FOU: Ejibunu:Heaves A Sigh Of Relief As The Command Takes Delivery Of 16 Operational Vehicles

By Stephen Ubanna 

Between September 10, 2021,and now,   Ussain Kehinde Ejibunu, a Deputy Comptroller, overseeing the Affairs of the Federal Operations Unit,  FOU,Zone A, has been on the hot seat. Acting Comptroller Ejibunu, who was the former Coordinator, of the Headquarters strike Force, Abuja Team, may have seen that the smugglers operating in the south west states of Oyo and Ogun are very daring.

The killing of his three Patrol Team officers, at different times in less than two months of assuming office may have drawn the attention of the Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, that something urgent that needed to be done to beef up the service operations to contain the activities of the diehard smugglers in the flash point states.

 The Customs Comptroller General, may have taken advantage of his close relationship with President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, to put up a request for the procurement of new operational vehicles for the service Administrative and anti-smuggling operations.

The Katsina born Nigerian President may have presented the Customs demand to the Federal Executive Council, FEC,for approval. Given the urgency of the matter, the FEC, had approved the procurement of 46 units of vehicles for operational and administrative purposes, by the service. The N1.5 billion contract for the supply of the 46 operational and administrative vehicles was said to have been awarded to Elizade Nigeria Limited.

Note that this is not be the first time that Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, had used his position to get the Nigerian President  to purchase operational vehicles for the service.  It is on record that between 2017 and 2020, a set of operational vehicles was procured for the service, which was distributed mostly to the Interventionist Commands and adhoc units across the country.

 In distributing the 46 new Hilux vans that had been delivered for the service operational and Administrative purposes by Elizade Vehicles Limited, which had the N1.5 billion contract, the Customs Authorities may have considered it necessary to take care first, of the interest of the FOU,, Zone A, prosecuting the anti-smuggling war in the south west states of Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos, where the smugglers are very daring, because of the porous. Take for instance, in Ogun state alone, there are more than 140 illegal borders between Nigerian and Republic of Benin used by the smugglers for their nefarious activities.

Deputy Compt. Ejibunu: Area Controller, FOU, Zone A

 Oba Kehinde Adewole, the Olu of Ilaro, may have painted a gory image of Yewaland , where the killing of the three  FOU, Zone A, officers, were killed to the fact that there ‘’no established borders between Nigeria and Benin in the Area.  The Monarch had to told Ejibunu, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller and Peter Kolo, his Counterpart in Ogun 1,  who has started his three months pre-retirement Leave that they should not expect a one hundred percent  Compliance to government Fiscal policies by the residents of the border Communities in the state ‘’to stop smuggling’’, where the officers stationed there  are working under strenuous conditions’’.  

 This may have informed why the Customs Authorities agreed to deploy 16 of the new operational vehicles to the FOU, Zone A, alone, leaving the remaining 30 Hilux Vans  for distribution to the FOUs Zone B, Kaduna and Zone C, Owerri including other Interventionist units to beef up their operations while some, however, would be reserved for Administrative  use.

Deputy Comptroller Ejibunu , who appears to have been in regular  touch  with his predecessor Comptroller Yahaya, now retired, who had received the new operational  vehicles  which are equipped  with response gadgets  have heaved  a sigh of relief.  ‘’It would go a long way to boost the Command anti-smuggling operations across the south west geopolitical region as the smugglers will be smoked out from their hideouts.

An Appreciative Deputy Comptroller Ejibunu , who could not his feelings over the  government support,  had praised  the initiative, stressing that ‘’the ‘’Hilux Vans came timely ‘’ to the Command.  He is optimistic that with ‘’the supply of the 16 operational vehicles and the renewed effectiveness and efficiency of the various Patrol Teams of the Command , more Contraband seizures as well as more revenue would be generated for the government’’.

Customs Newly Procured Operational Vehicles: 16 Units Deployed To FOU , Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos

The Customs acting Comptroller, was said to have expressed his heartfelt  Appreciation the Customs boss,  over his determination to do all it takes ‘’to ensure  the actualization  of crippling of smuggling foreign par boiled rice imported through the Autonomous port of Benin, Cotonou, into the Nigerian market through unapproved borders , across the country.

Deputty Comptroller Ejibunu, who is still boiling with rage over the killing of his three Patrol Team officers by smugglers in Ogun state since assumed duties in the Command last September and now, has vowed to take the anti-smuggling war to the smugglers’ Camp in any part of the south west geopolitical region.

 The FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller, who has been emboldened with the support from the Headquarters, has directed and challenged the Patrol Team Leaders across the region, to step up  their ‘’onslaught against all shades  of Criminal activities  in Ogun, Oyo and other parts , of the region with the new operational vehicles that would be put under their care.

 He will want the various Patrol Team Leaders and their members ‘’ to put the vehicles into professional use to be able carry the Custom Comptroller General directive towards the service anti-smuggling activities’’.

Even with the few operational vehicles still in use by the Command, the Command Operations and Lagos Roving, under the close watch of Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller, has been the most attacked by the Ogun and Oyo Foreign parboiled rice smugglers operating between Nigerian and Benin between 2020 and most of this year. In one of the Team operations in Igboora Community in Oyo state, its operational vehicle was ridden with bullets and no fewer than 19 members of the Team, including military personnel had various bullet wounds.

FOU, Zone A, Operation And Lagos Roving Vehicle Ridden With Smugglers Bullets At Igboora Community, Oyo state In An Operation that Left Many Tam Members Wounded

 Many believe that it is not enough for the Customs Headquarters to make delivery of the Operational vehicles to the Interventionist units without making provision for their maintenance. The greatest problem which the Interventionist units, particular, FOU, Zone A, have had over the years was poor maintencance of its vehicles which had often resulted in constant breakdown of its vehicles on the road , thus giving room for the  smugglers, who are armed with different weapons , including locally made guns to attack  and kill officers.  The situation at the Customs Training School, Ikeja Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center, is very worrisome, where some of the broken down Customs Hilux Vans are wasting away        .  

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