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’’.
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.
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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