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Senior Customs Officer, Kayode Kolade, Others Enmeshed In Alleged Multi-Billion Corruption Scandal

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An intense lobbying is ongoing at the highest hierarchy of the Nigerian government as powerful government officials attempt to cover up a multi-billion naira corruption scandal involving senior officials of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), PREMIUM TIMES has gathered.

At least 40 NCS personnel, most of them in the service’s highest hierarchy, have been indicted in a robust EFCC investigation into the proceeds of bribes paid to customs officials by smugglers importing and exporting contraband goods through the Nigerian borders.

At least seven of these officials were detained by the EFCC for days late last year – with some of them spending the festive period in detention – when proceeds of bribes allegedly from smugglers totalling over N12 billion were traced to them, PREMIUM TIMES can report.

But for unknown reasons, all seven of them were not prosecuted and have been allowed back to their duty posts as if nothing happened.

Both the NCS and the EFCC have yet to furnish this newspaper with answers despite multiple requests.

Betraying fatherland

As the Nigerian government grapples with revenue challenges, customs officials rake in billions for themselves while sabotaging the government’s policies they were meant to protect.

While the custom’s complicity in the movement of contraband items across Nigerian borders are well documented – like in a recent investigation by the Foundation for Investigative Journalism – the identification and prosecution of officials involved is a rarity.

But in this EFCC investigation, at least seven high-ranking officials of the NCS were grilled by the anti-graft agency, and parts of the bribes they received confiscated.

Customs insiders and other sources familiar with the matter told this newspaper that the officers were found to own properties and businesses way above what their earnings as customs officers could cater for.

This newspaper learnt that the EFCC’s investigation also involves at least 33 other officers of the service.

According to a source, some of these officials amassed the largest tranche of these bribes from smugglers last year after the directive to close the Nigeria-Niger border by the Nigerian government as part of ECOWAS sanctions against the military junta that deposed Nigerien President, Mohamed Bazoum.

Although ECOWAS has now lifted the sanction, there were reports that goods were still smuggled through the borders with Nigeria despite the initial border closure.

However, this EFCC operation, as PREMIUM TIMES found, has revealed some of the customs officials accepting bribes from smugglers to allow for the movement of goods through the borders.

“The smugglers pay bribes directly or through agents designated accounts of the NCS officials,” the source said, adding that most of the officers detained operate in Zone B, which operates in more than half the borders that Nigeria shares with Niger Republic in Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, and Jigawa states.

The customs has four zonal headquarters across the country. Zone A in Lagos covers the entire South-west geopolitical zone. Zone B in Kaduna covers the North-west as well as Niger, Kogi, Kwara and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Zone C in Port Harcourt, covers the South-east and south-south. Zone D covers the North-east states of Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa States.

Six of the seven identified officers worked in Zone B while one officer, to whom more than 80 per cent of the N12 billion was traced to, works in Zone C, Port Harcourt.

Identified Officers

One of the arrested officers, the NCS’ Area Controller Zone B Kaduna, Ibrahim Jalo, was found with $31,200 and N500,000 in cash when arrested, the source noted.

Mr Jalo only assumed duty as the Area Controller Zone B in January last year, where he was said to have quickly made 130 record seizures within eight weeks of assuming the position.

But the EFCC traced suspected proceeds of bribes from smugglers totalling N1.1 billion to him.

Our sources revealed that the customs officer promptly refunded N250 million, with a promise to refund the balance.

The EFCC also traced N126 million to Mr Jalo’s personal assistant, Umar Tafarki. He has also refunded N12 million.

Another officer involved in this saga is Kayode Kolade, the Comptroller Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone C, Port Harcourt. The anti-graft agency traced N9.5 billion, suspected to be bribes from smugglers, to him, all of which he was said to have received personally and through proxies between 2015 and 2023.

PREMIUM TIMES learnt that the EFCC detained Mr Kolade for three days in December. He spent Christmas Day in detention. He has refunded N50 million and committed to refund N800 million within a short period.

Another indicted officer, Nurudeen Musa, is the Comptroller of Enforcement, Kaduna Zone. The EFCC traced N950 million to him. The anti-graft agency has recovered N583 million from him after he spent days in detention. He has also promised to refund the rest.

