By Stephen Ubanna
Given the vacancies that had been created in the Nigerian Customs Management Team , with the retirement of some Management Team members based on age and mandatory 35 years in the service, Hameed Ali , a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller Genera General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, was said to have considered it necessary to fill the vacuums to further strengthen the Management Team .
He was said to have sought the approval of Hajia Zainab Ahmed ,the minister of Finance, Budget and National Panning and Chairman , NCS Board, who gave him the nod to fill the vacuums, pending when the board would meet to confirm their e appointment.
The Value News learnt that he had penciled down two Assistant Comptroller Generals to be elevated to the rank of acting Deputy Comptroller Generals, DCG, and five Comptrollers to the enviable rank of Assistant Comptroller Generals, ACG, of Customs.
The two Assistant Comptroller Generals that were said to have been elevated to the DCG, rank, were Abdullahi Babani and Mohammed Boyi. Babani , was appointed as the Deputy Comptroller in-charge of the service Human Resources Development, HRD, while Boyi, was appointed the Head , NCS, TRADC.
The five Comptrollers, who wer eelevated ACGs , though in acting Capacity were Saidu Galadima, who was put in-charge of the service Information, Communication, and Technology,ICT and Modernisation, SM. Modibbo , For Zone B, Customs Headquarters, Hamza Gummi, Trade & Tariff,, Usman Dankigari, Doctrine and Dvelopment and Muhammed Uba Garba, a former Zonal Coordinator, Border drill sector 3, who was appointed ACG, Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation, E.I/I .Some officers who spoke to The Value News had described the new appoints in to the Management as skewed in favour of the north.
But one appoint which had continued to draw applaud from the Ali, the Comptroller General was the appointment of Muhammed, as the ACG, EII, described in Customs circles as a well-deserved because of his sterling performance at the Federal Operations Unit , FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state, Zone A, Ikeja , Lagos, Seme Command and Border Drills sector 3. At all the Commands, he was said to have headed, he was said to have disintinguished himself as an Enforcement guru, who knows the job.
Take for instance, at the FOUC, Zone A, he was said to have exposed the rot at the Lagos seaports, by making massive seizures of exotic vehicles along the Lagos – Benin City road and other major roads in the south east and south- south geo-political regions which were aid to have been grossly undervalued
. Some of the intercepted Executive vehicles were said to have attracted additional duty payment of about N10 million each after the valuation officers had revalued it by getting the actual ex-factory price. The Command was said to have made millions from such exotic vehicles.
Between 2015 and 2017, he was said to have made life uncomfortable for the fraudulent importers with their agents and Foreign rice smugglers within its areas of Jurisdiction in the south east.
His arrow head in the anti-smuggling operations at the FOU, Zone C, Riks Lura, was said to have never had a moment of rest with his Team , as they went after the fraudulent importers with their agents and the Foreign rice smugglers making incredible seizures of banned Pharmarceutical drugs like Codeine and other fake drugs.
Many believe that it was at FOU, Zone A, that his fame as a tough Enforcement Area Comptroller became manifest. Using the same officers he had tutored in the anti-smuggling war he was able to make appreciable impact in the anti-smuggling war in the south west geo-political region.
The seizure of 55 sacks of Pangolin shell, weighing about 200Kg worth about N408.32 million in 2018 speaks volume. The Riks led Patrol Team were said to have also boosted the anti-smuggling efforts of the Command with the seizure of 18 pieces of Elephant Tusks worth about N85.16 million. The Items were said to have been evacuated in a residential building at the Opebi axis of Ikeja occupied by Chinese.
The seized Elephant Tusks were said to have been prepared for export by the Chinese buyers until the information leaked out. The FOU, Zone A, which was under the close watch of Muhammed, now an ACG, EII, was said to have also seized Pangolin scales worth about N2.01 billion based on credible Intelligence. The seizure of the Pangoline Shells, Scales and Elephant Tusks , was said to have attracted Jubrin, a one time minister of state, ministry of Environment to the Command in 2018.
Perhaps, what may have raised the profile of the Customs ACG, when he was a Comptroller at FOU, Zone A, was the frequent interception of Executive vehicles including bullet proof. Some of the intercepted Executive Vehicles which fell into the waiting hands of the Muhammed’s boys were said to have been smuggled into the country or released from the Lagos ports of Tin Can Island and PTML, without appropriate duty payment. The Market value of one of the intercepted and detained vehicles, G .agon was put at about N100 million.
