The collapse of Nigeria’s manufacturing sector in the 1980s resulted in the loss of the country’s two largest tire manufacturers, Michelin and Dunlop. In this report, PAUL OGBUOKIRI examines the failures of the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), which have seen dubious Chinese and Indian businessmen flood Nigerian markets with stuffed, inferior new tyres. The situation is so dire that every motorist in the country should thank their stars if they go on a long journey on Nigerian highways without experiencing a blowout
In 2016, then Nigerian Minister of State for Labor and Productivity James Ocholi, his son and his wife died in a traffic accident on the Kaduna-Abuja highway.
The cause of the horrific car crash, according to Francis Udoma, then sector commander of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) in Kaduna state, was the bursting of the rear tire of the SUV the minister and his family were traveling in, which was brand new, not ‘tokunbo’.
Data from the Federal Road Safety Commission and the National Bureau of Statistics show that between 2013 and 2020 at least 41,709 people died in traffic accidents in Nigeria; and according to the FRSC, more than half (50.8 percent) of these traffic accidents were caused by blown tires. Traffic accidents are considered to be one of the leading causes of death in Nigeria, especially in the 5-29 age group.
Although unfortunate, road accidents have become a normal and recurring incident in the country. In fact, hardly a day goes by without news of a traffic accident resulting in death and/or permanent disability.
In 2016, the World Economic Forum (WEF) found road traffic fatalities to be the eighth leading cause of death for all age groups and the leading cause of death for children and young adults aged 5 to 29. “Road traffic accident, along with riots and banditry, is one of the leading causes of death in Nigeria…” said Sanusi Ibrahim, FRSC sector commander in Borno state.
Danger of a stuffed, inferior tires
During the destruction of over 100 containers filled with tires in the Asese area near the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Obafemi Owode local government in Ogun state, SON General Director Mallam Farouk Salim had stated: “If the tires used or are stuffed, they are considered inferior.”
According to him, the tactics used by importers to inflate tires serve the purpose of avoiding tariffs and shipping costs for additional profit, but they overlook the quality impact of tire deformation and deterioration. He lamented that tires like these had no commercial value as their integrity had been compromised and claimed that SON would stop at nothing to ensure such substandard tires do not end up in the hands of unsuspecting consumers in the country.
Customs, son look away as compromised tires pour in country
The SON DG, Salim, was in Lagos the week before last where he met with importers, customs brokers and other stakeholders in the Nigerian port industry. His message to his audience was that the Nigerian economy would irretrievably collapse unless the flow of inferior products into Nigeria was halted.
While DG is determined to rid the country of substandard products, under the watchful eye of its staff in Lagos, stuffed substandard tires are pouring into the country, and the main importers are foreigners from China and India.
The importers of these dangerous goods have active staff in the Nigerian Customs Service and the Standard Organization of Nigeria in Lagos. Sources at the port say they enjoy “Fast Track” from Nigerian Customs, meaning their containers leave the port without going through the time-consuming inspection and arrive sealed at their warehouses across the country.
This happened when a private sector group, the Importers Association of Nigeria (IMAN), in cooperation with the Nigerian Police, shut down activities at Kamange International Limited’s Iddo warehouse in Lagos. The police team, allegedly from the Special Investigation Unit of the Armed Forces Headquarters in Abuja, entered the Kamange warehouse, owned by a Chinese man using Nigerians as a front, on April 1, 2022, in response to a petition from IMAN.
When Abule Oshun’s warehouse in Lagos was raided by Nigerian police, filled tires worth billions of naira were said to have been hidden in the sprawling facility.
Our correspondent learned that over a month before IMAN and the police took the bull by the horns, a whistle-blower had alerted SON staff in Lagos to the suspicious activity linked to the movement of large quantities of the compromised and substandard tires in the Kamange -Warehouse indicated the facility was searched.
