By Stephen Ubanna
This is not the best of times for Kehinde Hussain Ejibunu, a Deputy Comptroller, overseeing the Affairs of the Federal Operations , FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, described as the biggest Customs Interventionist Unit , across the country.
Deputy Comptroller Ejibunu, who had succeeded Usman Yahaya, who had worn the rank of Comptroller, on retirement, on Friday September, 10, 2021, may have come to the Command with a mindset to deal decisively with the smugglers operating in the south west geopolitical region, particular, Ogun and Oyo states.
He may have sent a signal to the signal to the smugglers that it is no longer going to be business as usual when he rejig the Command Patrol Teams he met on ground by raising other Teams. One of such Teams was the Comptroller’s Monitoring Team, stationed both at the Lagos ports environment and always going out on Special assignmeents at the instance of the Area Comptroller.
Recall that barely 48 hours of assumption of duties, the Command had lost a driver, attached to one of the Patrol teams, in Yewa South Local Government Area of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo home state while on operation.
This was quickly followed by another bloody clash between another Patrol Team and smugglers at the sagamu Interchange in which some officers including a soldier attached to the Team were wounded. The Latest incident was the bloody clash between the Ogun based Foreign Par boiled rice smugglers at Fagbohun , a Community in Yewa South that could be approached through Idogo/Ipaja. The FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team , officers , who may have acted on information had set out on Tuesday, October 26, 2021, and arrived the village with the intention of dispossessing the smugglers of the smuggled rice and their means of Conveyance.
Unknown to the Customs Team members, the information about their operations, has leaked out to the smugglers who might have learnt their lesson from the recent clash with the Command officers at the. Sagamu Interchange where one of them was said to have been gunned down during a shootout .It was not surprisisng why they were armed to the teeth at the Fagbohun operation with the intention to kill any security agencies personnel , including Customs officers, who might stand on their way.
An eyewitness Account disclosed that when the smugglers sighted the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team, officers, approaching the Fagbohun Community they hid where they could be seen and quickly opened fire on the Team members forcing the officers to fight back in defence.
The source confirmed that it was not a pleasant operation as the officers who may have pursued the smugglers into their hideout may have played into their hand. On Wednesday, October 27, 2021, one of the missing officers was said to have been killed and his body dumped in a river near Ajegun Iyalosa village but without his riffle , allegedly the smugglers or the Youths from the Community , who were said to be the arch supporters of the smugglers. Another officer, who had participated in the operation whereabout , as at press time has not been seen known.
Theophilous Duniya, a Deputy Superintendent of Customstoms and the Command spokesperson, who had issued a Statement last Tuesday regarding the Ogun Operation had said that one of the officers is still missing However , he said the Command has mounted manhunt for the missing officer as some some suspected have been arrested who are helping the Command in their Investigations to get to the root of the matter. Even as residents flee Fagbohun Community to avoid arrest over the death of the FOU, Zone A, officer, in the hands of smugglers in the area.
Oba Kehine Adewole, the Olu of Ilaro, may have given to Deputy Comptroller Ejibunu , an insight of what to expect from the smugglers in the border Communities in the state when he was accompanied by Comptroller Peter Kolo , his Counterpart in Ogun I, Idiroko, who has started his three months pre-retirement Leave to his Palace last month.
The Ogun Monarch had told the Dduo, that the war against the smugglers in the state may not be an easy one because ‘’there are no established borders between Nigeria and Benin Republic in the state. The Oba, who could not hide his feelings had sounded it loud and clear to the Customs Comptrollers that ‘’the borders between the two West African countries are very porous’’. The Oba may have wanted the Customs Comptrollers to go with this message to Hameed Ali, a retired Army and Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, that he should not to expect much from their operations in Ogun state or there will be bloodshed in enforcing the government Fiscal policies .
Infact, the Ilaro Traditional Ruler, had told Deputy Comptroller Ejibunu, who was in is Palace and his entourage , that if he expects a hundred percent Compliance by the residents of the border Communities to stop smuggling or aiding and abetting smugglers, he will not be fair to himself. He has challenged the Customs Authorities to look into the strenuous conditions,under which the officers staione at the border Communities are working , meaning that the officers have been exposed to Compromise.
Recall that Michael Agbara, a retired Customs Comptroller, who have had opportunity of Heading Ogun I, where he had a running battle with the smugglers had said that there are over 100, unapproved border routes in that state which had remained a major problem to the Command, notwithstanding the interventionist efforts of the FOU, Zone A, Border Drills, Lagos Zonal office, and the Headquarters Strike Force, Team A.
The question on the lips of most people was: how the information about a Patrol Team sent out from the Command Headquarters to a flashpoint area in Ogun stat or Oyo state which are secretly handled leak out as to give the smugglers room to await the officers in their hideout to Launch attack.
Another school of thought had said that it is either the paid informants are two edged swords, giving out information to the FOU, Zone A, Authorities about the smugglers and also taking information from the Customs operatives about their plan to the smugglers. This is where Deputy Comptroller Ejibunu and his various Patrol Team Team Leaders may have to go back to the drawing board to restrategise on how to deal with the notorious diehard smugglers in Oyo and Ogun states without any shed of blood.
Duniya, the Command spokesperson, may have spoken the mind of the Command Comptroller, when he said that ‘’no matter the attack on the officers, it will never deter them from carrying out their Legitimate duties of anti-smuggling operations in the south west geo-political region.
Appealing to Nigerians, particular, the smugglers, to desist from attacking Custom operatives carrying out their Legitimate duties that had been assigned by the government, he noted that they have not been sent out by the Authorities ‘’to fight anybody but to enforce the government Fiscal policies ‘’.
An aggrieved Duniya, who could not hid his feelings opined that these officers who are being killed by smugglers and their supporters have their own villages and Families to cater for. He pleaded with the Youths of the border Communities, particular that, ‘’if they cannot assist the officers to carry out their Lawful duties in their area of operation, they should not support the smugglers to attack them ’’, insisting that’’ the officers deserve a right to live’’ as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.