By Stephen Ubanna
For much of last year and now, past and present Area Comptrollers deployed to Ogun I, Command, in Ogun State, and their anti-smuggling have left much of the job of containing the activities of smugglers of the Asian countries of India, Thailand and the North American country of Vietnam par boiled rice and vehicles from the neighbouring West African country of Benin Republic to Nigeria, to the Lagos Interventionist Units.
.The land border Command may not have known that it is also an Interventionist Unit but had allowed Usman Yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller, and acting Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, and Ahmadu Shuaibu, his Counterpart and Coordinator, Comptroller General of Customs, Strike Force, Team A, Enforcement officers who criss -cross the entire south west states of Lagos, Ekiti, Oyo, Osun, and Ondo, to still give Ogun state a special attention to contain the smugglers in operating in the area.
The question on the lips of most people is: what is the role of Comptroller Peter Kolo , who had replaced Michael Agbara, the former Comptroller, late last year and Dera Nnandi, the Command Deputy Comptroller, Enforcement at the Area Command to ensure that the two major Lagos Interventionist Units play Complementary roles to their operations instead of allowing the two Teams take over their job of anti-smuggling Operations in the land border.
Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, who, was acting on the instructions of President Muhammadu Buhari, who had banned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles through the land border on January 1st, 2017, which many had expected that the interventionist Units and the Land border Commands will be able to block all the illegal routes used by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious trade.
An informed source told The Value News that Yahaya, the FOU Zone A, acting Comptroller and Ahmady Shuaibu, the CGC Team A, Coordinator, may have known that they cannot go below the track recordS that had been set in the south west by former Comptrollers and Deputy Comptrollers who had headed the two Interventionist Units respectively, at different times that they had to deliver.
They may have known that Ogun state is a smuglers haven based on the records of the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS,, that there are over 80 , illegal routes between Benin Republic and Ogun state alone. Michael Agbara, a former Comptroller of the Ogun, I, Command, had said that there are over 100 unofficial routes between the neighbouring West African country and Ogun state based on their own findings.
Perhaps, this may have made it difficult for the Comptrollers that had been deployed to the Command between 2017 and now to effectively police the state porous borders. The situation of the Command may have been made worse with its inadequacy of junior officers for Patrol Operations , which an insider said is not only applicable to the Command.
The officer cited Seme Command where Mohammed Jibo, the Area Comptroller, was able to make do with the officers he met on ground last July and they have effectively policed the Seme Jurisdiction and all the Creeks and watersides around the area, including the Local government Areas , carved out of the Old Badagry Local government and other Area Development Councils.
The numerous illegal border routes at Ogun state may have informed why Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller,may have empowered the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team, Headed by Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller and other Patrol Teams of the Command and the newly established Rapid Response Team Patrol Team to channel their energies towards the Former President Olusegun Obasanjo home state to contain the activities of the Contraband smugglers.
The FOU, Zone A, Area, may have used the services of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team and the Rapid Response Team more often in the Command anti-smuggling Operations in the state because the Patrol Teams and the approved checkpoint officers in the state appear to have been rubbed of the Non-performing Spirit of the Idiroko officers. Between December last year and now, the Yahaha, approved Special Teams had made various seizures of trucks load of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice in various locations in the state including Ajillete, where there was a strong resistance by the hired Youths to frustrate the Team from transferring the trucks loaded with foreign rice to their Ikeja office.
The most recent of such seizures by the Team was the six trucks load of rice which the smugglers had claimed are locally produced rice, but found on close examination to be foreign rice. The six trucks load of foreign rice that were intercepted by the Jack led Team , acting on information, were said to have entered the Lagos- Abeokuta Expressway through the Ilara border of the smugglers state The latest seizure of a truck load of rice foreign rice, Conceal with Dangote Flour, at Ifo Area of the state by the Command Rapid Response Team , speaks volume.
The Magazine findings shows that the officers of the various Interventionist Units along the Sango-Otta and Idiroko, Owode and Ilaro and the borders in the state have Compromised that they are not happy with Commercial drivers plying any of these routes with carrying load. This is because they have a price tag for a bag of rice, two , five or ten bags, which must be paid at every checkpoint. The FOU, Zone A, officers are also involved in the racket.
The Shuaibu’s Enforcement officers at the Checkpoint around Winners, at Ota, may have known that they cannot afford not to disappoint their Coordinator because of the Confidence reposed on them to be at the Checkpoint that they were said to have made a point of duty to drop any bag of 50kg rice found in any bus or , vehicle, both Commercial and private.
An insider told The Magazine that the Officer in-charge of the Winners Check point transfer on a weekly basis over 100 bags of rice, 50Kg, each, to the ad-hoc Team office , at the Customs Training College , Ikeja. The CGC Team A, Coordinator and Sarumi, an Assistant Comptroller, described in Customs circles , as a master Operation Strategist and second in Command were said to have found a way of preserving the foreign seized rice in Containers which are transferred to the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal, ILT, for warehousing.
