Customs: Smugglers Weep losing N10billion Contraband To FOU, Special Patrol Team In Oyo State

By SStephen Ubanna

Not many people were surprised that barely one week after Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs who succeeded  Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, CSC, to Head the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving Team,  could make  a spectacular seizure of   thirty three vehicles and three trucks in a single operations  in  Oyo state, south west Nigeria.

Investigations by the Value News shows that he was able to make the seizure in his capacity as the  head of a Special Patrol Team established by Usman yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller and the Command   acting  Comptroller .

Prior to undertaking the Special assignment  for  the acting Comptroller in Ogun and Oyo, described as home state of Foreign parboiled and vehicle smugglers, he was the Officer in-charge of the busy  Gbaji  check point situated on the road to Seme, a border community between Nigeria and the West African country of  Republic of Benin.

 The FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller, may have  decided to give  him additional responsibility out side his traditional base of Gbaji checkpoint to  keep him busy. He believes that there  is no much job for him  at the Gbaji check point because of the border closure besides  running after  Premium Motor Spirit, PMS,  popular .petrol smugglers at the Badagry Creeks and Owode, a border town between Nigeria  and Benin.

He believes that by giving him such additional responsibility to head a Roving Team in south west states of Ogun and Oyo, he would be able to control the activities of the smugglers, who are mostly security agencies personnel.

FOU Zone A, Special Patrol Team, Intercepted Smuggled Trucks

 This may have informed why, Officers said he turned his back  on the Command known Operations and Lagos Roving Team, as he was said to have denied the Team of Funds to engage the services of informant to assist   them in their job with information gathering on the smugglers and Fraudulent agents at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin-can Island, port Multi-service Terminal Limited,PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal , Phases I and II, KLT including the bonded terminals.

With all the necessary support given to  the Jack led  Special Patrol Team  in order to deliver on their mandate, Jack and his men were said to have moved into action.

 The Team members were said to have been moving   from Ogun to Oyo,and back, depending on the state whee   they have information that smugglers  have made  their major route of smuggling vehicles, Foreign par boiled rice and other  Contraband into the country.

The  intervention of the FOU Zone A,  Special Team , in the two states, according to insider sources   was supposed to be a closely guided secret, but its presence in the two  south west states had filtered out, even before they settled down for operation, thus  forcing the  smugglers to change their tactics of operation.

 According to the source  the news about the presence  of the FOU Special  Patrol  Team  in Oyo state, particular, may have  filtered out  to the smugglers by the security agencies personnel turned smugglers and informant  including   the  moles at the Oyo/Osun Customs Command. 

 This may have informed why despite all the known strategies  adopted by the Team to deal decisively with the smugglers both by training and action, they never made  any vehicle or Contraband seizures.   But Jack and his team  members , a  the source disclosed  did not lose  hope of  bringing the vehicle and Contraband smugglers , who are mostly security agencies personnel on their knees.

Unknwn to many , Jack , with the support of Yahaya, the Command acting Comptroller had engaged the services of local informant who  were said to have made their job simple.

Between June and early August, Jack and the Team members were said to have been working  on a lead that could result in making a spectacular seizure,  that would shooke the Command . ‘’We are working out on something ‘’, a member of the Team, accosted by The Value News at Ibadam, said. For security reasons, the Magazine did not to push too further to avoid letting the cat of the bag.

  Getting close to making the spectacular seizure that would send a signal to the smugglers operating at the Shaki and Iseyin axis of Oyo state and their security agencies personnel Collaborators  that the game is up, the informant   were  said to have identified  Ido, Eruwa road in Ibadan, the state  Capital, as a possible location to track down  the smugglers with ease.  The Customs Assistant Comptroller and his Tea Team members were said tohave heaaved a sigh or relief that the battle is over.

FOU Special Patrol Team Truck Intercepted That Fell Into A Ditch

Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, had banned the importation of Vehicles and Foreign  par boiled rice through the land Borders across the country with the neighbouring countries of Benin, Niger and the Central African country of Cameroon on January 1, 2017 in order to increase patronage of Nigerian ports and protect the local rice farmers and make the country self sufficient in food production.

The ban may have  forced the Cross –border importers and traders to go back to the drawing board  to devise new tactics of taking their imported vehicles and Merchandise  goods into the country without losing it to Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General of Customs’ men on the road in the south east, south west, north west and  north east  or to the officers at the approved  government checkpoints scattered all over the border states.

The Oyo state based smugglers after weeks of operating underground  may  have  resumed their smuggling activities in a full scale   when information filtered out that Jack,  the Leader of the FOU, Special  Patrol Team  troubling them   had been withdrawn to the office by Yahaya, the Command acting Comptroller. They may not have read the handwriting on the wall that it was a tactical withdrawal as the operational officers were still on ground at Ibadam, the Oyo state Capital.

They were said to  be working closely with the local informant in the state. Jack , the leader of the Team , The Magazine was informed limited himself to shuttling between the Commmand, Ikeja office and Ibadan to give instructions

.The FOU, Zone A, Special Patrol Team members may have also changed tactics when information  leaked  out that the smugglers and their security agencies personnel  aiding and abetting  them had entered Ido, Eruwa road, in a Convoy of vehicles loaded with Contraband heading to Ibadan.

They were said to have ambushed them at strategic locations on the busy smuggler route  based  on information pieced together from their informant  about the smugglers movement. 