The EFCC’s investigation found that Mr Musa, who previously served as Area Comptroller, Katsina Area command, was extraordinarily wealthy and owned lots of assets including two filling stations and large trucks, all of which investigators suspect were acquired with illicit funds.

Meanwhile, Hamisu Ibrahim, the officer in charge of Operation FOU Zone B, Kaduna, was suspected to have garnered N120 million in bribes from smugglers between 2019 and 2023. As of January, he has refunded N13 million and promised to refund the rest.

Meanwhile, Madugu Saleh and Mohammed Rabiu were suspected to have received N85 million and 84 million respectively from smugglers.

Mr Saleh has refunded N13.5 million and promised to refund the rest.

Mr Rabiu, the officer in charge of patrol on the Agangaro/Jibia Road, refunded N15 million to the anti-graft agency.

Reluctance to Prosecute?

The EFCC investigation, the arrests and refunds were made between November last year and January, PREMIUM TIMES gathered.

But despite this huge indictment against them, these officers have gone back to their duty posts without prosecution by the EFCC or reprimand from the NCS.

Last month, Mr Kolade, the Comptroller, FOU Zone C, one of the officers who returned parts of the proceeds of bribes he allegedly got from smugglers, decorated some newly promoted officers in the zone.

Efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to get the official reactions of the NCS were unsuccessful. For days. The spokesperson of the NCS, Aliyu Maiwada, did not respond to multiple telephone calls placed to his telephone line.

He also did not respond to a detailed text message seeking comments as to why these officers were not punished and why they were allowed back their duty posts, even though he received and read the messages.

The EFCC spokesperson, Dele Oyewale, has also not responded to our message.

Mr Oyewale asked for details of the individuals for him to track the case. The details were sent to him and he acknowledged receiving them.

“Please give me some time to get back to you,” he wrote in a text last Wednesday.

However, as of the time of filing this report, he has yet to get back to our reporter despite a reminder.

Culled from PREMIUM TIMES.

 

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Rivers: Tensions Grow As Wike, Fubara’s Supporters Clash, Baby Hurt

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A baby was reportedly tear-gassed and became unconscious on Wednesday as supporters of the Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, clashed with the loyalists of ex-governor Nyesom Wike in the Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state.

It was gathered that the clash happened during a government medical outreach in the Eliozu community, Obio/Akpor LGA.

Eyewitnesses told our correspondent that trouble started when officials of the state Ministry of Health were carrying out a medical outreach for women at the Eliozu Health Centre.

It was gathered that no sooner had the programme started than some supporters allegedly loyal to the factional Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Martin Amaewhule, arrived at the venue to find out the reason for the gathering.

The venue is said to be near the residence of Amaewhule, who is the leader of the 27 lawmakers loyal to Wike.

But supporters of the Caretaker Committee Chairman of Obio/Akpor LGA, Chijioke Ihunwo, loyal to Fubara, who were at the venue allegedly stopped them from accessing the venue, leading to a heated argument and subsequent clash.

Following the fisticuffs, stones were pelted from several directions, as the medical outreach was disrupted abruptly.

A few minutes later, a team of anti-riot policemen arrived at the scene, firing teargas to disperse the opposing groups and quell the situation from getting out of hand.

It was gathered that a child was tear-gassed during the mayhem and became unconscious.

The situation led to the relocation of the medical outreach to a state-owned medical facility at the Waterlines axis of Port Harcourt where the programme was launched.

Reacting to the incident, the Obio/Akpor CTC Chairman, Chijioke Ihunwo, accused Amaewhule, of leading policemen to disrupt the outreach.

Ihunwo stated, “This morning there was an incident at the Eliozu Health Centre where the former Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Martin Amaewhule, led some security men to disrupt a programme by the Ministry of Health.

“A few minutes later, some policemen came and started beating up our women, shooting tear gas at pregnant women who were at the Health Centre.

“We want to say that Obio/Akpor Local Government Area will not be under siege. We want to call on the President, Bola Tinubu that the Inspector General of Police and the Minister of the FCT are tarnishing the image of your government.

“We are calling on you to rein them in so that Rivers State can have peace. Let the FCT Minister concentrate on his job in Abuja and leave our dear governor alone.”

When contacted, the spokesperson for the state police command, Grace Iringe-Koko, confirmed the incident.

