By Stephen Ubanna
Penultimate week, a visitor was said to have strolled into Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller and the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Head of Operations and Lagos Roving’s office at Ikeja, to give an information , which later turned out to be very explosive on the smuggling of foreign rice into the country through the Iseyin and Ogbomosho border axis of Oyo state.
The Customs Assistant Comptroller may not have swallowed, hook Line and sinke what the informant had told him . He was said to have reached out to his other informants in Ibadan, the Oyo state, who wre said to have confirmed what he had already been told.
Acting on the intelligence gathering, he was said to have taken up the matter with Usman Yahaya, the Command acting Comptroller,, who did not hesitate in giving his approval for the team to go ahead and raid the suspected warehouses and stores in the Bodija market, Ibadan, alleged used in keeping smuggled foreign rice from the neighbouring country of Benin Republic.
Acting on the Directive of Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller, Jack was said to have mobilsised his men for the Ibadan operation last Wednesday, March 31,2021. The FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller may have taken the decision to support the raid of the warehouses around the Bodija market and the stores in the market allegedly filled with smuggled par boiled rice from Benin as a way to Compliment the efforts Adamu.R. Abdulkadir,the Oyo/Osun, Command Comptroller anti-smuggling drive.
T It is instructive to note that the Oyo axis had remained a familiar terrain to Assistant Comptroller Jack and his men. Recall that last year, the Jack led FOU, Zone A Patrol Team, at the instance of the Area Comptroller had made a single seizure of 40 smuggled vehicles worth about N10 billion around the Ido- Eruwa road of Ibadan.
He may have been encouraged to make such an earth –shaking interception of vehicles in one single operations because of the government policy on importation of vehicles and foreign rice through the Land border into the country. President Muhammadu Buhari had banned the importation of foreign par boiled rice and vehicles into the country through the Land borders on January 1st, 2017.
The interventionist Units across the country, including the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, Teams A, B and C, were said to have been mandated Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, to implement the policy to the later without Compromise. Indeed, past and present Area Comptrollers of FOU, Zone A, and their Patrol Teams, particular, were said to have taken the battle to the smugglers hideout in Ogun and Oyo states, over the last five years.
It was therefore not very surprising that when Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller, gave the nod to Jack and His boys to proceed with the Ibadan operations, they jumped at it. Assistant Comptroller Jack, on several occasions was said to have led Special Teams comprising of soldiers to Ibadan at different times to face rice and vehicle smugglers.
An informed source told the Value News that when information leaked out to security Operatives including Customs personnel, that acting Comptroller Yahaya has given the nod to Jack, who has been seen as a thorn in the flesh of the smugglers and their sponsors in the state, the security operatives were jittery. They have every reason to be jittery because of the past experience where the Customs Assistant Comptroller and his boys were said to have had problem with them, particular, the Force.
Perhaps, this may have may have informed why the Yahaya boys took the security Operatives including the Oyo /Osun Commands personnel unawares in the last week Operations. An eyewitness account disclosed that the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team , had arrived the state on Wednesday, March 31,2021, unexpected. They were said to tracked the movement of the alleged 50 vehicles loaded with the rice smuggled from the neighboring Benin Republic through the Iseyin – Ogbomosho axis . The hunt for the locations where the smugglers had kept their smuggled foreign rice for sale in the Nigerian market was said to have taken the Team members to the suspected warehouses and the popular Bodija market, in Ibadan, Oyo state Capita on Friday,, April 2nd, 2021.
The source disclosed that the FOU Patrol Team, had gone into Operations on Friday and evacuated hundreds of 50Kg bags of foreign parboiled rice stored in the suspected warehouses and the stores in Bodija market . They may have kept their operations in the state a closely guided secret to avoid the Ajilete experience in Ogun state where the smugglers had moblised the Mob against the Team to frustrate them from taking away six trucks loaded with smuggled foreign rice from the area to their Ikeja experience.
The Team, according to Mutiu Lawal, a trader, had raided the suspected warehouses and the stores in the Bodija market and carted away over , 50Kg, bags of foreign par boiled rice. The Team may have made preparations on how to transfer the impounded foreign rice that would be evacuated from the suspected warehouses and the stores in the Bodija market , as they were said to have hired some four tucks, which were kept on standby in a very safe location.
The four hired trucks were said to have been fully loaded with the evacuated foreign par boiled rice from the suspected warehouses and stores in the Bodija market and subsequently, transferred to the Command premises. The Team members were said to have found N522,350.00, described as proceeds of the alleged sales of the smuggled rice in one of the stores raided at the market. The amount was said to have been deposited with the station writer for payment into the Federation Account.
The discovery of the Contraband foreign rice in the ware houses around the Bodija market and the stores in the market, may have informed why the Team had put a Seal on the affected warehouses and stores as obtained in the Alaba market in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre. There are indications that the locked warehouses and stores at the Bodija market, with Customs Seal, could only be opened after clearing from the FOU, Zone A, Authorities.
But Yahaya the FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller, an insider said, may not be able to the take decision alone on when to reopen the sealed warehouses and stores in Bodija market , as the report on the Ibadan operations was said to have filtered out to the ears of Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and the officials of the Service Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation, EI&I, Department.