Customs Intercept ₦‎550 Million Tramadol, Rejects $54K Bribe From Importer

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) announced on Monday that it arrested Nigerian importer Boniface Ike for paying bribes totaling $54,330 (N50m) to Tin-Can Island Command officers in exchange for their assistance in seizing two 40-foot containers full of dangerous and illegal drugs from India.

The unregistered pharmaceutical products that were seized at the Lagos Port were valued N550 million, according to Compt. Adekunle Oloyede, Customs Area Controller, Tin-Can Island Port, who was speaking at a news conference in Lagos.

He said that the importer had disguised deadly illegal substances as electrical appliances because the products lacked the necessary import permits and certificates.

The missing documents are to ascertain the safety of the products for consumption by Nigerians.

Compt Oloyede said, “The Tin-Can Island Command received a timely intelligence from the Command Customs Intelligence Unit (CIU), on the suspected importation of illicit dangerous drugs (unregistered regulated pharmaceutical products) concealed in 2 by 40ft containers with Bill of Landing Nos 227578945 and 227898171. 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 per cent physical examination and further investigation.

“The 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. The following were discovered: Container No MRSU 592397/0: The details on the Bill of Lading with No 227578945 stated the items laden were 1,016 packages containing Electrical Goods Ceiling Fan 36 Jewel (Cooper) and Chilly Cutters (Stainless Steel Plastic) but after examination, the container was found to contain 5 cartons of Timaking 120 Tapentadol (Tramadol) Hydrochloride Carisoprodol capsule. Each carton contains 50 rolls, each roll contains 5 packets, each packet 200 tablets.”

“The second containers, with no MRKU 553432/1; the details on Bill of Landing with number 227898171 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.

“Two suspects have been arrested and are presently at the custody of the Enforcement Unit in accordance with the investigation process of the Service. One of the suspects in custody, 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 million 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.”

Compt. Oloyede, however, stated that persistent fraudulent nature of importers and agents has driven the Service to be more innovative in putting methods and measures to combat smuggling activities, block revenue leakage and ensure safety of Nigerians.

“The Nigeria Customs Service will not be a part of nefarious acts which will jeopardize the safety and lives of the citizens of our dear country, Nigeria, any fraudulent importer or agent who tries to perpetrate such acts will be prosecuted accordingly.

“The suspects, containers and the exhibit will be handed over to the Agencies that are in charge of regulation of such importation as soon as the Service directs and the Service may decide to prosecute according to the Service Act, Nigeria Customs Service Act (2023),” he added.