By Stephen Ubanna
When Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel ad Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, banned the sales of Petroleum Products: Premium Motor Spirit , popular, Petrol and diesel, 20Kms, to the land border Communities in 2019, across the country, many had expected the VIP Petrol marketers who get allocation from the petroleum and products Marketing Company , a subsidiary of Nigerian National Petroleum Company, NNPC,, Nigerian Peteroleum Company Limited to sell the products at their filling stations to stop diverting it to neighbouring countries.
Officials of the NNPC, may have given the Katsina born Nigerian President the ammunition to cede to the request of Ali, the Customs Comptroller General to close down all the filling stations around the border Communities when they raised alarm that they are ‘’channels for fuel smuggling to the neighbouring countries of Benin, Niger, Togo, Chad and the Central African country of Cameroon and even Ghana, which has no direct borders with Nigeria. From Ogun,Lagos, Oyo,, Kwara, Niger, Katsina, Sokoto, Borno, Yobe, the story is the same: smuggling of Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, Petrol .
Until Mohammd Bello Jibo, was redeployed from Bauchi to the Seme Command in 2020, former Area Comptrollers of the Land border Area had battled the VIP, Petroleum Products but that was how far they could go.
According to informed sources trucks loaded with Petrol and diesel, and other products were strictly monitored and documents properly cross checked by the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, personnel, to ensure that they are discharged to the approved stations within the seme Jurisdictions and Badagry axis. The Seme Command, anti-bunkering unit, personnel are on ground to ensure that smuggled Petrol through the border routes and the 15 watersides, Creeks and beaches within the Seme Jurisdictions ,Badagry and Owode/Apa axis are intercepted and seized.
Between 2018, and now, the VIP, Petrol marketers, who had filling stations within the border Communities who get allocations which end up in the neighbouring counries are no longer finding it funny it funny to smuggle the PMS, through the Creeks or Beaches within the Seme, Badagry or Owode/Apa axis because of the tight security. The VIP Petrol smugglers knew that they were in trouble immediately information filtered out that Compt. Jibo, who had participated in the past in the planning and execution the anti-smuggling operations at the Seme Command has been redeployed to the Command I 2020.
As a prelude to strengthen the anti-smuggling operations of the Command, the has collapsed the anti-bunkering unit, to the newly created Operations Unit, headed by one Abubakar, an Assistant Customs Comptroller, who had headed at different times various Patrol Teams that had made spectacular Contrand seizures. He may have taken advantage of the Katsina state born Nigerian President to ban on the importation of Vehicles and foreign par boiled rice through the Land borders across the country to deal ruthlessly with the smugglers and dispossess of them their smuggled Contraband goods and prohibited goods including Petroleum Products.
Aware that that VIP Petrol smugglers will figt back and with the backing of Jibo, the Seme Command Area Comptroller, he Abubakar was said to have turned the 15 watersides, Creeks and beaches within the Seme Jurisdictions, Badagry and Owode/Apa axis as his office on mufti. An insider told The Value News that the Customs Assistant Comptroller, works closely with some engaged informants who are always there for him to give out information on the movement of trucks load of Jerry cans of Petrol of 25 litres each at the Creeks and Beaches for the Beninois market.
This may have informed why the Assistant Customs Comptroller at Seme Command, led Operations Unit, is doing exactly what Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller did when he was the FOU, Zone A, officer –in-charge of Gbaji checkpoint, during the Administration of Deputy Comptroller Usman Yahaya, l who got a Special Promotion and finally retired as Comptroller because of his outstanding performance. Assist Comptroller Jack and his Team members, had given a close monitoring to the National Security and Civil Defence Corprps, NSCDC, personnel who were ssaid to have provided escort to the VIP smugglers but forcing them to do the right thing by exposing their dirty deals.
Assistant Comptroller Abubakar may not have given the FOU, Zone A, Team, at the Gbaji checkpoint,an opportunity to excersie themselves fully as he and his officers had dominated the anati-smuggling operations at the Seme Jurisdiction, Badagry and Owode/Apapa axis.This is evident with the thousands of 25 litres of Jerry cans of Petrol each, worth millions of naira that had been intercepted and seized with the approval of the Customs Area Comptroller in the last two months.
. The latest of the hundreds of the 25 litres each of jerry cans of Petro thatl was said to have been made at the beaches along the Badagry –Seme axis by the Abubakar led Team, was on Wednesday, January 12, 2022. That much was confirmed by Hussain Abdullahi, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs, and the Command spokesperson.
Given an insider information , the Seme Command spokesperson had said that the Abubakar led Team intercepted the 1,5000 Jerry cans of Petrol, of 25 litres each, equivalent of thirty one thousand , and fve hundred litres or almost a truck load of Petrol ,that had been properly packaged to be smuggled into the Beninois market with a Duty Paid Value of about NN7 million.
Recall that Comptroller Jibo, had said that the Commd various Patrol Teams, who got the patrol vehicles allocations from the four new Land Cruiser Patrol vehicle ( Bufallo), provided by the Ali led Management Team, are actually making good use of it as it has aided the teams to approach the difficult terrains with ease and are making good Contraband seizures. He had cited the Abubakar led Team which can now access the beaches and creeks with the aid of the operational vehicles which was not the case before now. ‘’The Team are able to access everywhere’’, he had said.
Prior to the allocations of the four Operational vehicles to the Command by the Customs Headquarters last October, Cmptroller Jibo and the Command Units and Patrol Team Leaders , were said to have made do with the few operational vehicles that they had to confront the Contraband smugglers, particular, foreign rice Petrol and the vehicle smugglers within the Seme Jurisdictions.
Take for instance, in December1, 2021, the Command operations Team had intercepted 1,050 Jerry cans of 30 litres each, equivalent of thirty one thousand, fifty litres of Petrol, along the Seme and Badagry Creks, with a DPV, of about N5.4 million, after several days of surveillance of the suspected beaches and creeks used by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities.
The Seme Command Operations Team, under the close watch of Assistant Comptroller Abubakar, who, Seme residents had said have gone out fully against the Petrol smugglers using the Watersides,Creeks and beaches within the Seme, Badagry and Owode/a axis on the order of Area Comptroller Jibo , were said to have also made 750 Jerry cans of 25, litres each of Petrol, equivalent of 22,500 litres, from Oloko Creeks around the Badagry axis, with a DPV. of N3.32 million.
Between December 1,2021 and now, the cumulative total of the quantities of Petroleum Products that had been intercepted by the Abubakar led Team had been put at 3,300 Jerry cans of Petrol , equivalent of 85050 litres, which is more than two trucks load of petrol with a DPV.of about N15.72 million.
With the continued interception and seizure of the thousands Jerry cans of Petrol of between 25 -30 litres each from the VIP Petrol smugglers, by the Seme Command Operations Unit, Comptroller Jibo has made it clear to those that cares to listen and who had turned the Seme Jurisdictions, Badagry and Owode/Apa watersides, Creeks and Beaches, as their smuggling routes for Petrol meant for the Nigerian market to Republic of Benin that ‘’it is no longer going to be business as usual as he and his antismuggling officers are ready to frustrate their efforts.
He may have put fear on the minds of the VIP Petrol smugglers, whose identity remain unknown, and the petit petrol smugglers who load one or two Jerry cans in their VAehicles, Keke Marwa and Okada, when he declared that the Command Operations officers will continue to increase their Patrol and surveillance of the watersides, Creeks, beaches and the Badagry to Seem road’’ to ensure that the government policy on the ban on the of export of Petrol, from Nigerian to the neighbouring country of Benin, which is closer to the south west states of Ogun, Lagos, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti was not flouted.