By Stephen Ubanna
With the free hands given to the Customs Area Comptrollers cross the country by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, may have thrown up Interventionist Area Comptrollers and Officers to watch in the service anti-smuggling war.
This is because the interventionist Customs Comptrollers an their officers have taken the battle to the smuggles hideout to deal a decisively blow on them. From the north west, Cheldi Wada, A Deputy Comptroller, Katsina Command, established in President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army general, home state has become a thorn in the flesh of the smugglers who sees t smuggling as a way of life in the state.
Ever since he was eployed to the Customs Headquarters to Katsina, described as home of smugglers, in March 2021, the Customs Deputy Comptroller has demonstrated that all the ricks that he had learnt in countering the strategies employed by the smugglers around the Oode axis of Lagos , as a Deputy Comptroller overseeing the Seme Command Outstation and later as the Command Area Comptroller wasnot a waste.
Informed sources told The Value News between March 2021 and now, he has continued to expose the Kingpins sponsoring and financing smuggling in the state and dragging them to Court for prosecution while some have been convicted. The smugglers operating around the officially four recognised land border areas in the state: Magama in Jibia, Kongolom in Maidua, Babban-Mutum Area in Baure and Dankama Kaita Local government Areas are no longer finding it funny as they have continued to lose millions of naira contraband goods imported from the Atonomous port of Benin, Contou, Bollore port , bothin the neighbouring West African country Lome port, in Togo meant for the local market which develop wings on the road or bush. Recall that the Katsina born Nigerian President had said that the state shares over 1,500Km, border with the Niger, stressing that only God would man the porous borders. But Deputy Comptroller Wada, has left no one in doubt, both within and outside the state, that is equal to the task.
The people may have found him a hard nut to crack that they have severally dragged to Ali, the Customs Comptroller General’s Court tore deploy him in order to give them a breather but he had turned a deaf ear to their Complains. The people were said to have also dragged him to Leke Abejide led House Committee on Customs to see how the Lawmakers will use their weight to influence the Customs to take him to another interventionist Command but certainly not Katsina Command.
While Deputy Comptroller Wada, who ha been thrown up in the north west geopolitical region, has become a force to be reckoned with in the battle against die-hard smugglers in Katsina state, Kehinde Hussain Ejibuno, also a deputy Comptroller and his Counterpart in the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos, south west Nigeria, may have put his axe together after he was given the first baptism of fire by the smugglers who had attacked and killed one of his officers on official duty at Yewa axis of Ogun sat
. The continued attack on his Patrol Team officers in different parts of the region, particular, Ogun and Oyo states may have encouraged hi to rejig the Command Operational Team to make the entire region unconfortable for the smugglers who abuse Federal government Fiscal policies by bring in foreign parboiled rice and vehicles through unapproved routes into the country.
Recall that the the Nigerian President had banned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles through the land border nto the country on January 1, 2017 and the policy is still in force. Given that smugglers operation between the border Communities in the Iseyi, Saki East and West Local government Areas , of the south west geo-political region have remained unrepentant may have brought out the best in Ejibuno, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller who may have gotten a match for the smugglers in the person of Mohammed Abdullahi, an Assistant Comptroller, and the Command Head of Roving, described as’’
calm, fearless and not used to smiling in Customs circles’’.
Having worked under Comptroller Mohammed Adamu Assistant Comptroller Jack Okpabi, who at one time or the other in the Customs Command may have exposed him to various tricks of the smugglers that whenever two or three smuggler or the security operative who aid and abet them gather for discussion in the recent, Assistant Comptroller Abdullahi has become the topic of the day: how to cage him. Between January and now , the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller, and the Heads of the Command Patrol Team including Assistant Comptroller Abdullahi, Head of Lagos Riving have gone back to the drawing board to restrategise on how to deal with sooth west smugglers without Compromise.
An insider told The Magazine that Customs Comptroller uses the enlarged Tuesday Management meeting of the Command to meet with the Patrol Team Leaders to get first information about how they are going about their operations and their various challenges and proffer solution.
The good news was that Assistant Comptroller Abdullahi, who heads the Lagos Roving may have carved a niche for himself as he has refused to stay in the office to get briefs from the Patrol Team Leaders as he leads Patrol Team on the difficult operations in in Iseyin and Saki axis of Oyo state.
Unconfirmed report disclosed that for much of last week, he led a Patrol team, which had raided some Come Communities in Saki East local government Area of Oyo state. The raid was said to have taken the Team to Odo-Owo and Odogodo Communities.
The source told the Magazine that it took the Team close to six hours by road to access the Communities. The team may not have hit at their targets of intercepting the smuggled foreign rice from Benin Republic on the Nigeria side of the border. The Team members were able to access the difficult terrain with the help of the rugged Hilux Vans that was allocated to the Command by the Customs Authorities for its Operations. At the instance of the Customs Management, the Command receive 16 , technologically equipped Hilux vans for its Operations out of the 46 procured from the service at a cost of N1.5 billion from Elizade Motors.
The Abdullahi team, may not have hit at their targets as information about the team Operation was said to have leaked forcing the smugglers to reload their boats with their smuggled rice and enter the waters back to Benin . An informant told The Magazine that if the FOU, Zone A, Command has its own flying board for its anti-smuggling like Western and other Amphibious Commands across the country, they would have given the smugglers a hot chase and dis possess them of the smuggled foreign rice.
This is where the Officials of the Western Marine , may have to work closely with Deputy Comptroller Ejibuno, in the riverine Communities of Ogun and Oyo state to be able to deal with the smugglers. The Customs Comptroller General may have known that that that Amphibious Command needed to be equipped like the Land border Commands, that he had procured 18 boats, comprising of nine logistics boats and nine gunboats which parts were armoured . This is because it could sent and clear signals the waterways smugglers that’’ the game is up’’ on Patrol of the Creeks . It is instructive to note that that the flat boats can access streams even when the water has ceded. Murtal Muhammed, President, SEWA West Africa Limited may have had Eastern Mrine Command in mind before the submission of SW27GB AND sw23BC boats, ships built by the Company, to the service to facilitate the Operations of the Command Operations in the Rivers streams and waterways because of the difficult terrain.
Another anti-smuggling Customs Comptrolller and officer thown up in the south west region were Mohammed Jibo and one Abubakar, an Assistant Comptroller. Many had had labelled the duo as experts in identifying the Creeks and beaches, used by unpatriotic Nigerians to subsisidised Premium Motor Spirit, popular, Petrol, meant for the Nigerian market to Patrick Talom, home Country, Benin, ostensibly to make more profit. Between December 2021 and now, Assistant Comptroller Abubakar and his Team members have raided raided some Creeks within Seme Jurisdictions and Badagry axis and intercepted thousands of Jerry cans of Petrol, 25 litres each.
Other Patrol Team Leeaders thrown up by the Command over the last one year have continued to comb the forests around the Sme , Owode and Badagry axis to intercept hundreds of bags of rice hidden in the forests and ready to be pushed to the Nigerian market. There is no gain saying the fact that Deputy Comptrollers Wada, Ejibuno and Comptroller Jibo, had made a mockery of the smugglers in their respective Areas of the Operations that should gladden the heart of Ali, the Customs Comptroller General and his Magement Team.