By Stephen Ubanna
This is not the best of times for Customs Releasing officers and other officers stationed at the exit gatesat the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin can Island, Port multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML and Kirikiri Lighter Terminal ,KLT, phase 1&2 to monitor the movement of goods and srvices.
This is because of the reports making the rounds that the no nonsense Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator, Coordinator of the Comptroller General of Customs , CGC, Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office, who may have exposed the rot at the ports with the seizure of 13 Containerised cargoes within three weeks of operations inside the port due to wrong Classification, false declaration and under-payment has taken another bold initiative to stop the mess.
Shuaibu , was said to have begun a sensitisation Campaign on the need for the releasing and the exit gate officers to ensure that the right thing is done with proper scrutiny of containers without bending the rules before allowing the cargo exit the port.
He was said to have addressed the Assistant Comptrollers, who are the releasing officers including his own men at AP Moller, one of the private terminals at Apapa port, described as the largest Container Terminal in the West African sub-region on Tuesday, November 24, 2020. The Customs Deputy Comptroller may have sent a signal to the Customs Releasing officers at the AP Moller, that it is no longer going to be business as usual. The CGC Strike Force, Lagos Coordinator, may have been at the AP Moller, Container Terminal, at a time Mohammed Abba-Kura, the Apapa Command Comptroller, is hard on non- Compliant importers with their agents.
At a time the CGC , Lagos Zonal Coordinator had intervened on port operations, Aliko Dangote, President Dangote Industries, who has functional factories inside the Apap port and also a big-time importer was said to have made out time to be with the Area Comptroller over undisclosed reason on uesday, November 24, 2020.
The presence of the multi-billionaire business mogul at the Apapa customs Comptroller’s office may have forced other visitors who were said to have waited endlessly without any hope of seeing him to leave without achieving their purpose of being at the port.
As at Wednesday, November 25, 2020, the situation was not different as the Apapa Customs Comptroller was said to have locked the office from inside to prevent his Personal Assistant , who is a Deputy Superintendent Of Customs or his Orderly from bringing in visitors Form to him, to avoid distraction. Even some senior officers who were said to have made attempts to see him on official matters were disappointed.
Only recently, the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, under the close watch of Usman Yahaya, Operations and Lagos Roving Team, Headed by Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller, were said to have intercepted some Containers released from the APM terminal allegedly belonging the business mogul. A Demand Notice, DN, of about N200 million was said to have been issued to him, which he may not have found funny. The Yahaya boys may have intercepted the business mogul Containers over alleged infraction of the government Fiscal policy, which may not have been his fault but of the agent who cleared the Consignment and the Customs Collaborators at the port. Efforts to speak to Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, customs Comptroller through phone calls and visits did not materialise.
There are reports making the rounds that Shuaibu, the CGC Strike Force, Lagos Coordinator had extended his sensitization Campaign on the need for the right thing to be done at the ports to the releasing officers on the Vehicle Seat of the, of PTML, under the close watch of Festus Okun.
Recall that the Team in the recent weeks had intercepted vehicles duly released from the Lagos ports Vehicle Seats. The CGC Strike Force Coordinator, Lagos Zone A, may have sent a message to all the officers on the Vehicle Seats at the ports to sit up .
Mahmood Ibrahim, a Deputy Comptroller who was in-charge of the Tin can Compliant Unit, which is directly Supervised by Abdullahi Musa, popular, MBA, the Area Comptroller, and now redeployed to Port Harcourt Area 2, Onne, Port , exit gate, which serves two Commands, was said to have started doing exatly what was did as Head of the Compliant Unit of the Tina Can Island port by ensuring that no Containerised cargo or any other merchandise leaves the port without the importer with agent paying the appropriate duties.
While the CC Strike Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office , Coordinator and his Operational personnel are doing everything within their Capacity to sanitise to the Lagos ports, with the support of Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, the dare- devil smugglers who are still living in the era of of the END SARS protest have refused a to turn a new leaf In the south west states of Oyo and Ogun. The unrepentant smugglers were said to have turned the notorious border Communities in the two south west states uncomfortable for the Customs and other security agencies personnel doing their legitimate dutes.
