Operatives of the Federal Operating Unit (FOU) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) stormed the warehouses of the Nigerian Aviation Handling Company (NAHCO) Plc and the Skyway Aviation Handling Company Ltd (SAHCOL) on Wednesday to confiscate donkey skins stolen from East Africa.
The two export warehouses have remained locked since Monday following a tip-off that some of the missing donkey skins were transported to the warehouses for onward shipment to China by two Chinese businessmen.
A source close to NAHCO told our correspondent that FOU agents stormed the two warehouses as early as 7am. It was however not certain if they found anything incriminating, but we learned that the officials are likely to return to the companies today.
The Chinese businessmen had brought the items into Nigeria from Kenya, but needing some Nigerian freight forwarders to help them in shipping the items to their country, decided to use Customs agents at the cargo section of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, where both NAHCO and SAHCOL operate.
As of the time of filing this report, the two export warehouses remained locked, but the import warehouses were open.
Our source said, “The FOU officials came as early as 7amtoday (yesterday) to continue their search of the ground handling companies. They really ransacked the two warehouses, but we don’t know if they found anything incriminating or whatever they are looking for in any of the two warehouses.”
The Kenyan government has consistently complained about the stealing of its treasures by foreign nationals.
When contacted, the spokesman for SAHCOL, Basil Agboarumi, confirmed that the FOU officials again visited the company, but expressed optimism that the warehouse would be reopened “very soon”.
He explained that the FOU had come again to sample some items at the warehouse, noting that the management was cooperating with the officials.
“We don’t know their findings yet,” he said. “They requested for some information, which we obliged them, but they said they would still be back for more information. You know the warehouse is big and they will have to take their time.”
Customs investigations had revealed that the Chinese were using the seaports and airports to illegally carry Kenyan treasures to their country.
It would be recalled that in June, Customs arrested two Chinese nationals when they attempted to smuggle 678 pieces of elephant tusks and other prohibited items out of Nigeria through SAHCOL. The other prohibited items seized from the suspected smugglers included eight sacks of pangolins weighing 381 kilograms.
The Customs Area Comptroller, MMIA Command, Frank Allannah, said at the time, “Eagled-eyed Customs officials at the Export Shed of the MMIA intercepted the prohibited items while they were being taken out of the country by the Chinese who claimed ownership of the items.”
He added that upon physical examination of prohibited items, the smugglers were arrested.
The suspects’ action was said to have contravened Schedule 6 of the Nigerian Exports Prohibition List, which prescribes as illegal any attempt to export wild animals and endangered species.
Allannah said the suspects would remain in custody pending further investigation, adding that the impounded items would be handed over to the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency.