14th July 2024
Crime & Investigation News

How Investigation Indicted Senior Customs Officer, Kayode Kolade, Others In Alleged Over N12 Billion Corruption Scandal

How Investigation Indicted Senior Customs Officer, Kayode Kolade, Others In Alleged Over N12 Billion Corruption Scandal

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.

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