical examination physical examination was conducted on both containers by Enforcement Officers, Customs Intelligence Operatives, Customs Police and Examination officers of the Terminal on Tuesday, 22 August 2023 at about 14:00hours and Wednesday, 23 August 2023 at about 13:00hours, respectively.”
“After arresting one of the suspects, we did a sting on the address and found the importer who claimed to be the owner of both containers. It is unfortunate that the forklift is bad and unable to drop the container for inspection. All the containers had tramadol, cough syrup, codeine, but what they used in concealing wasn’t upto one-third of the container. So, it was a case of outright concealment trying to beat the law because they declared ceiling fan and graters. This is also a threat to the health and safety of the nation,” the Customs boss said.
The first container ‘MRSU 592397/0’ was reportedly had; 5 cartons of Timaking 120 Tapentadol (Tramadol) Hydrochloride Carisoprodol capsule (each carton contains 50 rolls, each rolls contains 5 packets, each packet 200 tablets); 84 cartons cartons of Gastro Resistant Omeprazole capsule BP 200mg (each carton contains 50 packets, each packet contains 10 capsules); 876 cartons of CSMIX cough syrup containing Codeine (each bottle 100ml). Each carton contains 200 bottles; 50 cartons of Manual Grater Machine having 70 pieces per carton as means of concealment; and 1 carton of Ceiling Fan as a means of concealment.
Meanwhile, the second container ‘MRKU 553432/1’ bill of lading stated the items laden were 1,021 packages containing Electrical Goods Ceiling Fan 36 Jewel (Cooper) and Chilly Cutter (Stainless Steel Plastic) but after examination the container was found to contain: 10 cartons of Super Royal, 225 Tramadol (each carton contains 50 rolls, each roll contains 10 packets, each packet 10 tablets); 105 cartons of Omeprazole Capsule BP 200mg and 754 cartons of Barcadin with Codeine (each bottle 100ml).
Although journalists waited for more than 40 minutes for the mechanical issue which prevented the forklift from dropping the container to be addressed, the problem remained unresolved at presstime, but Comptroller Oloyede maintained that such occurence isn’t the norm at the terminal.
“This is just a technical or technological problem. It isn’t the norm. We have been holding press conferences and always display the seizures. I would suggest that we all exercise patience and see the content of the container,” Oloyede said.
The Area Controller also noted that the freight agent and importer will be arraigned, arguing that freight forwarders should be to profile their clients, adding that until the freight agent can prove in the court of law that he is innocent, he remains a suspect.