Why Customs Personnel Cannot Effectively Supervise Nigeria And Niger Border Routes As FOU , Zone A , Tackle Smugglers In Ayetoro Area Of Ogun State Leading To Casualties

By Stephen Ubanna

President Muhammadu Buhari, who incidentally is a retired Army General, appears to have known  that  Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel  and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and his men  cannot effectively  supervise  the border areas  across the Country with the land-locked  Niger Republic, that he had said that only ‘ the ’Almighty God could do so’’. He has reason.

 He has attributed it to the large expanse of land   which  the two West African  countries share, which is put at more than 1,400 Kilometers going by the report of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS. This may have informed why  the Smugglers operating  between the two WEest African  countries were said to  have taken  advantage of the porous  border routes  to carry out their nefarious activities

Ali: CG, Customs

Investigations  by The Value News shows that of the 1, 499  unapproved border routes and the 84 , legal routes across the country,, over 60 percent  of it are in the north alone between Nigeria and Niger. The border routes  between the two countries , using the  country’s geographical map,  which is  a guide to the NIS and the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, anti-smuggling  personnel  stretches between the north western states of Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, to the  north central states of  Kwara, Niger, Kogi and Benue including the north eastern states of  Yobe state.

The  dare-devil smugglers  may have  found it easy to do their illegal business because most of these  border routes between the two countries are either mountainous or a jungle, which makes it very porous. The report making the rounds  is that over 70% of about 10 million  small and light  weapons  in  the West African sub-region  are smuggled into the Nigerian market through Niger.  The proliferation of these    weapons  in the north, particular, Katsina and Zamfara  states in the north west and the intermittent seizure  of such weapons by Customs personnel    gives an insight to the trading of small and light weapons in the  region.

Only recently,  the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone B, Patrol  team , in Kebbi , one of the states in the north west, that shares  border routes with Niger,  either through the land , river or creeks  had impounded   73 locally made guns and 891  imported Cartridges Concealed in a truck   conveying locally produced rice.

 The locally manufactured guns and imported  Cateridges  were said to have been seized by the FOU, Zone B, anti-smuggling officers on Patrol along  Yauri, Zamare waterside , described as a notorious smugglers route in the state. There may have been several of such concealed locally made guns, small and light weapons including imported   Cartridges that had been smuggled into the Nigerian market through the state  that had escaped the eagle eyed  Ali’s Patrol officers on the road.

The bad news is that  these illegal weapons may have fallen into the waiting hands of the Bandits and other Criminals operating in the north west that have been terrorising the people over the years. This may have why the Nigerian President had said that  the  two countries  will do everything within their capacity   to help stabilize  the sahel region in order to forestall the activities of the  dare-devil smugglers.

Sambo: A Former Nigerian Vice President Drove From Niamy To Daura To Brief Buhari On Niger Elections

 Namadi Sambo, a  one-time  Nigerian Vice President    who heads an Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS,  Election Mission to the neighbouring  West African country  was said to have driven from Niamy, the country’s Capital  to Daura f to brief President Muhammudu Buhari on their assignment in Niger. The Katsina state born Nigerian President had told Sambo, that Daura is  a  a few kilometers to the Republic of Niger  which could not have given any stress. It is not surprising why Foreign  rice , vehicle, small and light weapons smugglers and Bandits are having a field day in the north, particular, Katsina and Zamfara  states.

Locally Manufactured Guns, Seized By Customs Patrol Team At Kebb State

While smugglers and Bandits in the north west , have taken advantage of the more than 1,400 Km border stretch between Nigeria and Niger to carry out their Criminal activities, the smugglers and gun runners in the south west , were said to have also taken advantage of  the773Km, border routes shared between Nigeria and Benin Republic  to smuggle the Asian country of Thailand Par boiled rice, including  small and light weapons into the Nigerian market.

  For much of last year and now, Usman Yahaya led FOU, Zone A, Operations Swift Response, popular, Border Drills, Lagos Zonal office and the  Comptroller General of Customs, CGC, Strike Force, Team A,  led by Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller have intensified their anti-smuggling efforts at Ogun, Seme, Idiroko, Oyo/Osun and Ekiti/Ondo  axis.  

