By Stephen Ubanna
With the new tactics adopted by smugglers operating between Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ekiti and Ondo, the six states in the south west geo-political region and Benin Republic, appear to have forced Kayode Olusemire, Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU Zone C and Adba Kakudi, an Assistant Comptroller and Coordinator of the Comptroller General f Customs, CGC, Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office, to go back to the drawing board to bring the smugglers on their kneel.
This is evident going by the seizure of Contraband that liter the premises of the Government Warehouse , Benin , the Edo state Capital, under the control of the FOU, Zone C, and the Customs Training College, Ikeja, used by the CGC Strike Force.
Investigations by The Value News shows that most of the Contraband seizure sieves found at the Benin Government Warehouse, were mostly items which had escaped the eagle eyes of the FOU, Zone A, CGC Strike Force and the Border Drill, sector 1, Lagos Zonal office Patrol Teams along the Lagos -Benin and Ondo-Benin roads. They were items that were said to have been mostly smuggled from Benin republic into the Nigerian market.
The FOU, Zone C, Command anti-smuggling officers , according to insider sources, have tightened security at these two major Express Ways , which are the major roads from Lagos and Ondo states between the south east and south west states.
The officers were said to have been by positioned at Strategic Locations to ensure that whatever strategies adopted by the smugglers operating in the south west to push their smuggled Contraband into the south east markets of Benin and Onitsha, Anambra state, markets, were frustrated.
The barricading of the Onitsha bridge with an iron gate by the Anambra state government to control the movement of people from Delta And Lagos states to the south east on the excuse of controlling the spread of the Wuhan Town of the Hebei province of the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus pandemic, popular, COVID 19, appear, to have worsen the case of the smugglers and brightened the FOUC, Zone C Patrol Teams chances of making more Contraband seizures.
This may have given Olusemire, Comptroller, the FOU, Zone C, to give a matching order to Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller , overseeing anti-smuggling Operations and his officers to give proper attention to the Lagos- Benin and Ondo- benin Express Ways and the bush paths used by smugglers to forestall smuggling of Contraband into the south east .
A senior Customs officer who spoke to The Magazine on phone disclosed that the security that had been mounted by the Command patrol Teams on the two major major Express Ways between Edo and the south west states of Lagos and Ondo in the recent time speaks volume.”it is impregnable the officer said”.
It is not surprising why it has become very difficult for smugglers who may have escaped the eagle eyes of the FOU, Zone A, CGC Strike Force or the Border Drill sector 1, Patrol Teams and their checkpoints at the two major roads to enter Edo state with their smuggled Contraband such as foreign par boiled rice, vegetable oil and second hand clothing including smuggled fairly used vehicles. Smugglers were said to have made attempts to enter the state would not forget their experience in a hurry as they were said to have lost their million naira worth of Contraband to the Command.
The vehicles, suspected to have been released from the Lagos ports of Tin can Island and Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, without payment of the appropriate duty, believed to be with the connivance of officers on the Vehicle Seat have also ended up being detained at the Warehouse.
. Insiders informed the Magazine that the seizure and detention of vehicles released from the ports by the Lagos ports along the Lagos –Benin or Ondo -Benin Express Way by the Command could have been worse but for the close monitoring of the officers of the Compliance Unit, by Abdullahi Musa, popular, MBA, the Tin can Island comptroller to ensure that Containers and Vehicles released from the port fulfill all the necessary conditions, particular, payment of the appropriate duties, to avoid playing into the hand of FOU, Zone A or Zone C, personnel along the Lagos-Benin Express Way.
In spite of the close monitoring of the Compliance officers, many believe that since the deployment of Mahmud Ibrahim, a Deputy Comptroller, who was formerly in-charge of the Unit, as an Assistant Comptroller, to PortHarcourt Area 1,Command, Onne, Rivers state, the officers appear to have been let loose in their dealing with the importers and their agents. An agent agent who confided in the Magazine disclosed that they have Compromsed .
But the unlucky importers and their agents had fallen into the waiting hands of FOU, Zone A, Lagos Roving under the close watch of Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the command Enforcement Unit, patrol Teams or the officers at the Ijebu Ode checkpoint with their vehicles which were transfered to the Command premises at Ikeja. The soft landing provided for them by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, to pay their outstanding duty and 25 % surcharges may have forced many of them to take delivery of their detained vehicles at the Command and other FOU Commands across the country. This may have informed why some of the vehicles coming from the Lagos-Benin road had not entered Benin in the recent time except the ones coming from the Ondo axis.
