By Stephen Ubanna
Chedi Wada, a Deputy Comptroller and former acting Comptroller, Seme Command, appears to have laid a solid Foundation upon which Bello Mohammed Jibo, a former Comptroller , Bauchi/Gombe Command and now the Command Area Comptroller could stand on to carry out his anti-smuggling Operations drive .
Indeed, given his experience as a tested anti-smuggling and Customs Intelligence officer, Wada, had used the nine months of being at the helms of Affairs at the Seme Command following the appointment of Muhammed Uba Garba, a former Comptroller of the Command by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, as the Border Drill, sector 3, Ilorin, Acting Coordinator, overseeing the north central geo-political region border states of Kwara, Niger, Kogi and Benue. Muhammed had been elevated as an acting Assistant Comptroller General, ACG, of Customs, Enforcement, Inspection &Investigation, EI&I, which may have finally severed a further link with the Seme Command. This may have informed why Ali, the Comptroller General, redeployed Bello Mohammed Jibo, a substantive Comptroller to the Command, preparatory to reopening of the border soon.
In handing over the baton of leadership of the Land Border Command, to the new Area Comptroller, at a closed door ceremony, Wada , had Thanked the Customs Comptroller General for giving him the Opportunity to serve as the Acting Area Comptroller of the one-time busy Seme Command, which had suddenly become a shadow of itself because of the closure of the land borders across the country with the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon.
Perhaps, to ensure that the incoming Seme Command Area Comptroller enjoy a successful tenure, notwithstanding the Border closure, which had entered its third year running, Wada, who spoke at the brief closed door Ceremony held at the Comptroller’s office, at the Seme-Krake border, according to Abdullahi Husani, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs and the Command Spokesperson, had urged the Officers ‘’to accord the incoming Area Comptroller maximum support to effectively discharge the new responsibilities bestowed upon him by the Management’’. He was said to have assured him of a successful tenure.
Wada, who became a former Acting Comptroller of the Seme Command at a time of low economic activities, may have been exposed to some of the major routes used by the unrepentant smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities with the closure of the Land borders across the country.
One of such routes was the porous Seme Customs Barracks waterside. This may have informed why he embarked on a blockade of the illegal smugglers and Immigrant routes by raising up an embarkation at the Customs Barracks waterside which now makes it difficult for the smugglers, particular, to move their Contraband into the Nigerian market. This is because of the danger of falling into the sea.
He may not have stopped there as he was said to have built security checkpoints at the Customs, Barracks to monitor the movement of people, in and out of the Barracks. A senior Customs officer who spoke to The Value News disclosed that the security checkpoints had reduced cases of stealing at the Barracks which had been the case over the years.
This is because the cross –border thieves could easily come into the Baraacks through the waterside when officers are in their offices to steal and go . The hoodlums may have also seen it as an opportunity to smuggle Contraband into the Nigerian market . But all that had stopped, no thanks to Deputy Comptroller Wada.
Many, believe, another area, the former acting Comptroler of Seme Command had made appreciable impact at the Border Community was at the notorious Baba Cupa route used by smugglers and immigrants because of the free passage provided for them by immigration officials.
The Magazine learnt that ever since the former Seme Command acting Comptroller moblised other security agencies personnel at the Seme Land Border Community: AirForce, Army, Department of State Security, DSS, Port Health, Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, and National Agency For Food And Drug Administration Commission ,NAFDAC, to reach a working Agreement to strengthen the security at the Baba Cupa route, the security lapse in the area had changed for good.
It is also on record that the police, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Border Drill, sector A, and Comproller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, were all part of the security Agreement to deploy their officers at the Baba Cupa axis. Note that prior to signing the security Agreement by all the secrity Agencies to deploy their officers to the Baba Cupa route, the NIS and the NCS,, were the only agencies , whose officers were manning the route which makes it easy for the smugglers and immigrants to settle easily and find their way into the country.
Investigations by The Magazine shows that in the last three months, smugglers or immigrants no longer find it easy to go through the route because of the difficulty of settling the numerous security Operatives found on the route.
