By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why the Comptroller General of Customs, popular, CGC, Strike Force,Lagos Zonal Operational Base,, under the Close watch of Yahaya Usman, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs, DC, and who was at one –time DC in-charge of the Enforcement of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja , Lagos are making appreciable impact in their anti-smuggling Operations in the south west geo-political region dominate by the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A .
Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and the CGC, may have prepared the ground for the Strike Force Zonal Commands in Lagos, Kaduna, and Owerri, to excel by giving the adhoc- Teams special attention compared to the various FOU Commands across the country. Ali was said to have equipped the Teams with sophisticated Operational tools and Saloon security vehicles to do their work.
This may have informed why Yahaya, the Lagos Zonal Coordinator wanted the redeployment of Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs attached to the FOU, Zone A, who, many believe was not in the good book of Aliyu Mohammed, the Area Comptroller to the Team . The Customs Comptroller General may not have wanted to deny the Lagos Strike Force Zonal Coordinator his request as Jack was deployed to the Team.
With the redeployment of Jack to the CGC Lagos Strike Force the DC, the stage was set for the Team to do their anti-smuggling was never before in the south west. He was forced to rejig its Operations to make it more effective by appointing the one-time FOU Zone A, Head of Operations and Lagos Roving Team to oversee Its Operations.
Perhaps, to avoid giving Jack and his boys any room for excuse not to deliver on the mandate to crush the smugglers in the south west and make spectacular seizures, he was said to have handed over some of the saloon security vehicles provided for the Strike Force by the CGC to him as Head of its Operations to enhance their job.
Insiders informed The Value News that he changes the security vehicles d whenever he is taking a Team out on serious operations or to apprehend a suspect. The security vehicle he drives today with another back up one to carry out his operations may not be the ones he will use the next day to avoid easy identification by smugglers in order to carry out his operations unhindered.
The Lagos Strike Force Zonal Coordinator may have alluded to this when he averred that as the ‘’smugglers are getting more sophisticated in their operations,’’ the Customs has devised means that are more sophisticated in order to counter them and give them a run for their money’’.
Only recently Yahaya was said to have got an information through intelligence gathering about hundreds of smuggled cartons of frozen poultry products stored at an undisclosed location at Sango Otta, Ogun state Commercial nerve center close to Lagos. He was to have reached out to Jack in-charge of the Strike Force Operations to mobilise his men to invade the smugglers in their hide out and dispossess them of the frozen poultry products Given the usual preparation made for such operations at FOU, Zone A, Jack was said to have sent a surveillance Team to the smugglers den to avoid being frustrated in their mission
Based on the report of the surveillance Team, J he was said to have mobilised a Team for the operation. The Smugglers never expected to see any Customs Operational vehicles around the vicinity because of the close guided nature of the business: smuggling of poultry products into the country through Sango Otta.
Unkown to them Jack, who had fallen into their hand once at Sango Otta in an operation as one of the drivers of the Team from FOU, Zone A, was was captured at Otta in one of his operations and his where about remains unknown despite the search mission mounted by the various security agencies including the Army at Otta and its environs to block the smugglers. Aware of the past experience at Otta, Jack and his men were determined to impound the cartons of Frozen poultry products at the smugglers hide outs at Sango Otta without a shot of bullet.
Eyewitness account disclosed that between Saturday , November 9 and Monday, November 11, 2019, the Team who were armed to the teeth had arrived at the fortress of the smugglers at Sango Otta with a mindset that they might be engaged in a shoot- out by the smugglers.
The smugglers, according to sources that the game was up when they saw fierce looking strange faces,around their fortress, described as a no go area by residents. They were said to have prepared to frustrate the effort of the Customs officers involved in the operations but it was too late.
The Team were said to have caught them unawares as they had entered their fortress and surrounded it without shooting a bullet, thus making it difficult for any of the 10 vehicles loaded with the smuggled poultry products to be driven out. The 10 vehicles load of poultry products were transferred to the Government WareHouse , Ikeja, for destruction of the contents only.
Yahaya, the CGC Strike Force , Zonal Coordinator confirmed that the Jack led Team impounded 1,393 cartons of frozen products which was worth about N13.4 million. But being perishable items, the poultry products were said to have been destroyed in the full glare of other security agencies including the National agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC.
The question on the lips of most people is: how did these large quantities of frozen products found their way into the Smuggler’s Fortress, at Sango Otta, with the tight security being mounted along the Idiroko and Sango –Otta road by the Babagana- Mungono, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA, controlled Border Drills , which are everywhere along the country border routes and FOU, Zone A, Idiroko Command officers at the various Checkpoints along the Idiroko border route.
The fear being expressed in several quarters was that the sponsors of the smugglers may have penetrated the ranks of the security operatives including the Border Drills and FOU, Zone A, personnel , stationed at the various Checkpoints along the border road in order to carry out their business unhindered. t.
Another school of thought has it that they may have smuggled frozen products through the Creeks into the Sango Otta warehouse but kept it a closely guided secret as no trader ever come close to the warehouse to buy anything for sale yet there were movement in and out of the premises daily , mostly at night . This may have informed why the Yahaya led Strike Force appear to have beamed their searchlight on the Ogun Creeks to forestall the activities of the smugglers.
While the dust raise by the seizure and destruction of the 1,393 cartons of poultry products recently is yet to settle, the Stirkke Operations Team made another spectacular seizure of one in-built ‘’40’’ Container loaded with 659 Jerry Cans of ‘’25 litres each of Vegetable Oil. Another locally in-built truck loaded with 997 jerry Cans of 25 litres each of Vegetable Oil was also said to have been impounded by the Jack led team of the Strike Force. The Trucks load of Vegetable Oil were said to have been intercepted along Shagamu-Ijebu Ode road. This brings to 1,655 Jerry Cans of 25 litres each impounded by the CGC Strike Force, Lagos Zonal Command in two major roadblocks along the Shagamu-Ijebu Ode road.
The Value News also cited a Truck load of Tramadol , which the Team , were said to traced to Ikoyi, where it was impounded. As at press time, it could not be ascertained whether the truck has been opened for examination to ascertain the quantity before handing over to NAFDAC, for further investigation.
Recall, that last August, Jack, who is the arrow Head of the CGC, Lagos Zonal Strike Force, impounded and evacuated 21 trucks load of tramadol a, Codeine and other registered drugs which are in high demand in the north which Valuation experts put at about N5,billion, in a warehouse , along the Oshodi-Mile 2 Express Way allegedly belonging to Nnewi based Innosons Motors owned by one Innocent Chukwuma, a multi-billionaire business man. President Muhammadu Buhari had congratulated Ali, the Customs Comptroller or the spectacular seizure.
Muhammed Uba Garba, as Comptroller , FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state and Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs who led the operation that led to the seizure of the Tramadol drugs at owerri and now Head, FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving Team, may have opened the floodgate for other Customs Formations including the Commands based at the Lagos seaports to be making spectacular Tramadol seizures in the recent time.
Many believe that Tramadol imports into the country had been a thriving business over the years until, Comptroller Muhammed exposed the dangerous drugs and its adverse effects to Nigerians at Owerri. The importers were said to have threatened fire and brimstone to deal with Riks who dared them.