The Value News

Customs: Petrol And Rice Smugglers Cry Out

 

By Stephen Ubanna

This is not the best of times for petrol and  foreign par boiled rice smugglers  operating between Nigeria and Benin Republic .

This is because of the new startaegies adopted by Usman Yahaya,  acting Comptroller of Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, in dealing with them at the Badagry and Owode axisis of Lagos state which had been known over the years as a home of petrol and foreign rice smugglers.

the Customs acting Comptroller, was said to have mandated Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent  of Customs, described as old war horse who had been deployed to Gbaji Checkpoint  with a mandate to stop the Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, popular, petrol syndicate from continuing the business, of exporting the country’spetrol to Benin Republic for sale.

investigation by the Value News shows that smuggling of petrol became a lucrative business at Badagry and Owode axisis  with the suspension of the sale  of petroleum Products  20 km, close to the Border Communities by Ali, the Customs Comptroller General last year.

In taking the decision, the Customs boss had said that the filling stations along the border Communities were conduit to siphon Petrol to neigbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon.

The Customs helmsman was said to have told those that cares to listen that the decision  was  taken “to stop petroleum products supply  to the filling stations along the Border Communities to check the smuggling of petrol to Benin’’.

Yahaya: Acting Comptroller, FOU, Zone A.

  Given the marching order given to Jack and his Team to do everything within their powers to contain the petrol smugglers along the Badagry and Owode axis, they were were said to have moved into action without delay.

Between January and April, the Yahaya  hit man and his boys, were said to have  impounded about  20,000 Jerrry cans of  50 litres each of petrol which were said to have  been transferred to the Command premises for documentation. Most of the 50 litre jerry cans of seizures were said to have been made  at  the  Badagry and Owode  Creeks including the ones seized from   bunkerers.

Last Thursday, May 28, 2020, The Magazine  in its  undercover investigation went  to Badagry over   reports  making the rounds of  increased smuggling of petrol and foreign parboiled  rice into the country through the Creeks with the active Collaboration of  security agencies personnel .

 The Magazine took the   opportunity of the visit to Badagry to investigate what is happening at the various Customs Checkpoints at Gbaji in check- mating the activities of the motorists who smuggle  scores of 50 litres  Jerry  cans of petrol daily to  the neighboring Benin republic through the several illegal routes at the Seme/Krake Joint border since the closure of  the filling  stations  20 km along the border Communities which affected the fillings along the Badagry- Seme and Gbaji- Owode  border Communities .

It was gathered the only approved Petrol Tankers allowed to discharge at any approved filling station are the ones escorted by the Headquarters Border Drill or FOU, Zone A, personnel. They are expected to deposit a document confirming approval from a higher Authority to the FOU, Zone A, Gbaji checkpoint to avoid harassment.

  note that at  Gbaji alone, FOU, Zone A, Border Drill sector 1 and the CGC Strike Force,  Lagos  Zonal  offices including Seme Command, had established   checkpoints.

At the rate which motorists smuggle Jerry cans of 50 litres each of petrol, along the Badagry- Seme Express Way, many had expected an intense Competition between officers of the various Customs Formations checkpoints in making seizures of Jerry cans of petrol to contain the smugglers., But the job appears to have been left to the FOU, Zone A officers alone to do.

This may have informed why the FOU, Zone checkpoint had become a beehive of activities as motorists and trycle dread passing the area for fear of losing their Jerry cans of  petrol to them. Those who  brad tried to smuggle the item would never forget their experience in a hurry as they  had been dispossessed of it.

 the shallow gutter  opposite the FOU Zone A, Checkpoint operational base aat the Gbaji checkpoint   appear to have been  litered with scores of  Jerry cans of   Petrol and tyres riped open and loaded with 5 litre bottles of petrol and sealed  . The Magazine   was encouraged to go round  the  various Customs checkpoints at Gbaji   when he  cited the scores of Kegs  of Petrol in the shallow gutter.

Curious  to find out the quantities of the 50 litres each of the  Jerry cans of petrol   and tyres at the shallow gutter  covered  with Tapaulin, the Magazine had no option but to alight from the  taxi  to continue his investigation. The officers on guard  may not have known the intention of the Magazine   as they allowed him  to  feed his eyes with their seizures of the scores of  kegs of perol stored inside the shallow gutter.  The  Magazine had  counted  150,  50 Jerry cans of petrol of 50 litres each  stored in the shallow gutter, awaiting to be transferred to the Command premises for documentation .

Analysts had expected the Seme  Command  Governor’s checkpoint,  to have made most of the seizures of the Jerry Cans of 50 litres each of Petrol being the first Checkpoint  that could be  passed by  motorists plying the Lagos – Badagry Express Way.  But the  Seme  officers  at the Governor’s Checkpoint were said to have failed in their duties, thus giving room for the FOU, Zone A, Gbaji checkpoint officers to fill the vacuum. There are indications that motorists who play into the hands of the FOU, Zone A, Gbaji checkpoint officers lose two to three or two jerry cans of Petrol of  50 litres each daily to them. and kept in the booth of their vehicle had played into the han The intercepted kegs of petrol and tyres ripped open and stuffed with 5 litre botles of petrols were stored at te shallow gutter at the checkpoint. The Magazine had cited four of such Vehicles ,including  two jeeps , that were detained.