. This is evident going by the killing on Friday, November 20, 2020, of one Isaiah Peter,an Army Lieutenant at Igbo-Ora border Community in Oyo state. The Army officer was said to have been killed in a clash between a Patrol Team of the FOU, Zone A, and the smugglers in the Igbo-Ora Community. The aggrieved smugglers were said to have attacked the FOU, Zone Out Station office in the border Community who were bent on bringing Contraband from Benin Republic into the country to force them to run. The FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team, who had the support of the soldiers were not ready to take it which may have resulted in an exchange of fire.
The smugglers were said to have extended the attack to the Operation Swift Response , popular, Border Drill out station in in the town for coming to support the Yahaya boys t to forestall their plan of smuggling Foreign rice into the country. Three border Drills officers were said to have been ratcheted but rushed to Hospital Colleagues for Treatment.
Until Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, Acting Comptroller , recalled Jack, an Assistant Comptroller, and the Head of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team, to the office, he had on different occasions sent him out on Special assignments to the notorious smuggler’s routes in Oyo and Ogun states, where the Team had intercepted some fairly used vehicles and hundreds of 50Kg bags of Foreign par boiled rice.
It is on record that within the short period that the fierce looking Assistant Comptroller mbilised his men to go out on Operations the Oyo and Ogun states, many of the smugglers, who were getting daily information on the movement of the Command Patrol and Surveillance Teams were said to have been forced underground.
Acting Comptroller, Yahaya , may have to reconsider giving the Customs Assistant Comptroller, who have been involved in several tough anti-smuggling operations in the Command in the past to move his boys to these two notorious smugglers sate to bring the situation under control.
Recall that on May 18, 2020, to be precise, Customs Patrol Team officers who were out on operation at the Ilashe border Community in Ipokia Local government Area of Ogun state between Nigeria and Benin, to forestall the smugglers operating in the area, from carrying out their smuggling activities were attacked .The anti-smuggling officers , from the Idiroko Command who, were said to have intercepted thirty-five 50Kg bags of the Asian country of Thailand par boiled rice carried in convoy of motocyclists , popular, Okada did not find it funny.
But in the smugglers had mobilised in their large number, armed with dangerous weapons including charm to launch a vicious attack on the officers carrying out their legitimate duties. One Chidi Johnson, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs was said to have been brutally matcheted in the Counter-attack.
There is no gain saying the fact that most of the smugglers operating at the Seme Jurisdiction , who had made life uncomfortable for the security agencies personnel in the area in the recent time may have relocated to Oyo and Ogun sates, because of the tight security mounted at the Seme/Krake joint Border and its environs by Bello Muhammed Jibo, the Command Area Comptroller over the last two months
. The heat imay have become much on the smugglers that they could no longer bear it but to relocate to border Communities to the two south west states of Oyo and Ogun that are not as exposed as the Seme /Krake Joint border and its environs in Lagos state. In seven weeks alone, the Jibo led Seme Command, had intercepted hundreds of 50 Kg bags of Foreign parboiled rice, tens of units of fairly used Vehicles and other Merchandise vehicles and other Merchandise goods.
The continuous attack on Customs Patrol Team personnel, Particular, the FOU, Zone A, officers, may have brought all the security agencies personnel in Oyo and Ogun states, to works as a Team to curtail the activities of the unrepentant smugglers.
Given the wrong message that had been sent to him about the activities of the smugglers operating in I diroko axisi and Ogun state in general, Peter Chado Kolo, The newly redeployed Comptroller, to Ogun 1, Idiroko Command, was said to have warned the smugglers ’’to desist from such nefarious activities as tough times awaits them,’’.