The situation is so bad that the one-time route, described as very lucrative by NIS and Customs personnel had turned out to be the worst in the recent time. It was learnt that each of the agencies have a good number of officers deployed to the route on a weekly basis. It was gathered that the NCS, which is the lead agency have the highest number of officers on the route while the police had the least number of offiers, two.
The Seme former acting Comptroller, may not have not spared the Foreign rice, vehicles and other Contraband smugglers in other areas including the Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol and India Hemp smugglers at the Owode and Badagry Creeks as scores of the smugglers were said to have fallen into the waiting hands of the Wada boys. Wada, may have sustained the Command aggressive anti-smuggling drive to ensure that nothing enters or leaves the border Community as directed by Ali, the Comptroller General.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, had banned the importation of Foreign rice and vehicles into the country through the land border on January 1, 2017.
The Katsina state born Nigerian President had said that the decision to ban such Foreign rice imports into the country through the land border was basically to make Nigeria self-sufficiency in food production . The ban on vehicle imports, he said, was essential to increase importers patronage of Nigerian ports. The government appears to have achieved the purpose. At the Seme border, smugglers would who have encountered Wada’s officers in the bush or road have lots of story to tell: losing their goods to Customs. It is not surprising why the Customs Government Warhouse is filled to the brim with seized Contraband including Foreign rice and vehicles littered around the premises.
This may have forcedsome the smugglers to resort to violence, to scare the Seme anti-smuggling officers on the road. Last July, two persons were said to have been hit by stray bullet during confrontation between the Seme Customs anti-smuggling officers and smugglers involved in smuggling petrol to neighboring Benin Republic. The incident was said to have occurred along Seme-Carpenter village , described as a hideout for some unpatriotic Nigerians to stockpile petrol for onward delivery to Benin.
Impressed with the changes that had been introduced at the Seme Command over the last nine months, Jibo, who could not his feelings was said to have Commended the outgoing Seme Command Acting Comptroller ‘’for a successful tenure . He noted that with the Border closure , which had necessitated the Border Drill exercise since August , 2018 and the Wuhan town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, lock down ,”the task of effectively secured Border remains his uppermost priority’’.
Determined to ensure a successful like previous Area Comptrollers of the Command, particular, Muhammed, now an Acting ACG, E.I&I, he may have taken a cue from the former Acting Area Comptroller Wada , his immediate predecessor, ‘’ to solicit for the maximum support of the officers and Men of the Command ‘’towards suppression of smuggling and other trans-border crimes to the barest minimum’’.
Many believe that he had come to Seme Command, at a time when there are pressure on the Nigerian President from other Economic Community of West African States , ECOWAS, to reopen the closed land borders across the country to facilitate the free movement of goods and services in the Sub-region.
The COWAS, Authority of Heads of States and Governments, may have become so concerned about the border closure which had adversely affected the economies of other countries in the Sub-region to set up a Committee under the Chairmanship of Christain Kabore, President of Burkina Faso.
The Kabore Commmittee were said to have met with Presidents Buhari, Patrick Talon of Benin and Issofou Muhammadou, of Niger, to find a way out of the border closure.
Maritime analysts believe that Jibo, the former Comptroller of Bauchi/Gombe Command who, knew much about the trapped trucks laden goods at the Seme Land border and importers with their agents who had paid duties for their trucks in his capacity as the then Deputy Comptroller, Revenue Seat at the Command but could not take delivery of it because of the border closure is in a better position to resolve the matter whenever the government decides to reopen the borer.
. This may have informed why the Seme based agents , believe that Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, made a wise decision, to redeploy Jibo, a former Comptroller of Bauchi and Gombe, a basically an anti-smuggling Command, back to Seme, described as home coming.
Already the smugglers operating within the Seme Jurisdictions who may have had about the Comptroller Jibo’s exploits in dealing with the hoodlums in the two north east states are worried that their case may have moved from fire to frying pan.
They feared that Jibo, who has become a master strategist in anti-smuggling Operations, revenue collection guru, and who had ensured that the Seme Command before the border closure, under then Comptroller Muhammed met and surpassed its monthly revenues as areas of revenue leakages were blocked would repeat same again.