Iringe-Koko, in a short message to our correspondent, said the police responded to a distress call over the scenario, adding that the investigation was ongoing.

She stated, “A distress call was received from the health centre in the Eliozu community today, 24th July 2024, where supporters of two separate political factions were engaged in a fight.

“The police responded by sending operatives to the scene to restore law and order.

“The police deployed anti-riot tactics, including the use of canisters, to disperse the crowds. An investigation into the matter has been initiated.”

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Protest: Nnamdi Kanu, Diaspora Voting Make List As Organizers Unveil 15 Demands

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Organizers of the planned nationwide protest, scheduled for August 1 to August 10, have unveiled their key demands from President Bola Tinubu’s government.

The nation’s economic situation has propelled citizens, particularly the youths, to plan a mass protest nationwide.

Despite efforts by the government to quell the move, the youths are insisting on embarking on the protest in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja.

Former presidential candidate of the African Action Congress, AAC, Omoyele Sowore, who is one of the organizers of the movement, forwarded the demands to our correspondent on Wednesday.

The looming protest titled, “Days of Rage”, “EndBadGovernance” is aimed at drawing the attention of the Federal Government to the economic situation of the country.

Among other things, the intending protesters want the FG to return the fuel subsidy, address issues in the power sector, release the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu from the custody of the Department of State Services, DSS, and allow for diaspora voting during general elections

According to Sowore, Nigerians are asking the FG to “Scrap the 1999 constitution and replace it with a people-made Constitution for the Federal Republic of Nigeria through a sovereign National Conference followed by a National Referendum.

“Toss the Senate arm of the Nigerian legislative system. Keep the House of Representatives and make lawmaking a part-time endeavour.

“Pay Nigerian workers a minimum wage of nothing less than N250,000 monthly.

“Invest heavily in education and give Nigerian students grants not loans. Aggressively pursue free and compulsory education for children across Nigeria.

“Release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally and demilitarize the South East. All ENDSARS and political detainees must also be released and compensated.

“Rationalize public owned enterprises sold to government officials and cronies.

“Reinstate a corruption-free subsidy regime to reduce hunger, starvation and multidimensional poverty.

“Probe past and present Nigerian leaders, who have looted the treasury, recover their loot and deposit it in a special account to fund education, healthcare and infrastructure.

They are also demanding the “Restructuring of Nigeria to accommodate Nigeria’s diversity, resources control, decentralization and regional development.

“End banditry, terrorism and violent crimes. Reform security agencies to stop continuous human rights violations.

“Establishment of a special energy immediately to drive massive corruption-free power sector development.

“Immediate reconstitution of the electoral body, INEC to remove corrupt individuals and partisan hacks appointed to manipulate elections.

“Massive investment in public works and industrialization will help employ Nigeria’s teaming youths.

“Massive shake-ups in the Nigerian judiciary to remove cabals of corrupt generations of judges and judicial officers that continue denying citizens access to real justice.

“Diaspora voting”.

Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu on Tuesday appealed to Nigerians to shelve the planned protest, urging youths to keep faith and believe in the ability of his administration to transform Nigeria.

 

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Stop Demarketing Dangote Refinery, Indigenous Companies – MAN Cautions FG

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The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) has cautioned the Federal Government from demarketing local industries.

The Association also called for caution from major actors, government agencies, and regulators in the oil and gas sector of the economy regarding the Federal Government-Dangote Refinery saga.

MAN Director General, Segun Ajayi-Kadir, said government agencies that provide regulatory oversight functions should promote an enabling business environment for local investments to thrive.

He said no regulatory agency should cast a shadow over a homegrown investment like the Dangote Refinery.

According to him, the allegations of poor quality, and monopolistic tendencies levelled against Dangote Refinery by the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA) were unsubstantiated.

Ajayi-Kadir stressed that local investors in Nigeria, particularly the Dangote Industries Limited (DIL) play a vital role in driving economic growth, paying taxes, creating jobs and fostering development within the country. As such, these investors must be protected and given the necessary support to thrive in this business environment.

He said a business colossus like Alhaji Aliko Dangote, with investments in diverse sectors of the economy and across the Continent of Africa, should be accorded all needed support to grow and invest in more sectors and positively impact the well-being of the people.

 

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