Officials of the Apapa Area Command, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) turned down a bribe of N150 million offered by an unscrupulous importer to clear 40 containers of the banned hard drug tramadol illegally imported into the country through the Lagos Port Complex, Apapa.
Customs Comptroller-General, Hammed Ali, disclosed this on Thursday while addressing journalists the seizure of the containers ad two aircraft in Lagos.
Ali said the containers of tramadol, which were intercepted at the Apapa port by operatives of the command, were imported into the country from India.
The seized aircraft include a helicopter with registration number SN-BLI and a Cesena 182A.
He said the helicopter was intended for export but was falsely documented by the owner as 388 bags of cashew nuts, while the Cesena 182A, imported from the United States of America and declared through SGD NO. C130308 was seized because of the failure of the owners to present End User Certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) and an approval from the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA). This, according to him is in contravention of Section 46 of CEMA, Cap C45, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004.
Ali expressed concern over the importation of tramadol and other illicit items into the country, which he said pose great risks to the security and health of the nation.
He said, “We are all aware of the dangers that the deliberate non-compliance to import and export procedures pose to our nation as importers bring in all manner of items which put the security and health of the nation at great risk. Terrorists, kidnappers and other criminal elements get hold of these uncustoms goods such as controlled drugs to perpetrate their heinous activities.
“It is worrisome to note that there are Nigerians who are ready to make money at the expense of human lives by bringing in such quantity of drugs that have grave consequences on health and national security.
“The Service is making concerted efforts to ensure that not only maximum revenue is collected, but also to safeguard the security and well-being of the citizenry,” he said.
The Customs boss explained that importers of the tramadol offered bribes to the tune of N150 million to officers to effect the release of just one container with promises of even bigger sums to follow in the event that their first attempt succeeds, but the officers played along and eventually arrested three suspects with the money.
He said, “While the seizures of dangerous drugs and aircrafts demonstrate NCS crucial contributions to national economic and security well-being, the rejection of N150 million bribe presents a picture of a reformed NCS whose operatives are increasingly putting national interest above selves.”
Ali commended the Director-General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) whose collaboration with Customs led to the seizures of the erring containers.
He investigation was ongoing to bring all those connected with the illicit importation to justice.