By Stephen Ubanna
Between January 1st , 202020 and now, Usman Yahaya, a former Coordinator, Controller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, Zone A, Lagos, and now , acting Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone, A, appears to have become a merchant of spectacular Contraband seizures.
As a former Deputy Comptroller Enforcment, under Comptroller Muhammed Uba Garba, now , Zonal Coordinator, Border Drills , secto r3, Ilorin Kwara state and Aliyu Mohammed, Zonal Coordinator, Border Drills, sector 4, Kaduna, Kaduna state, at different times, his impact on the Command anti-smuggling war was not much felt because of the towering influence of the duo.
Yahaya may have waited for an opportunity to demonstrate that he has learnt quite a lot from the two Enforcement giants in the Customs anti-smuggling war for the period he worked under each one of them at the Command. The Opportunity came when he was appointed the Coordinator for the CGC, Strike Force, Zone A, Lagos, covering the entire south west geo-political region.
He may have sent a signal to the fraudulent importers with their agents and Cross-border smugglers that he has a magic wand of dealing with them when he made the first spectacular seizure of a truck load of cartons of Tramadol and Codeine at Maryland heading to the south east last August .
The interception of the truck and the arrest of the driver facilitated the raid of a Lagos warehouse along the Osodi-Mile Expressway allegedly owned by Innnson Motors where these prohibited Pharmaceutical drugs were stocked Yayaya and his Operation Team did not hesitate in evacuating the drugs to Customs Training College, Ikeja. The value of the drugs was put at about N5 billion.
The seizure of the multimillion naira pharmaceutical products, may have encouraged Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, to appoint him as acting Comptroller of FOU , Zone A, when the position became vacant, because of the shake last Decemember, which took the former Comptroller Aliyu, to Border sector 4, Kaduna.
that he can perform if given the opportunity. The Opportunity to further express himself came when he was redeployed to the Customs foremost anti-smuggling Command as acting Comptroller, at the tail end of last December. He was determined to prove that he was a good student of the two Muhammeds in the Customs anti-smuggling war. Nobody expected him to have difficulty in mobilising the officers and men of the Command to sustain the tempo of the anti-smuggling war in the foremost Customs anti-smuggling Command.
Maritime watchers had described his coming back to FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, as acting Comptroller as a home coming. Within two weeks of assumption of office, his closed door meeting with the various Heads of Departments and Patrol Leaders to intimate them of his mandate which had to no do with blockage of all areas of revenue leakage, enhance Trade facilitation, and intensify the anti-smuggling war to ensure that no manufactured goods enter or leaves the country through any of the unapproved routes linking Benin Republic.
The Heads of Department and the P troll Team leaders may have gotten the message as they were said to have assured him of their loyalty and support to ensure that achieve the mandate was realised. This may have forced the Teams to go back to the drawing board to re-stragise in their anti-smuggling drive. He was said to have given the patrol Teams a level playing field and all the necessary tools to do their work. to perform arrested.
Within two weeks on the saddle, the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team, Headed by one Riks Lura, a Chief Superitendent Of Customs, were said to have intercepted and transfered a Container load of processed Vegetable Oil to the premises for physical examination.
The items were said to have been smuggled into the country from Benin Republic in 25 litres Jerry Cans each and loaded into a ‘’20’’ Container to create the impression that the Consignment was released and cleared from the seaport but the smuggler got it wrong. Acting on information, the Command Roving Team officers were said to have intercepted it.
The seizure of the Consignment spread like wide fire in Lagos Maritime circles that importers with their agents who engage the services of the smugglers knew that they were in trouble, that the Yahaya, at FOU, no was the same the person they knew as a former Deputy Comptroller , Enforcement in the Command who was very accommodating . ‘’How times changes’’, an agent remarked.
The seizure of the truck load of processed vegetable oil may have energised the Command Lagos Roving Patrol Team officers to reach out to their contacts who were ready to give them information. The fallout was the seizure of two X’’20’’ Container loaded with Pangolin scales slated for export to China. The seizure of the N0billion worth of Pangolin may have gladdened Ali, the Customs boss that he honoured the invitation extended to him by the FOU, Zone acting Comptroller to showcase to the public.
Giving an insider information , Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, had said that the Pangolin scales were were impounded on Sunday, January 20, 2020, by the Command Roving Team based on credible intelligence . He disclosed that the Consignmennt was uncovered in an abandoned warehouse in Isheri Estate, Alimosho Local government Area of Lagos state.
According to him, the’’ seizures underscores the determination of the Service to enforce all Laws relating to importation of goods into and out of the country He was said to have warned Nigerians and their foreign Collaborators, particular, the China Citizens, that they stand to lose the cargo if caught in the act as the country is the country is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade, CITES, of endangered Species which are under absolute prohibition, thus making its importation or Trade illegal globally.
The visit of the CGC, to the Command on invitation to showcase to the public the N10 billion worth of Pangolin scales made by the Command last January may have forced Yahaya, the Command acting Comptroller and his men to intensified their anti-smuggling drive in the six south western states comprising of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo.
, The fallout was a harvest of foreign parboiled rice seizures by the different patrol Teams, who are competing to win his heart . Giving an insider information , Jerry Attah, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs and the Command spokesperson , disclosed that the Command in another two weeks after the Customs helmsman vist, the Command intercepted 1,393 ‘’50’’ bags of smuggled foreign parboiled rice, loaded into different fairely used . vehicles . The seiizure of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice has sent a signal to the Benin Republic Corporate and Individual importers that it is no longer business as usual. Yahaya has made it clear to those who cares to listen that they are free to smuggle rice and other prohibited items into the country but his men are there on the road to intercept it and transfer it to the Command premises. He is right.
This is evident by the other prohibited items that were said to have been made also by the Command . A Statement by Atta, the Command spokesperson, listed the other items intercepted by the Command: 187 Jerry Cans of 25 litres each and an additional 66 drums of vegetable oil. This is in addition to poultry products , which were said to have been conveyed in 12 different vehicles, Concealed gas Cylinders. The multi-million naira Contrabands were said to have been seized in different parts of Ogun state state by the different patrol Teams.
Recall that in the recent time the anti-smuggling officer of the Ogun 1, Command, had been having a running battle with the smugglers. The coming in of the FOU Zone A, Patrol Teams in the flash point Communities in the state was a big relief to them.