FOU Zone A: No Hiding Place For Rice Receivers Any Longer From Smugglers In The South West States Of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo

By Stephen Ubanna

 Between December 22, 2020 , when  Jack Okpabi , an Assistant Comptroller, and Head of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU,  Zone A, operations and Lagos Roving ,  led the team members and some   soldiers, to raid Ayetoro Community,  hide out for foreign rice smugglers  and carted away 800 bags  of 50 Kg  each, loaded into six buses, which were transferred to the Command premises, the receivers, described in Customs circles as safe haven  in Lagos and Ogun states are no longer finding it funny.

 This is because the FOU, Zone A, Assistant Comptroller and his boys have succeeded in cutting off the sources of supply of foreign rice to these receivers in their  warehouses  which has become empty in the recent time.

 The Ayetoro incident may have   exposed the various tactics used by the foreign rice smugglers to deliver to the dealers’ warehouse  in Lagos and Ogun stes. Prior to the Ayetoro  raid, there had been rumours making the rounds  which had filtered out to the Customs Headquarters, Abuja, that foreign rice had  flooded the major  markets in the south west , thus forcing  down the price of  foreign parboiled in the  Nigerian market as the demand for locally produced rice drop.

 .  The situation was so worrisome that Usman  Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, Area Comptroller, was said to  have repeatedly  used the weekly meetings of the Command  to give targets to the  various Patrol and Surveillance Teams including   those at the  approved  Checkpoints  to go out and make foreign rice and vehicle seizures  from the smugglers.

 Jack and his team members , who appear to have understood the body language of the Customs Area Comptroller and his demands ,  were said to have gone back to the drawing board to restrategise  on   how to block the source  of foreign   rice supplies to the  receivers  in  their various locations in Lagos and Ogun states .

 The Value News learnt that between Monday 18, 2021  and Tuesday, January 26, 2021,  the Jack led  Operations and Lagos Roving team, alone,  have  intercepted  over 2,000 bags , 50Kg each  of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice  from different locations in Lagos, Oyo and Ogun states.  The foreign rice seizures, according to a source were said to have come in tranches of 170 bags,900 bags,190 bags and so on .

Hired Truck For Loadung Seized Foreign Rice In Safe Haven In Lagos

 The latest of the foreign rice  seizures by the Jack led team was the interception of over 370 bags of rice of  50 Kg  each    , which were said to have been  loaded into two hired trucks and transferred to the Command, Ikeja premises.  The over 370 b 50 Kg each , were said to have been intercepted  in the night of Tuesday, 2021 in an undisclosed warehouse in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre. This may have sent jitters to other foreign receivers in the City that the game is up.

The team may have succeeded in making  the massive foreign rice  seizures from the rice receivers  in less than one week because it had succeeded  in knowing the operational time of the smugglers , and how they usually  delivered  their smuggled product to the receivers’ warehouses .

 Informed sources told The Magazine hat  the major  means of Conveyance  used by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities  from the Creeks where smuggled  foreign rice dropped  with the use of local  Boats thousands of bags of ‘’50’’ each,  are mostly motorcyles, popular, ‘’Okada, which  could carry at least 10 to 15 bags of rice,  of50Kg each at a go . The Magazine findings shows that some of the Okada riders  could make such a trip   two to three times  daily , which had informed  why there are always foreign bags of  rice to  sell in the  Nigerian markets, particular, in the south west and the north west  stats.

Inteepted Foreign Rice Transfrred To FOU, Zoe A , Preemises On Wednesday, January 27, 2021

 Investigations by The Magazine  shows that some of  the FOU, Zone A, Patrol teams  and  the officers at    Che checkpoints, particular,  Ajillete, in Ogun state  Agabara and Gbaji, along the Lagos – Seme, a order Community between Nigeria and Benin Republic, may not have   been   doing much in making foreign rice or vehicle seizues from the smugglers operating  around the areas because of the involvement of  security agencies personnel in the smuggling business. 

 There is no  gainsaying the fact that most of the security  agencies personnel , who are benefitting financially  from the smugglers may  have turned themselves  into informant and thus, helping to sabotage the economy including ambitious Customs personnel jostling for position  at the FOU , Zone A, using their contacts at the Customs Headquarters to water the ground for them.