Maritime analysts had Commended the DC .Shuaibu’s Enforcement officers at the Winner’s Checkpoint in Ogun state compared to their Colleagues in other parts of the state. They noted that if the CGC team A, have the number of officers that the FOU, Zone A, parades for their anti-smuggling Operations in the south west Geo-political region, they would move mountain.
The situation was so worrisome that Kolo, the Command Comptroller,and Dera Nnadi, a Deputy Comptroller, overseeing the Enforcement Unit, were forced to go back to the drawing board to rejig the Command Patrol Teams to be more effective and Principal Staff Officer, PSO, efficient in the discharge of their duties.
A close source to Muhammed Buhari, a Brigadier General and Principal Staff Officer, PSO, to the CGC, disclosed that only 122 officers, mostly Junior, were attached to it. The source disclosed that the few senior officers in the Team were to form the nucleus of the Management Team. It is not surprising that with the leadership quality provided by Shuaibu, the Coordinator and Sarumi an Assistant Comptroller and his second –in-Command, the Team Patrol Team officers and those at the Check points, particular, Winners, are giving a good account of themselves.
Aware that Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, is watching at what is happening at the Idiroko axis, and the reports making the rounds , that foreign rice , have flooded the Sango Ota market, and its environs , may have informed why Kolo, the Idiroko Area Comptroller and Nnamdi, the Command Deputy Comptroller, Enforcement, had to to go back to the drawing board to rejig the Command Patrol Teams to more responsive to their Operations. This may have paid off.
The recent seizure of 3,165 wraps of Indian Hemp, allegedly produced from the West African country of Ghana, worth about N213.6 million speaks volume. The Command was said to have also intercepted 5,31 bags of foreign par boiled rice of 50Kg each .A cording to the source, what the Team, is doing to the Foreign rice smugglers may have been replicated at the Lagos port environment to deal with the vehicle smugglers who connive with their Customs Collaborators on the vehicle Seat. The Magazine cited a woman at the Command premises last week whose vehicle released from the Tin can Island port fell into the waiting hand of the Team officers.
Given the tight security mounted at the Idiroko axis and other porous border routes in Ogun state may have informed why the high flyer vehicles smugglers between Benin and Ogun state , through the bush paths, have relocated to the Lagos ports of Apap, Tin can Island and Port-Multi-services, Terminal, PTML, referred as a one Ship, MV Grimaldi, Terminal, to carry out their nefarious tra
The Magazine cited of the importers and his agents , whose vehicle,tthat was said to have been released from the Lagos port Of Tincan Island had fallen into the waiting hands of one the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Teams The Team members were said to have intercepted the vehicle but the Mob , had put up a strong resistance to crustal the Team from transferring the vehicle to their Command. The Mob, were said to have tried to disarm one of the officers which led to accidental discharge of bullet hitting one of them. But the Patrol Team officers were said to have succeeded in transferring the vehicle to the Command , Ikeja , premises. The Magazine cited The Toyota, SUZ, at the Command premises, last Wednesday.
The Magazine also cited a female importer , whose vehicle released from one of the Lagos ports was intercepted the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team. She had confirmed that the vehicle released from the port was intercepted on the road by the Lagos Roving Team officers but was in the Command to see the Area Comptroller to facilitate the release of the vehicle by the paying the 25%surcharge and the outstanding underpayment.
Not many people are surprised that Acting Comptroller, Yahaya, of the FOU, Zone A, and Jack, an Assistant Comptroller, have beamed their searchlight on the Lagos ports , because of the cross-release of cargoes at the Apapa port, an indication that an imported vehicle, could be released as a general cargo, without the payment of the Appropriate duty.
This is where Malanta Yusuf Comptroller, Apapa Command, may have to take a closer look on what the Commad releasing officers at the terminals, particular, those at APM, who were said to have always bowed to the importer with their agents pressure to involve in Cross –release of goods.
Baba Abdullahi Musa, Comptroller, Tin-Can Island Command also have a job to do on the officers on the vehicle Seat and the Compliance Team, who may have Compromised their position. An insider disclosed that ever since Mamood Ibrahim, a Deputy Comptroller, who was in-charge of the Unit, which reports , directly to the Comptroller’s office, Onne Command, the Team, had lost steam. Ibrahim, an Onne based agent informed The Magazine that he has carried the fire power of thoroughly searching at documents of importers’ released Container load of goods at the port before allowing such cargoes to exit the port including Oil Companies equipment. The smart alek agents who had penetrated some of the releasing officers at the port may have been disappointed as thy could not penetrate Ibrahim and his officers as their Consignment had been detained at the gate over alleged wrong Classification, Concealment or Under payment.
The thorough job that may have been done by Deputy Comptroller and his officers at the Onne port exit gate may have informed why it is impossible for the FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state, Patrol Team , on the road to stop any Consignment released from the port for search, let alone intercept any Container released from the port.