- Patrol Team Acted Within The Law- Analysts
By Stephen Ubanna
The last may not have been heard in the Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller and Head of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos, and Lagos Roving , Team, raid of the Foreign rice stores in Bodija market and the warehouses around the market , used by foreign par boiled rice dealers .
The powerful Bodija Foreign rice, dealers in the Ibadan Bodija market, who were part of the Ibadan Food Sellers Association, who may have tried various tricks to blackmail Team to blackmail the FOU Team, who are backed by the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap2004, but no luck, may have taken their case to the National Assembly for Justice.
They were said to have reached out to Kola Balogun, a Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria, representing Oyo south Senatorial district, to lodge their complaints and who is now championing their case. Many believe that he could not have the otherwise because he needed the powerful food sellers Association to return to the Senate in the 2023 general election.
He was said to have used his advantage position to push for the Senate to probe the allegations of the rice dealers that 3,046 bags , 50Kg each, worth about N79.2million, going by the market rate of N26,000.00 per bag. Senator Balgun, who has become the mouth piece of the Ibadan Food Sellers Association, had said , based on the petition sent to him, that the FOU, Zone A, Customs Operatives had also carried 14 kegs of 25Kg, Vegetable oil and a bag of garri, including breaking into their safes to remove N4,862,000.
The questions on the lips of most people :Was how did the rice dealers knew that money was allegedly missing in their stores or warehouses when the FOU , Zone A, Team, acting under the Law, had placed new Padlocks and Seal on the broken doors to ensure that no one enters into it without the Area Comptroller’s approval. The CEMA section 104, is very clear on the punishment that would be meted out to any person who breaks the SEAL: 10 year imprisonment.
But The FOU, Zone A ,Special Team, according to informed sources were said to have only recovered two thousand bags of Foreign par boiled rice, equivalent of for trucks load of rice which were transferred to the Command premises in Ikeja, Lagos.
The Team members were said to have also recovered Cash of over N500,000.00, which was said to have been handed over the Command Station Officer for documentation. The quantity of rice recovered in the Bodija market stores and the warehouses around the market is a far departure from the 3,046 bags of 50 Kg each, which the Ibadan food sellers Association had told their Senator was carted away for the market during the night raid.
The Value News News learnt that a Police had approached the Team requesting that the woman who owned the shop had requested that the money be given to him to keep. It was gathered that the Team Leader had requested the Police to fulfill all the necessary formalities to be given the recovered amount which includes capturing his image and also signing for it but disappeared into thin air.
The Customs Team, which has the backing of Usman Yahaya, the Command Area Comptroller had acted on information to raid the Bodija Foreign rice market .The Team members were said to have tracked a 50 vehiccles load of smuggled foreign rice from the Iseyin to Ogbomosho border and finally traced it to the Bodija market, where it was supplied to the dealers.
The FOU , Zone A, Team, may have been encouraged to raid the Ibadan, Bodija, rice market because of the government policy on ground concerning the re-export of foreign rice from Benin to Nigeria. This is because President Muhammadu Buhari, on January 1, 2017, banned the importation of Foreign rice into the Nigerian market in order to protect the local rice producers.
Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel had followed it up to ensure the Interventionist Units which includes the Comptroller General of Customs Strike Force and the Border Drills , across the country implement the Presidential directive to the later.
From the north west states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, the President home state, Kano, Jigawa and north central states of Kwara, Benue, Niger, home state of retired Generals Ibrahim Babangida, a former military President and A bdulsalami Abubakar, a one –time military Head of State, and Kogi , and the north east states, of Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe, Borno and Yobe , whch share a 1,500Km , boundary with these regions to the south west states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti, and the south south states of Akwa Ibom and Cross river, which share boundaries with the central African country of Cameroon, the story is the same. Seizures of thousands of bags of rice, 50 Kg each daily.
Given the direction which the Bodija market raid is going with the Ahmad Lawan, led Senate mandating the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition’’ to investigate the alleged invasion of the Ibadan Bodija rice market, which they had said resulted in the carting away of goods worth N85 million’’, the Rice Farmers Association were said to have thrown their weight on Customs Authorities, particular the FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos, to continue their good works of protecting the local rice market.
The probe , according to an informed source came on the heels of a petition from the Ibadan Food Sellers Association, that was said to have been routed through Senator Balogun. Many believe that the Senate probe is unnecessary because. the Customs and Excise Management Act, the CEMA, Cap 2004,, section 147, gave the Customs Personnel the powers to search any suspected premises of warehousing Contraband without warrant.
This may have informed why the customs Authorities are waiting for the Senate Committee conducting the probe on the Ibadan Bodija market in Oyo state to arrive in order to hear their own on side of the story. Maritime analysts had said that the much the Lawmakers could do is to advise the Interventionist units but not to cripple their Operations to support foreign rice smugglers that may kill the local rice market.
The FOU , Zone A, Patrol Team vehicles have been shot several times in Ogun and Oyo states by smugglers. Even some Patrol Team members ,including military personnel were said to have been hit by the smugglers bullet for carrying out their Legitimate duties: stop foreign smugglers.
Meanwhile, Jimlar Solaja, the President of the Rice Farmers Association and other members of the Executive, were said to have paid to called at the Command Wednesday, April 21, 2021. They were said to have used the Opportunity to meet Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, Area Comptroller and the Unit Heads of the Command to rub minds.
They were said to be very appreciative of the anti-smuggling drive of the Command which is yielding results as Nigerians have started Patronising locally produce rice, forcing the foreign rice dealers and their Benin Republic suppliers to cry out.