Regional Force: Compts. Ojo, Shuaibu Tackle Smugglers Head-On; Tinubu Moves To Boost Customs’ Anti-Smuggling, Counter-Terrorism

By Stephen Ubanna

Compt. Folunrunsho Ojo, who took over the mantle of Leadership from Shuaibu Ahmadu Bello, as the Area Controller of Ogun I, Iidiroko, Ogun, home state of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has vowed to sustain the Command’s anti-smuggling operations left behind by his predecessor appears to have sent fears to the smugglers operating between Igolo and other neighbouring Republic of Benin Border Communities to carry out their nefarious activities.

 Compt. Ojo, who had given his words to partner with the sister security agencies and the people of the Border Communities in Ipokia, Yelwa North and Imeko-Afon Local Government Area of the state to stop the smugglers operating around the Idiroko, Ajegunle, Ajilete, Owode, Ilaro an Oja Odan axis, had said that genuine traders who are compliant with the government monetary and fiscal policies have no reason to worry about the renewed anti-smuggling operations in the south west state. He had repeatedly said that those who should worry are the non-compliant traders who are determined to sabotage the nation’s economy.

Informed sources told The Value News that ever since Compt. Ojo took over control of Ogun I, Leadership from Compt. Shuaibu, who  had  had been redeployed to Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone B, Kaduna the situation have been worrisome to the smugglers  who are not ready to change.

 A source disclosed that some of the high profile smugglers who had succeeded in bringing out Caucus Satiza, popular, Indian hemp grown from the West African country of Ghana, Code deIvoire, fairly used vehicles, second hand clothing and pneumatic tyres from the Nigerien market meant for the Nigerian market had hidden them in the Niger side of the Border Communities forests and the Creeks for fear of playing into Ojo’s men hands stationed at strategic locations in the state. 

 The Ogun state based smugglers had not expected Compt. Ojo, to be too hard on them as his predecessor was but go it wring. The source disclosed that there was heavy movement of Contraband goods including fairly used vehicles that were brought close to the Benin Republic side of the border with Nigeria in the south western state in the night of April, 17, 2024, when information filtered out that the anti-smuggling Czar had finally left for FOU, Zone B, and his new Command.

 The smugglers who had heaved a sigh of relief that the anti-smuggling expert had gone and now time to continue with their nefarious activities were disappointed the structures he put on ground to battle the smugglers are still intact.

I was not surprising why they have gone back to the drawing board to perfect the new strategies which they have initiated with the support of their sponsors and collaborators in Nigerian and Benin Republic   to ensure that all their smuggled Contraband are pushed into the Nigerian market via the south western state of Ogun Border Communities.  It may not have been easy for them to have their way because of the tight security around the Border Communities that had been mounted by the Customs personnel involved in anti-smuggling operations and other security agencies personnel in the state.

 Although, the prices of Commodities, particular, 50 Kg bag of rice and carton of poultry products have gradually tumbled in Sango Ota and other major markets in Ogun state and Lagos state have tumbled in the recent time, it has nothing to do with the smuggling of the items into the country but the instability in the Nigeria’s foreign exchange market. Oayemi Michael Cardoso, the governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had said that the volatility in the country’s foreign exchange market cannot change overnight, meaning that there will be continuous up s and downs in the market and subsequent fluctuation in the prices of the Commodities.

Take for instance, as at Tuesday,  April 23, 2024,  the exchange rate  of the naira to the North American country of the United States, US, dollar, was said to be N1,250.00, in the Parallel, popular Black  market for Aboki FX, which may further push up the prices of the items. Enough Of Compt. Ojo’s efforts to contain the activities of the smugglers in the jurisdictions under the Command.

Compt. Wada, Former Area Controller, FOU, Zone B, Kaduna, and Compt. Shuaibu, his successor

We turn to review the steps that has taken the last couple of days by the anti-smuggler Czar, Compt. Shuaibu, to deal decisively with the Bandits-turned smugglers in the north western states of Kaduna, Katsina, Soko, Zamfara, Kebbi, Jigawa, Kano to carry out illegal trade which many believe contravenes the government monetary and fiscal policies and those in the north central states of Kwara, and Niger, particular, which share international boundary with Republic of Niger.

A senior Customs officer, who to the online Magazine had said that based on the briefs from members of the Management Team and the report s from the Officers in-charge of the strategic locations in the states and the Patrol team Leaders, and that of the handover Note, from Compt. Dalha Cheldi Wada, his Predecessor, now Compt. Investigations and Inspections at the Customs Heaquarters, had moved into action.

 The Customs Comptroller may have been emboldened to deal decisively with the north western and north central based smugglers   by President Tinubu’s recent statement of strengthening the Economic Commic of West African States, ECOWAS, standby force, to curtail large –scale weapon smuggling that fall into the waiting hands of the Bandits Group fighters and other terrorists Organizations in the region.

Giving an insider information, the former Lagos state governor had said that he is not ‘’unmindful of the funding, legal and logistical complexities that face the proper establishment of such a force’’.  The Nigerian President hat said that ‘’with a prudent  and clearly defined  mandate that accords  with international law  and respects national sovereignty’’, such a force can serve as a rapid  deployment mechanism , capable of  swiftly responding  to threats  like smuggling  of weapons and ammunitions into countries in the region  and further bolstering the security of the region .

Adeniyi: CG, Customs

This is where Bashir Adewale Adeniyi, MFR, the Customs Comptroller General, may have to take a cue from the Nigerian President to properly equip the Customs’ interventionist units in the north, particular, the FOUs Zone B and Zone D, which had to contend with the Bandits and insurgents turned armed smugglers in their respective Areas of jurisdictions to be able to deal ruthless with the arms smugglers.

Security experts that with the bold initiative that had been taken by Tinubu, I his capacity as the President of the ECOWA, to develop a force that can stand as a strong deterrent to large-scale and protracted Banditry and terrorist operations, it will bring out the best in Compt. Shuaibu, in battling the smugglers operating between Niger Republic and the Nigeria and the north western and north central geo-political regions.  

Recall that former President Muhammadu  Buhari , had said that only God  could  ‘’effectively  supervise  Nigeria’s  borer with Niger Republic’’ but that was how far he could go. He had alluded to the fact that the various Customs interventionist units, across the north western region , particular,  and the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, under the close watch of Kemi Nanna Nandap,  to check the activities of the smugglers and immigrants, across the border. The former Nigerian President had said that the Customs Authorities and NIS may not  have been able to mobilize their officers and men to effectively supervise  the country’s border with  Niger Republic because  the two countries share more than  1,500Km , insisting that’’ only God can man it’’.

He may have had the idea of developing a standby force in the region as a way to help mobilize the sahel region, which would have been in the best interest of Nigeria but did not know how to go about.  It was not surprising why analysts believe that if the Nigerian President can match his action with words by ensuring the take-off of the standby regional force,   it will be a big blow to weapon smugglers in the northern of Nigerias Customs’ interventionist officers and men will face them the smugglers squarely with the support of the ECOWAS standby force. Nigerians are watching to see the next that will be taken by Tinubu, in the next couple of months in setting up the regional force.  

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