 Acting on information , jack,  was said to have led  a Team to a Badagry  waterside where smuggling of thousands  of Jerry cans of  petrol of 50 litres each  are carried out with the alleged active Connivance of security agencies personnel . The Team were said to have intercepted  about  3,000 Jerry cans of petrol of 50  litres  each  earmarked for export to Benin at the waterside, described as’’ a point of no return’’.

The agent handling the Contract  for the sponsors of the multi-million  naira petrol    syndicate   who was said to be of a northern extraction    was said to have boldly   confronted Jack who was said to have disguised himself  for the operation by wearing  a ‘POLO T-shirt and  a designer Short to penetrate the ranks of  the smugglers.

 The agent of the Petrol  smuggling syndicate   was said to have told Jack  that petrol  smuggling  is their  own legitimate business’ and therefore will not  handover the kegs of petrol found at the  Badagry waterside  to the  FOU ,Zone A Team. The argument was said to be so intense that the agent, who may be working for some  faceless  top government functionaries  and Politicians,  was forced to have   reached  out to them on phone  to alert them that the game was up i order to intervene to faciliate the release of the items.

Perhaps to convince the  agent  that they  have the Mandate of the Area Comptroller to do their work, Jack was said to have asked   the aggrieved agent of the thousands of Jerry cans  of petrol for the sponsors  to accompany  the  Team to the Command  Head office at Ikeja  to see   the items being handed  over to the Authority for documentation  and for him to make a case for the release.

The agent may have sensed that he may be detained  that he quickly retraced his steps, forcing the Youths around the  waterside who depend on loading the  jerry cans of petrol into ships  for their daily income to cry out. They were said to have drawn the attention of  Jack  to the pipeline in the area , an indication that the smugglers may have been scooping fuel from it over the years.  

  An elated Jack, according to an eyewitness account had worked majestically to where the Jerry cans of  petrol that  were lined up for export to Benin which  were  perfectly under the control of his boys who were armed to the teeth . He was said to have stopped  short at telling the officers  ’Congratulations for a job well done’.   

Also, acting on information , the FOU, Customs Chief , was said to have mobilised his boys to  raid a Badagry  shrine where  scores of the Asian country of Thailand  50 Kg bags of  smuggled foreign par boiled  rice were stored and carted them away despite threats. Going by Customs Tradition, the FOUZone A, Gbaji checkpoint Leader was said “to have put a  Seal on the shrine”, meaning that it could no longer be accessed by the Juju Priest who was said to be on the run.

Detained Barge By FOU Zone A, Checkpoint Team At Gbaji Waterside

The successful raid of the Badagry  shrine  may  have encouraged the Jack  and his Team members  to raid the  houses around the shrine where hundreds of ‘’50’’ bags of rice  were removed and transferred to the Command premises .

Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A acting  Comptroller , may have   seen  that the  Gbaji  Checkpoint  had limited Jack’s operations     that he was said to have constantly  sent him out on special assignments  to Ogun , Oyo and Osun states , forcing officers of the Command  to describe him as the  ‘’ officer in-charge of the south west Roving Team’’.

.  It is not surprising why  the Customs  Chief Superintendent  could hardly be found   at the Gbaji  Checkpoint as he was said to have  virtually left  the policing of the  Gbaji checkpoint, Badagry and Owode axis  in the hand of one Chief Superintendent Sule and Kafaru. Y, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs, and who is incidentally  the  Head of Operations  and ‘’Jack main  hit man’’.

 The activities of the trio: Jack, Sule and Kafaru, a source said  have rendered the  Border Drill , sector 1, Seme Command  and  the CGC Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office,  officers at the Gbaji  check point ineffective .

 ‘’There is only one checkpoint at Gbaji, FOU, ’’ ,a bus  driver plying the Lagos- Seme road had said. , noting that that other Customs checkpoints only exist in name.  

Jack  and  his Team members may have added  another feather to operations att Gbaji Checkpoint with  the interception of two barges  loaded Silicate and Shrimps. A source confirmed that  the  barges were towed to Gbaji waterside where it was detained.

Many believe that what   Jack  may  be doing  at gbaji checkpoint which had won  the won the heart of  Yahaya, the Area Comptroller, may not be different   from what Riks Lura, also a Chief Superintendent of Customs and The Command , Head of the Lagos Roving Team, had donefor much of this year. in the command   for much of last year .

. He was  said  to have  made the  highest  single seizure of  Pangolin Scales , loaded into  two abandoned Containers somewhere in an estate in  Alimosho  Local government Area of Lagos state  last February estimated at  about n10 billion.

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Stephen Ubanna

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