SON has reportedly now sealed the camp, but a former National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) President, Chief Eugene Nweke, said the fear now is that there is evidence that SON employees are blindfolding Lagos Until the police and IMAN uncovered the hiding place of the Iddo warehouse to keep an eye on the inferior tires at the Kamange plant, it is feared that the Chinese importer (company) who was allegedly staying overseas at the time of this report was there his would be let off the hook and his company will continue to import the inferior tire using pseudo-names as camouflage.
The Sunday Telegraph learned that when police searched the Kamange Iddo warehouse on April 1, 2022, they found them unloading six forty-foot (6 x 40-foot) containers filled with substandard tires that were said to have recently been removed from the Port of Apapa had been released.
The container numbers are: RFCU 4068468, APHU 7014492 and FCIU 9847043, JXLU 7054652, FCIU 964779 and OOCU 7548039. The warehouse is located on an area of more than one hectare where all kinds of tires are stored and distributed to all parts of Nigeria.
Regarding the major discovery, IMAN Taskforce National Coordinator Chief Obinna Michael said the organization is registered with the sole aim of checkmating its members’ activities, including illegal importation, and working with the Nigerian Police to ensure compliance to enforce the regulations.
He said: “Some time ago we found out that there are many dubious importers in Nigeria who are importing illegal tires that do not conform to the standard. Some of them counterfeit another company’s products, others bring inflated, expired, and Tokunbo tires.
Then they will rebrand it to new brands and sell it to innocent Nigerians. “All these things cause accidents. So we did some research on who and who is in this business. We found out that Kamange is among the largest importers of filled and substandard tyres. They have camps in Ibadan, Onitsha, two in Lagos and other places.
“Then through our research we found out that they bring in the stuffed tires from the port of Apapa. We then wrote a petition to the police against their illegal import. The police then made their own investigations and obtained a search warrant. They came to Lagos from Abuja, went to the warehouse and there uncovered large amounts of jammed tires, expired tires and Tokunbo tires.
These included 4 x 40ft containers of inflated tires that were recently brought in and were still being dumped when police stormed the place. “The police made their arrests, took samples and also took a statement from the camp director.
You will be invited to Abuja on the 27th of this month and we will meet there. At IMAN, we invite the police when we see things like this, and the police will know how to liaise with other security agencies to deal with it,” Michael said. The Sunday Telegraph learned that Kamange declined the police invitation on Tuesday.
Michael revealed that Kamange is owned by a Chinese man who was said to be out of the country when police intercepted the stuffed substandard tires at the company’s warehouse in Iddo, Lagos. Meanwhile, the investigation has also revealed that in one of its July 2021 import documents for inflated tires, the company wrote the importer’s name as Ononaenyi Global Ventures with the office address at Oshitelu Street, Ikeja, Lagos State, without a specific house number.
The filled tires were declared as industrial machines with form M number MF 20210014048, BA number 21420210002400. A 2 x 40 ft container numbered MRKU 5726725 and SUDU 6917315 was declared by Customs as injection molding machine, gel ink refill production machine; while their actual contents were filled hoops.
Using the fast track channel to avoid detection
According to sources, the importers of the killer tires, in cooperation with compromised customs officials, are using the fast-track channel, which gives the importer the privilege of leaving their container without inspection…a privilege only granted to reputable importers who have proven their integrity have over time as a compliant importer. In most cases, the containers are routed to the terminals, where they could easily be handed over to the importer without being checked.
The intercepted stuffed substandard tires left the port of Apapa without examination and were delivered to the importer with seals, according to Chief Michael. However, before police uncovered the jammed tires at Kamange Iddo’s warehouse, the company had failed to respond to a media inquiry regarding the bringing in and distribution of compromised tires in Nigeria to a text message sent to its GSM number 08062914065.
Kamange International Limited has warehouses at AG Leventis Building, Iddo House, Lagos; Irede Road, Abule-Oshun, Lagos and at KM 5 Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, Nkpor Agu Close, Limca Road, Onitsha, Anambra State.