 Perhaps, Jack and his team members may have gotten their first baptism  of fire in one of their operations in the south west state  of Oyo state in the past  that they may have  decided to keep  it as  a closely guided secret whenever  they are going out on any operation  and only let out the cat out of  the bag  to other security operatives co-opted to be in the team and his own men   when the Area Comptroller  gives the green light  for the operation. It is surprising why the team,  has   been making spectacular  foreign rice seizures in the recent time.

 The team may have broken  into the smugglers syndicate that uses the creeks  around the Alaba International market to  supply thousands  of  bags of   foreign rice of   50Kg each to the receivers    at the various warehouses around the market. Acting on information, the FOU Zone A, Operations  and Lagos Roving team, under the close watch of Jack,  were said to have driven the foreign rice receivers at the Alaba market underground by take over the creeks through which   foreign rice  are smuggled into the market from the neighbouring  Benin Republic.

The Magazine visited some of the foreign  rice warehouses  at  the market which  used to be a beehive of activities  on Wednesday, January 27, 2021, but found that   it has become  a shadow of itself. A dealer confirmed that since the  FOU Zone A, team , struck at the market early this year, they have been forced to go underground, because of the millions of naira that had been lost due to the Operations.

Another   foreign rice dealer who spoke The Magazine, disclosed that he   could not understand   how the information on how they were receiving their   deliveries  through  the creeks around the market and which was secretly handled had   filtered out to Yahaya’s men because of the clinical way the team carried out the Operations.

 The success by the Jack team in making seizures of  foreign rice Contraband and vehicles for the Command  may have exposed him to envy from other officers who are jostling for his position.  Many of them were said to have resorted to damaging write ups against him to project him in bad light. A  senior officer who spoke to the Magazine  disclosed Jack remained undeterred by the reports as he and his team members have continued to make more s Contraband seizures for the Command. And the Command Comptroller is not Complaining  about him but satisfied with his performance.

The good news is that Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS,  is  in the picture of the daily, weekly and monthly  activities of the Command.  This is evident going by the Command   incident, weekly and monthly  reports  that  are regularly    sent to the Comptroller General’s office and   the Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation Department.

  This  may have informed  why the Customs Comptroller General is  very much happy  with Yahaya and his  men , and thus, has not found it necessary to replace him,  even when there are many idle Comptrollers  at the Zonal and Customs Headquarters without office.

  Many believe that Yahaya and his officers  may have  cue into the Comptroller General  Presidential  mandate of ensuring  that nothing enters or leaves the country through the land borders. Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had baned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles , through the land border on January  Ist, 2017 and the policy  has not been changed four years  after.

DC. Shuaibu: Coordinator , CGC Strike Force, Team A

Many believe that Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller and a one- time , Head of the FOU Zone A, Admin, Depatment . had    inculcated the habit of ensuring that the Command daily incident, weekly and monthy   reports are ready as at  when do. This may have informed why the Customs Comptroller had impressed it on his successor  to follow the same   foot step .

 Note that Shuaibu, who is now the Coordinator of the Comptroller General’s Strike Force, Team A, Lagos,  has sustained the track record by continuing what he knows  best in Administrative parlance by regularly sending the Team  incidents, daily, weekly and monthly reports to the Headquarters as at when do.

 This may have put the Team CGC Strike Force,Team A,  ahead of other Teams in the heart  of the Customs  Comptroller General who has  seen the Lagos Team A, as working according to the mandate given to the Team  to block areas of revenue  leakages   using Intelligence gathering to do so instead of mounting road blocks.

 In the area of anti-smuggling operations, it has also  given the rice  smugglers a run for their money as the Team Operational base at the Ikeja Training College are always filled with seized  thousands of bags of foreign parboiled rice of 50Kg each , were said to have been transferrred to the  Ikorodu  Lighter Terminal , ILT, used for warehousing overtime cargoes, in ‘’40’’ Containers to prevent weevil from entering into the bags to spoil the foreign rice.       

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