By Stephen Ubanna
When AU.Sanusi, a Deputy Comptroller General, DCG, in –charge of Human Resources Development HRD, on the orders Hammed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, announceed the redeployment of Comptrollers Muhammed Uba Garba, Seme and Aliyu ohammed, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, and two other senior officers, on Tuesday December 24, 2019 not many people expected the affected officers to resume in their new locations immediately because of the timing.
There were fears in both official and unofficial circles that the affected officers may want to resume in their new locations within the first week of January but the military tone of the redeployment letter of the affected officers which reads must ‘’handover and takeover immediately’’ may have forced them to have a rethink.
It was not surprising why Muhammed, the no nonsense Comptroller of Seme Command, now redeployed to the Border Drills sector 3, Ilorin, Kwara state, as acting sector Commander, a position reserved exclusively for Assistant Comptroller Generals, ACGs, because of the involvement of other security agencies personnel to oversee the enforcement of the Border closure with the neighboring countries of Republic of Benin, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon had resumed at ilorin as acting Commander. He was said to have resumed on Monday, December 30, 2019, beating all precditions about his resumption date in order to sustain the the enforcement of the Border closure in the north central states of Kwara, Niger, Benue, Nassarawa, Plateau and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, to the later.
Given his vast knowledge in the anti-smuggling war both as a cadet and at the officers level, before rising to the enviable rank of Comptroller, not many people would expect him to fail in the national assignment which involved the Customs as the lead agency, Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, the Military, Police and Department of State Security, DSS, personnel.
Security watchers opined that his stronghold at the busy Seme to ensure that the government policy that no imports, exports enters or leaves the country was maintained since the Border closure was announced last August was a plus for him. The scores of transit trucks laden cargoes caught up by the government policy at the Seme/Krake joint Border speaks volume.
The Asian country Thai par boiled rice and vehicle smugglers operating from the Benin Republic base who had attempted to test his wills despite the tight security at the land Border would never forget their experience in a hurry as their goods and vehicles were intercepted and seized.
Note that President Muhammadu Buhari led All Progressive Congress, APC, government, had ordered the closure of the Borders with these neighboring countries,Benin and Cameroon, which have functional eaports including Niger, a land locked country, , for opening their ports an to , Chinese and Thai, exporters to dump their countries manufactured and parboiled rice products which are smuggled into the Nigerian market through unapproved routes.
The Border Drill officers were said to have made elaborate preparation to receive their new sector Commander at Ilorin, the Operational base, within the first week of January going by feelers from Seme . They had wanted to use the opportunity to force him to unfold his plans on how to deal with the unrepentant smugglers. They may have been disappointed as he resumed on Monday, December 30, 2019, barely six days after the redeployment of the officers were announced.
Unknown to many, Muhammed knew that the task before him to sustain the enforcement of the Border closure in the region is very enormous . He may have gotten some snippets about the terrain of the region from Mohammed, his counterpart at FOU, Zone A, who has been redeployed to Border Drills sector as acting Commander. The sector 4, Border Drill acting Commandder was said to have served in the region as one of the Area Comptrollers and who was said to have known so much about the several Communities that share boundary with Benin republic in order to prepare his mind for the challenges ahead.
The briefing from the Border Drill patrol leaders, also according to security watchers , were said to have given him an a clue on how to map out the strategies to deal with the notorious Kwara and Niger smugglers, particular. Many believe that he may have maintained a closed sealed lips at his first informal meetings with the officers to forestall his anti-smuggling strategies for the region being leaked out to the smugglers by their Customs and other security operatives Collaborators.
Indeed, the job of Muhammed , as the sector 3 Border Drills Commander may have become more challenging with the inauguration of the Continental Free Trade Area , CfTA, Committee, at the recent Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Authority of Heads of State and Government recent meeting at Abuja.
Recall that Suleiman Umar ,a Senator, representing Kwara North, who could not hide his feelings at the level of support which smugglers seem to be getting from the Youths of the Border Communities in the state had revealed that the government may have played into the hand of the Beninese government who had cashed in on the lack of basic infrastructural facilities in the Border Communities to provide it for them.
He had cited Bukoro, a Border Community in Baruten Local government within his Senatorial district where 84 school children had drowned while going to school in a neighboring Border Community in Benin 2009. The Senator had said that the Beninese government had responded promptly to the incident and quickly constructed a bridge across the river in order to win the heart of the people which analysts, believe was executed in order to sustain the Their informal trade with Nigeria.
The Kwara state born politician had lamented how a country which prides itself as the giant of Africa, could be at the mercy of Benin, Niger and Cameroon , which Border Communities have ‘’world class medical and education facilities’’ to entice Nigerians to do their biddings at the expense of the economy. It is not surprising why most of the Youths of these Border Communities have turned themselves to the smgglers a a way of making a living.
Senator Umar, may have given Babaga Munguno, a retired Major General and Coordinator of the Border Closure an insider information on how the Border closure would be effective through government intervention by providing basic infrastructural facilities in the five geo-political regions and 21 local government Areas across the country that share Borders with the two West African countries and Cameroon. This may have informed why Muhammed, the Border Drills sector 3 Commander has to rejig the sector’s patrol Teams he met on ground in order to strengthen their operations to become more effective.
Moreso, he has to carry the leaders of the Border Communities along in the enforcement of the Border Closure as well as embark on a sensitisation Campaign in order to make the people realise about the dangers of smuggling in the nation’s economy.
Insiders informed The Magazine that he had succeeded at the busy Seme Command in blocking parboiled foreign rice, Vehicle and Premium Motor Spirit,PMS, Popular, petrol , from being smuggled into out of the country because he had carried along the other security agencies personnel and the leaders of the Border Communities and who became sources of information to him.
The last operation he was said to have led in the Command before his subsequent redeployment to Border drills sector 3 Ilorin,, as Commander, was at the Owode Outstation in Badary north west, where he had found over 110 filling stations and 12 Surface Tanks spread deep into the bush ostensibly used to service the Beninese market. He was said to have stopped the bunkering activities in the area as most of the filling stations were forced to clos down but were still put under his close watch.
This is bad news for the north central states based smugglers and their sponsors , who may have found the south west too hot to operate that they had relocated to the region that it is no longer going to be business as usual
. Aliyu Muhammed , the sector 4 , Commander, overseeing the seven north western states of Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano and Jigawa is expected to ensure a total blockade of the Border Communities in the region to ensure that nothing enters or leaves the country.
His experience at FOU, Zone A, where he he had presided over the seizure of over 100,00 ‘’25’’ litres Jerry Cans of petrol, donkey skins, bullet proof and scores of other exotic vehicles, worth billions of naira, over the last 14 months speaks volume.