The Magazine findings shows that it was when  the  smugglers had reached a point  where they were said to have found  it difficult to return  back to Benin Republic  or change direction on citing the FOU Team,   without losing their cargoes that the Jack boys  struck.

The smugglers were said to have abandoned their 33 vehicles and three trucks  in their Convoy loaded with Contraband and dashed into the bush for fear of been arrested to facce prosecution over alleged economic sabotage that may land them in jail.

Valuation experts put the Duty Paid Value, DPV, of the 33 vehicles and three Trucks and their contents at about N10 billion.

It is instructive to not that one of the trucks had fallen into a ditch that requires repair which temporarily disrupted the Journey to the Command Premises at Ikeja. Two officers armed to the teeth were said to have been put in-charge of the broken down down truck while some other officers went in search of the Mechanic that would fix it.

It was gathered that while the officers left the scene briefly to ease themselves, the smuggler, pretending to be a victim of car snatchers who was said to have been accompanied by some Special Anti Robbery SARS, officers, after allegedly narrating his ordeal in the hand of robbers to the location where they were said to discovered the vehicle on the road where it was parked.

It was said to have been driven to the Oyo state Police Command Headquarters at Ibadam last week Tuesday. The Magazine cited the vehicle at the at Ojo, the Oyo Police Command Premises.

Worried by the action of the Oyo state Police Command, SARS officers, Yahaya , the FOU Zone A, acting Comptroller was said to have detailed the Customs Assistant Comptroller Jack, the officer in-charge of the Command Special Patrol Team that made the seizure to follow up the matter to ensure that vehicle was released and handed over the Command. Between Friday, and Monday, August 17, 2020, Jack was said to have followed up the matter at the Oyo state Police Command insisting that it was a smuggled vehicle and not a stolen vehicle as alleged.

The intervention of Mohammed Adamu, the Inspector General of Police, IGP, may have softened the ground for Chuks Enwonwu, the Oyo state Commissioner of Police to hand over the vehicle to the FOU , Zone A, on Monday, August, 17, 2020, after four days of pressing for the release.

The vehicle handed over to the FOU , Zone A, by the Oyo state Police Command was said to have Completed the number of vehicles and trucks put at 36 that was said to have been intercepted by the FOU, Zone A, Special Patrol Team in a single operation in Oyo state.

An elated Yahaya, had said that the smugglers had  ‘’met their waterloo when the operatives of the Unit , ‘’acted based on Credible information  which made the seizure possible  at Ido, Eruwa road of Ibadan’’. 

The  Customs acting Comptroller noted that though  ‘’there were stiff resistance  from the smugglers who engaged the support  of the villagers and the  Area boys around to block the road in order to frustrate the FOU Team from taking away the  vehicles to the Government Warehouse at Ikeja  but that was how far they could go.

Eyewitness account disclosed that Jack and his boys had  displayed a high level of Professionalism as they exercised  restraint  to secure the intercepted 33 vehcles and three trucks .

 The source disclosed that the Team successfully  transferred the intercepted smuggled  vehicles and trucks , comprising of both fairly used and new vehicles  loaded with second hand clothing, Foreign par boiled rice and parcels of Indian Hemps, grown in the West African country of Ghana  to Lagos without any casualty.

With the  seizure of the smuggled vehicles and trucks loaded with Contraband  from Benin Republic into Nigeria from unapproved routes , the slim but slow talking Customs acting  Comptroller, who many believe chooses his words before making any public Statement, has sent a signal to the smugglers and their security agencies  personnel Collaborators in Oyo.

  ‘’ They would  continue  to count their loses  as the Command Patrol Teams who are backed by the relevant Customs Laws ,  are better mobilised and Organised  to do their job. The smugglers loss of he 33 vehicles and three trucks loaded loaded with Contraband valued at about N10 billion has set confussion in the camp of the smugglers and their security agencies collaborators as they weep. This is because they have been following the Ido, Eruwa route over the years to carry out their nefarious activities without losing any vehicle or Consignment to FOU, Zone A or Customs adhoc Patrol Team At present wherever two or three people gather in Ibadam or any part of Oyo state, the seizure of the 33 vehicles and three thrucks from smugglers dominate their talk.

A Happy Yahaya Inspecting the Seized Vehicles

Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller had stopped short at saying that the Command Patrol Teams are ahead of them  to make nonsense of every of their  plans to smuggle vehicles or Contraband into the country through Ogun, Lagos, Oyo, Osun , Ekiti or Ondo states as his men were everywhere.

Appealing to the smugglers to desist from sabotaging the  nation’s  economy   by  engaging  in economic activities that would not jeorpardise  the  government’s Fiscal policies of making the country self- sufficient in food production, he opined that ‘’ it is the only way they could escape Customs harassment’’.

Aware of the change of tactics of the die-hard vehicle and Contraband smugglers in the south west, operating between Benin Republic and Nigeria, Kayode Olusemire, Comptroller , FOU, Zone C, Owerri , Imo state, and his Patrol Team officers in the south east were said to have tightened  up security in the region.

This, an insider said, made it  very difficult for smuggled vehicles or Contraband,  from  Benin, which had entered the south west geopolitical region   from Shaki and Iseyin border routes in Oyo state and the several illegal   border routs in Ogun state  that had  escaped  the eagle eye of the FOU, Zone A , Patrol Teams to escape FOU, Zone Patrol Team officers on the road.

The fallout was that the Government WareHouse, at Benin, Cthe Edo state Capital is filled with seized Contraband and fairly used vehicles at every point in time.         

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