Foreign par boiled rice smugglers in the south west , according to insider sources , never had a breathing space during the Customs Comptroller tenure tenure at FOU, Zone A. The Ikeja Government warehouse, are always filled up to the brim , with intercepted thousands bags of ‘’50’’ Foreign par boiled rice. With the support of the Cthen FOU, Zine A, Comptroller, now ACG, Riks and his Team members were said to have laid an ambush in a warehouse at Sango Ottah, were thousands of smuggled Foreign par boiled rice were stored were evacuated. With Credible Intelligence, the Team were also said to have raided a whare House at Abeokuta, Capaital of Ogun state, and evacuated about 4,000 bags of’’50’’ each to the Ikeja Government Whare House.
The FOU, Zone A , which was under the close watch of the then Customs Comptroller, was said to have extended its anti-smuggling to the Oyo axis where in one operations at Ogbomosho, it was said to have made some trucks seizure of rice amidst hostility of the people. Riks , who was said to have led the operations may have prepared for it as he refused to be frustrated by the hoodlums who were armed with dangerous weapons and mounted road blocks and not ready to leav the scenee. But Riks and his boys , were said to have succeeded in dispersing the angry youths to find their way to the Command premises with the seized bags of rice.
This is one operation in the Command that was said to have rattled the then Customs Comptroller of the FOU, Zone A, as he was shuttling between his office and the road to know when the officers that went for the operation would return. His mind may have come to rest when he received a call from, Riks, the Team Leader not to worry that the situation is under control. He was said to have left the office at about 11 pm, given the assurance from the Team.
His redeployment to Seme Command may have brought Tears to the fraudulent importers with their Agents and their Customs Collaborators. Attempts by the Agents, particular, to penetrate him were said to have proved him proved abortive as he insists that the right thing must be done.
The Cross –border importers with their Agents were getting frustrated until the government closed the border with the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Benin Republic.
The Border closure was said to have trapped hundreds of trucks ladden goods at both sides of the Seme, a border Community between Nigeria and Benin. While at Seme, Muhammed was said to have beamed his search light at the filling stations within the Border axisis , that it became difficult for the dealers to engage in Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, Petrol bunkering and smuggling through the Creeks. He was said to have closed down scores of filling stations along the Owode axisis for contravening the government fiscal policy.
The Customs Comptroller and his boys were also said to have equally made life very miserable for the Foreign rice and vehicle smugglers at the Border Area. It was not surprising why the Government Ware House at the Seme Border Community are always filled up with Contraband including rice as intercepted and detained vehicles litter the premises.
The Customs Comptroller general may have known that he needed a tough Comptroller , with experience in anti-smuggling operations, to be deployed to the Border Drills sector 3, Ilorin, Kwara state, overseeing the Border states of Kwara, Niger, Kogi and Benue, when , the position became vacant following the removal of the Coordinator, ACG Dahiru, now dismissed from the Service.
Muhammed , appearance in the Ilorin , the operational base of the Border Drill sector 3, may have sent a signal to the petrol and Foreign rice smugglers in the region that it was no longer going to be business as usual.
Between May and June, 2020, alone, for instance, the Border Drilsl sector 3 which was under the close watch of Muhammed , was said to have recorded massive seizures of Contraband, with a Duty Paid Value, DPV, of about N 1 billion
. The Contraband that were said to have been intercepted by the Joint Border Drilsl included 17,216 bags of 50 Kg each , bags of rice, 294 kegs of vegetable oil, 944 drums of Automotive Oil, popular, diesel, 2,321 Jerrycans of petrol,350 bundles of textile materials, 28 bags of Foreign Fertilizer, 66 cartons of Foreign beer, 50 units of vehicles, 75 motorcycles, and 15 sacks of used shoes.
The thentough acting Coordinator of the Joint Border Drillssector 3, were said to have made 64 arrests of suspects, an indication that he was working in tandem with the vision of Ali, the Customs Comptroller General ‘’to curb illicit trade in all its ramifications’’ in the country.
Giving his warnings to smugglers sabotaging the eeconomy as Area Comptroller and acting Border Drills Coordinator, sector 3, many believe that the smugglers would suffer more loses, as he will leave no stone unturned as ACG EII, in ensuring that the anti-smuggling Commands and ad-hoc Teams, make more seizures of Contraband across the country and arresting the smugglers who would be made to face the wrath of the Law.
Note that Muhammed has a believe that the local industries and the entire economy must be protected from the economic saboteurs. It is not surprising why he has not given a breather to the Fraudulent importers with their agents and smugglers operating within the Jurisdiction in all the Command he had headed in the last five years as Area Comptroller in the Border Drill sector 3.