Note that the Command may not have had much work to do at the Benin Toll gate with vehicles or Containerised vehicles released from the Lagos ports as most of the importers and their agents were said to be reluctant to take delivery of it at the ports alleging high cost of clearing and security agencies personnel harassment on the road.Maritime watchers disclosed that most of the abandoned vehicles and Containerised vehicles, which are destined to the south east may have been abandoned at the port due to one infraction or the other . they may have known that the Customs officers on the road may not want to Compromise their position as was the case in the past. this is because of Ali, the Comptroller General’s repeated warning to the officers to shun every form inducent from importers and their agents and ensure they do the right thing.
Notwithstanding the efforts of the FOU, Zone , anti-smuggling officers to ensure that no Contraband enters Benin in order to Keep the FOU, Zone C, officers at the Beni toll gate less busy, they are still making Contraband seizures which had escaped the eagle eye officers at Ijebu Ode checkpoint and tranfered to the Command Benin outstation Government Warehouse.
The situation at Government warehouse, Benin is not different from what is happening at Government Warehouse, Calabar, Cross river state, used by the FOU, Zone C, Border Drill and the CGC,Strike Force, Zone C, under the close watch of Deputy Comptroller, Adamu Abubakar to keep their impounded Contraband.
The Calabar Government warehouse, according to insider sources is currently filled to the brim, with Contraband and now begging for space to accommodate more seized Contraband as the patrol Team attached to eitherto the FOU, Zone C, CGC Strike Force and Border Drill, Zone C, are turning in Contraband, particular, rice, from the Ikom and Bakasi axis of Cross river state on a daily basis.
In Lagos,Adba Kakudi, and his boys appear to have learnt a lot from the strategie,s adopted by the FOU, Zone C , to deal with the smugglers. They were said to have also restrategised on how to deal with the south west based unrepentant smugglers without bloodshed but to dispossess them of their smuggled Contraband .
Many of them were said to have lost million naira worth of Contraband , particular, Foreign par boiled rice, within the Ogun and Oyo axis in the recent time.
A visitor to the ad-hoc Team operational base at the Customs Training College, Ikeja, would be surprised at the hundreds of 50 Kg bags of Foreign rice parked at the corridor and the entrance to their office , awaiting to be transferred to the government warehouse, Ikeja, FOR documentation. The ad-hoc Operation Teams were said to have made the Contraband seizures along the border routes in Ogun and Oyo states.
Between March 22, 2020, and April 11, 2020, an interval of about three weeks, the CGC Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office, Patrol Teams who had hit the road , were said to have surprised people , including their Colleagues at FOU, Zone A, and the border Drill Operatives how they were able to make N907.174 million in three weeks despite the Social distancing measure being preached by the Nigerian Center for Disease and Control, NCDC, and the World Health Organisation, WHO, a United Nation’s UN, health Agency , to curb the spread of COVID 19.
A document obtained by The magazine shows that the Strike Force patrol Teams, combing the border areas in the south west states, particular Lagos, Ogun , Oyo, and Ekiti axis, may have gladdened Kakudi, their Coordinator’s heart, by making seizures of 936, ‘’50’’ bags of rice, estimated at about N12.43 million and 14 bags of ‘’8’’ bags of rice valued at N35,000.00, and 41,5000 cartons of tomato paste valued at about N830 million.
This is in addition to Longrich products such as Soaps, and Shampo Cream, worth about N45.42 million, 340 pieces of used tyres valued at about N3.06 million, 16 bales of second hand Clothing, N8.4 million,790 cartons of Tear gas, N4.74 million, 130 pieces of handcuffs, N1.09 million, 193 kegs of 2 5litres each of Vegetable oil, N1.82 million, 50 Jerrycans of 5 litres e each , 145,000.00 and an additional eight kegs of 16 litres each of vegetable oil worth about N71,280.00.
The question on the lips of most people was why security gadgets have suddenly become the major attraction of smugglers in the recent time that the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, has concluded arrangement to hold the governorship elections in Ondo and Edo states . The Commission had fixed September , 2020, for the Ondo state governorship election and October 10, for the Edo state’s election.
Security watchers believe that the importers who had sponsored the smugglers to bring the security gadgets into the country knowing security implication could not have done so without an insider support form any of the security agencies.
The Kakudi boys were said to have seized the security gadgets along the border routes in Ogun state despite the large array of other security agencies personnel including FOU, Zone A, personnel, along the border Communities in the state.
this clearly shows that the importer may have been in the business for years and using the services of the smugglers to push it into the Nigerian market until they played into the hands of the CGC Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office officers on Patrol who were said to have acted on information.
The seizure of the security gadgets may have sent a signal to other dealers in the country that it is no longer going to be business as usual as the CGC Strike Force action had put all other Customs Formations and adhoc Teams in the south west and south east on the red alert to look out for such security gadgets alongside soft and light weapons that are being smuggled into the country.