Many believe that without their interventionist efforts  , the south west based smugglers who are said to have  very powerful  people behind them  could have  flooded the Nigerian market with smuggled Foreign rice and other Contraband including fairly used vehicles imported through Bollore  and  Cotonou ports, both in  Benin Republic.

Idiroko: Home Of Smugglers

In spite of the interventionist efforts of the Yahaya and Shuaibu’s men including the Border Drills personnel at the notorious land border areas  in the south west st of Ogun and Oyo,  the  smuggler maritime analysts said s are still not scared of Customs Patrol teams.  

. Going by the  NIS, records,  there are over 80 illegal routes between Nigeria and Benin Republic , within Ogun state alone used by amugglers to carry out their nefarious activities. Informed sources told The Magazine that the Ayetoro Operation was masterminded by Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller. The Magazine gathered that when the Customs acting Comptroller got information from a credible source about some smugglers coming into the country with six uses loaded with ForeIgn rice from Benin Republic,, he kept it a closed guided secret .

He was said to to have let the cat out of the bag sometimes on Monday, December 21, 2020, around 12 mid night, when he alerted Jack, the Head of the Command’s Operations and Lagos Roving to mobilise his men and block the smugglers at Ayetoro. the Customs Assistant Comptroller was said to have been given a mandate to ensure that the buses load of ice were intercepted from the smugglers and transferred to the Government warehouse, Ikeja.

Jack knew that he could not afford to fail with his boys that they were said to have moved into action at the risk of their live. tThey were said to have laid ambush on the alleged six buses at Ayetoro and succeeded in getting it from the smugglers with some arrests being made. The smugglers and the Ayetoro Youths, according to an Eyewitness account were said to have resisted the FOU, Zone A , team, from taking away the buses. They were said to have attacked the Customs Team with dangerous weapons including Bottles filled with kerosene and fuel, pump action and ratchets.

The smugglers may have realised that the FOU , Zone A , team , were prepared for them and determined to transfer the six buses loaded with the Foreign rice to their premises at Ikeja that they called for supoort from IgunKuto Obada, Olorunda and other neighbouring Communities to resist the FOU Zone A , team from taking away the buses to their Ikeja premises. They may have got it wrong as Jack and his men , according to the source, were able to outmaneuver their way to beat them to it.

In anger , they were said to have opened fire on the Customs Patrol team and Vandalised their official vehicle, forcing them to fire back. There are indications that one Customs officer fell to the smugglers bullet but four of then were killed. Abimbola Oyeyemi, a Deputy Superintendent and the Ogun Command spokesperson had said that four persons including a Customs officer on his legitimate duties sustained injuries during the shoot-out with the smugglers.

The renewed smuggling activities at Ayetoro area of the Idiroko area, may have informed why Edward Awolowo Ajogun, the Ogun state Commissioner of Police, has deployed more policemen to the strategic locations in the affected areas of the smugglers attack to maintain Law and Order at Ayetoro

.Recall that some years back , a one -time Comptroller of the FOU, Zone A, had vowed that he would no longer take it for Customs officers carrying out their Legitimate duties to be killed by smugglers.

He has advised the Patrol team leaders that anytime a member of their team is killed for doing their job by smugglers, the team should not hesitate to kill two or more of the smugglers. The good news was that Jack and his men succ eeded in taking the intercepted six buses loaded with Foreign rice to the Command premises at Ikeja.

The buses were found to have been loaded with over 800 bags of 50kg each of Foreign par boiled rice loaded from Benin republic into Nigeria. The interception of the six buses load of foreign rice at Ayetotoro bear eloquent testimony to what is happening in the south west border Communities.

A visitor to the FOU, Zone A, premises on Wednesday, December 23, 2020, would find the six buses intercepted by Jack Coordinated team of FOU, Zone A, strategically parked in the command’s Compound awaiting for Court Condemnation for seizure.

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