Border Closure: Border Drills Is A Success -Buhari

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.    

Babagana Munguno: NSA And Chairman OPS

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.

Seized Foreign Rice

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.

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