He was said to have assured the residents of the border Communities of his maximum Cooperation for Legitimate trade. Michael Agara, the former Area Comptroller, who was said to have been having sleepless nights because of the continuous on his men by smugglers may have seen his redeployment as a source of relief.
He may have gone but Kolo his successor,, has sent a signal to the smugglers that there is nothing to celebrate as he is still ‘’ maintaining the administrative style and standard of anti-smuggling operations left behind by Comptroller Agbara , his predessor. This may have informed why he has solicited the Cooperation and support of the other security agencies personnel during his tenure.
H Many believe that he may not have much to worry as Dera Nnadi, a Deputy Comptroller, overseeing the Command Enforcement Unit and who has a good working relationship with the other security agencies personnel is still very much on ground to offer his expert advice to him on the way forward to deal with the ssmugglers. Another Comptroller, who may have seen his redeployment to the Customs Headquarters , to be incharge of Enforcement of the Service Enforcement , Investigation and Inspection Unit , was Kayode Olusemier, popular Kay, described in Customs circles as a ‘’fulfilled man’’.
Described asa workaholic at Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state, overseeing the anti-smuggling operations in the south east states of Anambara, Enugu, Eboyi, Abia, Imo and the south south-south states of Edo, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Cross River , Bayelsa and Rivers state, as he gave the smugglers , who had escaped the eagle eyes of the of the anti-smuggling officers in the south west and the ones operating in the Bakasi axis , between Nigeria and the Central African country of Cameroon and those operating the Creeks tough time.
He may have witnessed a drop in the Command anti-smuggling operations with the appointment of Shuaibu, who was in-charge of Operations in the Command as the Coordinator of CGC Strike Force Team A, last October. This may have informed why Yususf Lawal, the newly appointed Comptroller of the Command was said to have reached out to him to seek advice on how to go a bout the anti-smuggling war in the Zone with failing.
Going by the strategy which he had adopted as the Head of the Command Operations which was approved by Olusemiere, the then Area Comptroller, there are indications, that the new FOU, Zone C, Area Comptroller may withdraw all the Assistant Comptrollers at the Checkpoints to the office to pave way for only the Chief Superintendents of Customs, who could easily be controlled and shouted at to go out and make seizures and they would do it without grumbling.
An insider told The Magazine, that Lawal, the FOU, Zone C Comptroller, may shock the Assistant Comptrollers in his new roster , as they may with drawn to the Owerri and the Out station in Benin City office. This may be bad news for the Assistant Comptrollers who are not used to working on files but to pursuing smugglers and take advantage of their position to stop truck laden Containers on the road released from the ports to scrutinize their import documents to ensure that the right thing was done.
In a related development, the House Committee on Customs as part of their Constitutional Responsibility of carrying out their oversight function , were said to have visited the FOU, Zone A, where they were received by by Yahaya, the Command acting Comptroller. They may have embarked on the visist to the various Customs Formations because of the news making the rounds, that the FOUs across the country are making things difficult for importers with their agents by intercepting Containers released from the seaport without any valid reason.
The Customs acting Comptroller, was said to have taken the House Team to Mechanical Workshop turned Government Warehouse where there are hundreds of seized vehicles and scores of other detained vehicles which fell into the waiting hands of the Command Patrol Team officers on the road. The House Committee were said to have been taken to the second Government Warehouse within the Ikeja premises where seized foreign par boiled rice were stored. The Lawmakers were surprised that there were no space to keep the seized smuggled rice. They were said to have nodded in approval the good works of the Area Comptroller and his officer, urging them to sustain the anti-smuggling war to rid the country of the economic saboteurs. Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, had banned the importation of vehicles and Foreign rice through the land border on January 1st, 220. The Lawmakers visist may have provided the Customs acting Comptroller an opportunity to draw their attention to the killing of an Army Lieutenant, ratcheting of officers and burning of the service operational vehicles by smugglers, which they did not find funny. The visit may have exposed the lies being told about the FOUs, CGC Strike Force and Border Drills personnel across the country by aggrieve Nigerians.
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