By Stephen Ubanna
Looking back the over e last one year,Mohammed Aliyu, Comptroller , Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, could count himself lucky for having dedicated and committed anti-smuggling officers.
This is evident going by the number of exotic vehicles and Contraband goods, particular, the Asian country of Thai par boiled rice, intercepted and transferred to the Command premises, by the Command Operations and Lagos Team Headed by Riks Lura, a fearless and uncompromising Chief Superintendent of Customs, CSC, and other Teams including the Command Strike Force , Headed by One CSC Ahmed.
As at last Wednesday last week, the number of impounded exotic vehicles from different locations in Ogun, Lagos and Oyo states , which are parked in every available space in the premises and the Command Mechanical workshop, turned warehouse speaks volume.
Investigation by The Value News shows that the Command other patrol and Surveillance teams in the states in the south west geo=political region are working round the clock to remain relevant as the Riks Operations and Lagos Roving Team appears to have dominated the Command anti-smuggling war.
Not many people are surprised at the number of exotic vehicles, bullet proof and multi-million naira, donkey skins including thousands of ‘’50’’ bags of Thai parboiled rice and killer drugs, particular, tramadol and codein that had been impounded by the team.
Insiders informed the Magazine, that when the operations are tough for his men to handle, Riks had abandoned his administrative work in the office to lead the team. This is evident going by the number of bullet proofs numbering over 15 and other exotic vehicles that were said to have been evacuated from different locations in Lagos metropolis, despite all the threats by the alleged importers.
The window provided by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, for those who had lost their vehicles to Customs anti-smuggling Formations across the country to visit the nearby FOU ,Command, in order to process their documents to take delivery of their smuggled vehicles by paying the appropriate duties and levies may have turned the Command premises as a market of a sort as the car dealers have turned the Command as their premises to process their documents. Are using forged Customs papers, were said to have voluntarily turned up at the FOU, ZoneA , Premises, to perfect their papers, to avoid running into trouble with the Command Operations and Lagos Loving team or strike Force officers on the road.
Notwithstanding, the window provided for the vehicle smugglers by the Customs Authorities to take delivery of their and use the country’s terminals dedicated for car imports to take delivery of their vehicle imports without problem, but the diehard smugglers , appear unprepared to turn a new leaf. Those who have tried to beat the Command patrol teams to to bring into the Lagos market their smuggled vehicles may not have escaped the Babagana Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA, Border Drills personnel on the road. The number of vehicles dented with red earth or badly damaged while the smuggled tried to escape but eventually caught shows that that there is no hiding place for the Cross-Border vehicle smugglers.
Many believe that liyu, the Customs Comptroller, fierce looks may have forced the Command patrol Teams to compete for seizure Contrabands goods to win the Comptroller’s monthly Commendation or award. CSC Riks and Ahmed may have won the Comptroller’s heart over the last one year because of their reliability and ability to deliver. Perhaps, the seizure that may have endeared Riks, particular, to the Comptroller and Aminu Dahiru, the then Assistant Comptroller General , ACG, in –charge of NCS, Zone A, Lagos was the operation at Ipoiki waterside, Ogun, state which resulted in the seizure of over 00,000 jerry Cans of 25 litres each , valued at over N1.5 bn. The smugglers were said to have berthed 10 locally built barges preparatory for re-export of the Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol, to Republic of Benin.
The Value News learnt that the first Team from the Command that were sent for the operation may have been scared by the fierce-looking smugglers who were armed to the teeth that they could not enter the Creek to take over the barges.
The failure of the Team to dare the smugglers may have, to mobilse his men for the operation in 2018. The Team may encouraged Aliyu, the Area Comptroller, to direct Riks, to lead the operation which involved the Nigeria Navy, Western Marine Command and the Old Ogun Command anti-smuggling officers.
They were said to have over-powered the smuggles and succeeded in evacuating the 100,000 ‘ 25 litres each from the Ipoiki Creek. Given the involvement of the Navy and two other Commands in the operation, the item was shared ,among them. andRiks, was said to have supervised the transfer of the Command allocation which were loaded in severa l trucks to the Command Ikeja premises, which were later sold to the public on the orders Ali, the Comptroller General .
President Muhammadu Buharimay have given impressed by the petroleum products seizures that he gave Kudos to Ali, the Comptroller General and his men for the spectacular seizure rry Cans.Before making these remarkable seizures with his men over the last one year at the FOU, Zone A, they were said to have participated in other serious operations in the Command. As the Officer –In-Charge of the the Command Ijebu Ode Checkpoin, the then Command Operations and Lagos Roving led by one CSC, Jack Okaabi, now incharge of the CGC Strike Force, Lagos, Zone a, Operations, which led to the seizure of 8 truck load of rice at Ogbomosho, Oyo stat and another 4,00 ‘’50’’ bags of par boiled rice in Abeokuta, Ogun state. in 2018. Muhammed Uba , Garba, a former Comptroller of FOU , Zone A, was said to have been worried about the Ogbomosho operation because of the counter-attack by the people who were said to have come out with deadly weapons. The Customs Comptroller may have left the office when it became clear that the team members were on their way back to Lagos with the 8 loaded trucks of foreign rice.
The Ogbomosho operation may not be different from the Iseyin, operation in Oyo state. The interception of five locally built barges loaded with foreign rice , from Benin Republic which had berthed at Oyingbo waterside for distribution to other major rice markets in the south west and south east geo-political region by road speaks volume.
Note that the interception of 8,00’’50’’ bags of Thai par boiled rice at Bakassi, Cross river state, regarded as a home of pirates , because of the closeness to the Central African country of Cameroon, by Riks led patrol Team at FOU, Zone C, in 2014, may have exposed him as a thorough –bred anti-smuggling officer , ready to dare the rice smugglers at any time
. His fame in the Bakassi operations people feared, he would not be able to evacuate the seized foreign rice to the Command warehouse at Calabar because of the road block mounted by the smugglers but he was said to have led the way and asked others driver to follow him until they got to Calabar. The Naval officer who was said to have have provided reinforcement for the team , was surprised that the Customs team dared the Bakassi smugglers.
Those who are conversant with his early years in the service, described him as one of Comptroller Victor Dimka’s trained anti-smuggling officers who was said to have sustained the firepower that he has continued to be identified as a reliable officer by his former and present Area Comptrollers.