By Nwangwu Uba
Until Mohammed Aliyu redeployment to the Federal Operations Unit , FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, from Seme Command last year by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service,NCS, Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, described in Customs circles as a very ”reliable and fearless” officer and his team members were said to be only in-charge of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team activities.
This gave the team members the opportunity to transverse the nooks and corners of the south west geo-political region where they made spectacular seizures of rice and exotic vehicles including twelve bullet proof vehicles valued at over N1 billion in less than one year.
Investigation by The Value News Magazine shows that there were other teams which dreaded of going into the jungle for fear of being attacked by hoodlums but he was said to have led most of the operations himself. One of such operations that was said to have been led by him was at Iseyin Community , a haven for foreign rice smugglers. He was said to have entered the Community with his 4 wheel Hilux vehicle accompanied by some of his officers last April . The team had evacuated eight trucks loaded with the foreign parboiled that were transferred to the Command premises in Lagos.
It was learnt that the team leader who initially led the operation was scared of putting the eight trucks loaded with the alleged smuggled rice on the road for fear of being attacked by hoodlums who were said to have take over the Iseyin road by burning tyres and singing war songs. They may have met a match in the person of Riks who Commandeered the eight trucks to be put on the road, by leading the way.
It was gathered that Muhammed Uba Garba, then Comptroller of the Command was upbeat. He was said to have repeatedly called on Riks to ensure that they were safe. His assurance that there was no cause to worry may have encouraged him to be calm until the team arrived with the eight trucks load of rice. But Riks, according to sources would not want people to believe that it was his team effort alone that made the foreign rice seizure possible but a joint effort with other teams o from the Command.
Also, the Team, according to sources created a major traffic at Abekuta, Ogun state, as he led the operation that evacuated over three thousand 50 Kg bags of foreign parboiled rice which was said to have been deposited at the Ogun Command warehouse despite the hoodlums blockage of the road to frustrate their effort.
Riks may have carved a nitche for himself in the anti-smuggling war at FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state. He was said to have led an operation at Ikan, Bakassi local Area of Cross River state, where the team were said to have evacuated over a dozen trucks load of rice despite threat by the people of engaging the services of Niger Delta militants to attack them from t leaving the Community with the trucks load of rice. They got it wrong as he dared them.
A source informed the Magazine that his team made the highest number of seizures of Contrabands in 2014 which may not have been appreciated by then management led by Abdullahi Dikko. Note that the majority of the officers who were said to be in team at FOU, Zone C, are still with him in Lagos. Not surprising the spectacular seizes being made by the team. Insiders informed the Value News that Mohammed , the Command Area Comptroller, who was not carried away by what officers, both within and outside the Command had told him about the senior Customs officer exploits but needed to see things himself. He was said to have put the Riks led team under close watch to confirm that it was actually the team that had raised the profile of the Command anti-smuggling in the recent time.
The Customs Comptroller may have been surprised at the spectacular seizures made by the team between August and September 2018. The team was said to have intercepted 12 bullet proof vehicles worth over N1 billion in September alone. This was laced with the seizure of a ”40” Container load of Codeine , a banned Pharmaceutical product in the country.
Perhaps, what should surprise many was the fact that he bursted a tramadol syndicate at the Lagos seaports last year. The arrest of one of the tramadol importers by the team was said to have led to the disclosure that there several other Container load of tramadol drugs awaiting to be cleared at the nation’s premier ports, Apapa.
The Value News finding shows that tramadol drugs import had been a thriving business at the ports over the years as Customs officers and the importers with the agents have been making a kill out of it. The aggressiveness of Riks and his team members in the anti-smuggling drive may have informed the reason why Mohammed , the FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller , to have increased the responsibility of the Riks led Operations and Lagos Roving team by adding the Command warehousing Operations and Car Stands to it.
Recall, that there have been rumour making the rounds about the deals going on at the Command warehouse. The situation at the warehouse management was made worse as the officers deployed to oversee it do not even know the quantities of rice at the warehouse at every point in time because of poor supervision.
More worrisome were the reports that officers in the Car stands team have been extorting money from the Car dealers over the years in the name of the Command Comptroller but remained a closely guided secret. It was learnt that when the officer in-charge of the Car Stands teamwas deployed to Seme Command, Mohammed, the Command Area Comptroller saw it as good a big relief.
This may have informed the reason why Garba, the Seme Customs boss had put a close tab on him to ensure that the officer do the right thing. He was said to have been warned that he must not been seen in Lagos on any unauthorised engagement. The officer , according to sources ,may have known what would happen to him if he flouts the order that he was said to have turned a new leaf by making spectacular seizures at Seme Command.
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