By Stephen Ubanna
More facts have emerged why President Muhammadu Buhammadu has described the Drills Exercise, popular, Operation Swift Response, OPS, inaugurated late last August to checkmate the illegal activities going on at the border Communities across the country as a success.
He may have been encouraged to describe it as a success because of the interception and seizure of large quantities of goods, materials, solid and mineral resources, thousands of 25 litres of Jerry cans each and tankers load of petroleum product across the borders with the neighbouring countries of Benin, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon. The Border Drills exercise may not have been extended to the north east geo-political region, because of the ongoing Counter-Insurgency war in Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states .
Before the inauguration of the Border Drills under the Chairmanship of Babagana Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Advisers, NSA, there have been security reports about the rot going on within the border Communities, across the country, particular, smuggling of Petroleum products to neighbouring Benin and Niger, but no security agency personnel has been caught in the act.
Security watchers believe that the President may have set a trap for the security agencies personnel when he inaugurated the OPS, late last August , with a mandate to checkmate the illegal activities going on at the Border Communities across the country.
The release of 295 smuggled Petroleum Tankers on December 17, 2019, barely four months after the inauguration of the OPS under the close watch of Zonal Coordinators, who were Customs officer selected from the rank of Assistant Comptroller Generals, ACG, may have exposed to the President the rot going at the Border Communities across the country.
The Value News learnt that when the deal leaked out, the Katsina state born Nigeria President who was miffed by the action of the security operatives charged with the responsibility of protecting the country’s borders with the neighbouring countries to indulge in such illegal act was said to have ordered Munguno, to probe the allegation and turn in his report to the Presidency for immediate implementation.
The rumour making the rounds was that the smuggled Petroleum Tankers were released from sector 3, north Central geo-political region comprising of Kwara, Niger, Kogi, Benue, Nasarawa and Plateau states. It is instructive to note that only Kwara, Benin, Kogi and Benue , within the region have border Communities with Benin Republic. The situation was the same in sector 4, comprising of Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Jigawa, Kaduna and Katsina, the President home state: illegal release of intercepted goods.
With the Presidential directive given to Munguno, a retired Major General and the NSA, to investigate and identify those involved in the release of the 295 multi-million naira smuggled petroleum Tankers, AC the NSA, was said to have moved into action. It was bad news for the sector 3 and 4 Zonal Coordinators and their Team Leaders. The NSA, who is the Chairman of the Border Drills exercise was said to have set a Board of Inquiry.
Investigation shows that the security agencies personnel , including Customs personnel, who were identified to be have been involved in the deal were invited for interrogation. The information volunteered by the suspects may have given the panel members the clue that it was an organised crime involving both Civilians and security operatives.
This may have informed why the report of the Board of Inquiry submitted to the Presidency by the NSA indicates that Civilians and security operatives had connived in undermining the government efforts in releasing the alleged 295 smuggled Petroleum Product Tankers without due approval from a higher Authority .It was a matter of time for the President to implement the report of the panel.
The report of the panel which was very indicting may have informed why the President met behind closed door about a week ago with Gabriel Olonisakin, a General and Chief of Defense Staff, CDS, Tukur Buratai, a Lt General and Chief of Army Staff, CAS, Abubakr Sadiq, an Air Marshall and Chief of Air Staff and Ibok –Ekwe Ibas, a Vice Admiral and the Chief of Naval Staff, CNS. Also in attendance at the top level security meeting with the President and Commander –In-Chief of the Armed Forces was Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police., IGP. Funny enough, Munguno, the NSA, was not at the meeting. He has been saddled with responsibility of implementing the report and to ensure the withdrawal of all the security Operatives indicted serving in the Border Drills. He was said to have also been given a matching order to ensure that ‘’appropriate punishment are meted to the suspects by their respective Organisations’’. This is bad news for the security agencies personnel serving in the OPS, that they are under close watch to avoid Compromising their position.
Moreso, it is an indications that Heads may roll in the various security agencies that had contributed officers for the Border Drills Operation across the country. Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, may not have waited for the NSA Board of Inquiry report to be submitted to the President before taking action.
He was said to have relieved Aminu Dahiru, an Assistant Comptroller General and sector 3, Coordinator, based in Ilorin, Kwara state, north central geo-political region and the sector 4 , Zonal Coordinator, based in Kaduna, north west of their appointment as they were said to be facing trial.
Critics believe that the failed Border Drills Zonal Coordinators could not have entered into trouble if they have stamped their foot down from the onset that they are in charge without allowing the officers to penetrate into them as to take decisions without on the release of intercepted Contrabands, particular, Petroleum products without seeking their approval.
He was said to have replaced the failed Border Drills Zonal Coordinators with Muhammed Uba Garba, who was taken to sector 3 and Aliyu Mohammed , who was deployed to sector 4. Until their deployment for the new national assignment , Muhammed, who was1 a tested anti-smuggling officer, was the Comptroller of Seme Command while Aliyu, was the Comptroller of Federal Operations Unit , Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos. The deployment of the duo, to the two porous regions, used by smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities appears to have given a bite to the anti-smuggling operation in the regions.
The duo may have learnt from the mistakes of their predecessors as they have given their respective Team leaders a level playing field, insisting that the right thing must done. Muhammed, the sector 3, Zonal Coordinator, who Customs officers, accuse of behaving more like a military personnel because of his contacts with them in the Border Drills Exercise was said to have warned the Operatives against any form of Compromise in the discharge of their duties. This is may have informed why the sector 3, Border Drills Team leaders are competing to make seizures of Petroleum products , foreign parboiled , vehicles of different brands among others.