By Stephen Ubanna
The anti-smuggling strategies that may have been learnt by Usman Yahaya, acting Comptroller , Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, as a one-time Deputy Comptroller, Overseeing the Command Enforcement Unit, under the duo, Muhammed Uba Garba, now acting Assistant Comptroller General, Enforcement, Inspection and Investigation and aaMohammed Aliyu, National Coordinator, Border Drills, Zone 4, appears to be helping him in dealing with Contraband smugglers in the south west Geo-political region.
Although, he may have adopted a dictatorial style of Leadership to force the various anti-smuggling Patrol Team Leadrs of the Command to do his bidings without Complain, to ensure they make Contraband seizures, he appears to be having his way .
The Value News learnt that the Tuesday Weekly meetings of the Customs Comptroller, the unit Heads, Surveilance and Patrol Team leaders including the officers in-charge of the approved checkpoints in the region, officers many believe that it has turned to be a war front. This s because the FOU, Zone A ,acting Comptroller has used it as an opportunity to lash out at the Patrol leaders that are not meeting their weekly targets of seizures to sit up
A Patrol Team leader told The Magazine that he dread attending the Tuesdays meeting for fear of being shouted upon by the Area Comptroller of not meeting his target. A senior Officer told the Magazine that the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller’s style of Leadership of running the affairs of the Command with iron hand is yielding results.
This is because the Patrol Team Leaders and their men have taken the anti-smuggling war to the smugglers Camp in the region. The fallout was that all the tactics that had been adopted by the smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities with the help of their informants monitoring the movement and position of the FOU,Zone A, patrol Teams, are no longer rewarding.
The smugglers who may have taken the bold initiative to brave the odds to smuggle the North American country of Vietenan, and theAsian countries ofTailand par boiled rice including and the Indian, Agricultural and expensive Barsmati rice, wee said to have been disappointed as most of the smuggled items had fallen into the waiting hands of Yayaha’s men on the road.
It was not surprising why Acting Comptroller Yahaya, who has the backing of Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, could beat his chest that between February 9, 2021 and April 20, 2021, the Interventionist Unit have made seizure thousands of bags of foreign rice, 50Kg each, in the south west states , particular, Ogun, which a former Area Comptroller of Ogun 1, Idiroko, had said has over 100 unapproved routes including seven approved routes for movement of goods and service.
Indeed, the Unit , could make that seizure , with 80 means of Conveyance with the support of informants , who the smugglers had said taken it as their responsibility and a means of livelihood to parade the bushes to locate where their smuggled foreign rice or vehicle is hidden and pass the information to the Customs Interventionist unit Patrol Team to strike.
Recall that only recently , the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team, Headed by Jack Okpabi , an Assitant Comptroller and his boys, acting on information had tracked 50 vehicles leaded with foreign rice from Iseyin and Ogbomosho borders to Ibadan Bodija market, which it raided and carted away some 2000 bags of rice, 40Kg, to the Command ,Ikeja premises.
The Rapid Response Patrol Team of the Command was said to have made a seizure of a Dangote truck loadeedd with flour but over 100 bags of foreign rice , 50Kg, each was Concealed in in the truck at Ifo, a nearby town, to Sango Otta, the Ogun state Commercial nerve centre.
The Command Patrol Teams may have been emboldened to make the spectacular seizures, particular, the Command Operations and Lagos Roving because of the ban on the importation of Foreign rice and vehicles, through the Land border on January 1st, 2017, by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General which has not been reviewed.
An elated Yahaya had said’’ the seizure was’’simply a pointer to the fact that smugglers are unrelenting and adamant in complying with the extant Laws on international trade and transit cargoes imports’’.The Customs Comptroller who could not hide his feelings had told those that cares to listen that that items such as foreign frozen poultry products, second Hand Clothing and used tyres, Spagheti, toothpicks, used vehicle, foreign rice and many more which have been banned from coming the country through the nation’s Land borders and remained banned were seized.
Given an insider information of the seizures that had been made by the Command in its anti-smuggling drive, between February 9 and April 20, 21, he had said that 20,538 bags of foreign rice of 50Kg each, 3,106 cartons of frozen poultry products, 1,035 bales of second hand Clothing, and 877 bales of the Asian country of China printed Wax /materials were seized.
Valuation Experts had put the Duty Paid Value, DPV, of the seized items at N3.1billion.The Command was said to have also recovered N242,251,506.00, lost revenue, which could have entered into private pockets through the issuance of Demand Notice, DN, to guilty importers over alleged under-payment resulting from false declaration wrong classification and Concealment.
The FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller, quoting from the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 204, at the background of the planned probe of the Ibadan Bodija Foreign rice market raid by a Patro Team from the Command by the Lawan Ahmad led Senate had said that that Law has given the Customs Operatives ‘’the powers to patrol and search anywhere without restrictions’’.
He noted that that section 147 of the Act gave the service personnel the powers ‘’to enter any premises without search warrant’’, provided there is credible information on prohibited items deposited herein for us to strike. He further said that the power to seize Contraband items and prosecute offenders was also embedded in sections 46 and 47 respectively.
He stressed that offenders are liable to prosecution without the option of fine. It is not urprising why the nine arrested suspects in connection with the Contraband seizures that were made by the Command within the period under review had been dragged to a Federal High Court in Lagos to face the full weight of the Law.
Peter Duniya, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and the Command spokesperson, who had issued a Statement on the Command activities m had said that seven of the suspects were granted Administrative bails.