By Stephen Ubanna
Wale Yusuf, is a school drop out who is resident in the ancient town of Ibadan, Capital of Oyo state. Yusuf had borrowed N100,000.00 from a close friend to start trading on local rice but was introduced into the smuggling business by another friend in 2020.
He had joined his childhood friend to a Benin Community near Shaki Land border between Nigeria and Benin republic, to buy some bags of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice. It was a very successful trip as he was said to have recovered his Capital and made profit. Given the huge profit in just a business trip to Benin Republic, the smuggling business became very attractive to him that he started sponsoring other people in the business.
Unknown to him, he has been identified as one of the notorious smugglers around the Shaki and Iseyin axis , in Customs circles. His smuggling business took a turn for the worse this year as 10 bags of foreign rice, 50 Kg each , loaded in a Toyata Corolla, were intercepted by a Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team. t He was said to have cried out but that was how far he could go. He did not have the Courage to face the Team for fear that he might be arrested and detained. He let the goods but had resume the next day.
His major worry was for that his parents are poor and he is not connected to any power broker in the society that can take up his case with the FOU, Zone A,to facilitate the release of his few bags of rice that had been intercepted by the Command Patrol Team in Ibadan axis of Oyo state. He has no access to the Senator representing the Oyo North district and the two House Of Representatives members, who he could have contacted to him out. He was looking out that one day he would be among the big time foreign rice smugglers at the Bodija market in the state that would be calling the shot in the country’ polity.
The bubble may have burst recently for the big time Bodija market smugglers in Ibadan, when The FOU, Zone A, Patrol team that was said to have been led by Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller, described as Mr rugged when he goes out on Operation, who had trailed 50 vehicles loaded with foreign rice between Iseyin and Ogbomosho borders to the warehouses around Bodija market including some of the major shops in the market. The Team had kept a surveillance on the market until the smugglers had completed their assignment of supplying the Contraband rice to the dealers and disappeared from the horizon.
For the three days that the Team were said to be in Ibadan, they were said to bebusy perfecting plans on how to go about the operation in the market, cart away the smuggled rice without creating a scene in the market and Ibadan.
TThey had their way and were able to cart away about 2000 bags of foreign par boiled rice and, equivalent of two trucks load of rice from the suspected shops and also found some cash which were proceeds of the smuggled rice from one of the the raided shops which was said to have been handed over to the station officer on return.
Going by the Customs and Excise Magement Act, CEMA, cap 2004, the Team had put Seals on the broken doors with a note that it could only be opened on the approval of the FOU, Zone A,Area Comptroller. Some of the Bodija market foreign rice dealers may have ignored the warnings, destroyed the Customs Seals and entered their shop and came out with bogus allegations: four Trucks load of rice cartedaway by the Customs Team. They were also accued of breaking into their Safe and taken away their money. The question on the lips of most people was: did they know that something was missing in their shops when the IKeja Interventionist Unit has not removed the Seal placed on the doors.
The Foreign rice dealers who smuggle in thousands of bags of 50Kg each who were said to have mobilised resources to fight back ,had petitioned the Senate over action of the FOU Zone A, Patrol Team in their shops without their knowledge.
They had contacted Kola Balogun, the Senator representing Oyo South Senatorial district.Balogun was said to have used his position to ensure that Lawan Ahmad , the Senate President, refer the petition of the traders who deal on smuggled foreign to the Committee on Ethics, , Privileges and Public Petitions to handle. He was said to have succeed in doing so.
The Committee members which ought to condemn the Bodija foreign rice dealers and Commend the Customs for taking the bold . initiative to raid the popular, Bodija market in Ibadan, had thrown their weight behind them..
The Committee members were said to have given Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel, two weeks to return the alleged four trucks load of seized smuggled foreign from the Bodija market to their owners.
Many believe that the Senate Committee members on ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions , which has the backing of the Senate President has set a bad precedent by asking the Customs Comptroller General to return the seized smuggled foreign rice from the Bodija market to the dealers.
The argument in both official and unofficial circles was that if Balogun , a Senator of Federal Republic of Republic of Nigeria, and his Co-Lawmakers succeed in arm- twisting the Customs Authorities to return the smuggled seized foreign rice to the Bodija market dealers, what of the other category of smugglers who had lost between five to 10 bags of foreign rice of 50 Kg each to the Command, how will they get their own back. the Senators shoild not do something that would dampen the enthusiasm of the Customs anti-smuggling officer to sustain the war against the economic saboteurs.
Many believe that given his military background, Ali , the Customs boss may not succumb to the Senators intimidation. This is because the CEMA,’’ empowers Customs personnel to enter into any suspected premises and search it without producing warrant’’.
This is where the Bodija arket foreign rice traders may have failed woefully as Ali, the Customs boss may not ready to go along by the verdict of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to return the smuggled foreign rice the Bodija market dealers Ibadan, Oyo state. This appears to have put the Customs Authorities and the Senate on a Collision course.
Informed sources told The Value News that barely a week after the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions ordere Ali, the Customs helmsman to return the thousands of bags of 50 Kg each of Foreign rice carted away form the Bodija market, Ibadan, this may have emboldened the Usman Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller, Patrol Team, led by Jack,an Assistant Comptroller to intercept four other other trucks from the Ibadan axis, loaded with smuggled foreign rice The Magazine and bales of second handing Clothing. The Magazine cited the trucks in the Command premises on Wednesday, May,5, 2021, in the Command premises.
President Muhammadu Buhari, popular PMB, a retired Army General, had banned the importation of Vehicles through the Land border and foreign rice on January 1, 2017. The policy on the ban on the importataion of foreign into the country was said to have been extended to the seaports in June 2017, as a way to protect the rice farmers.
The ban on the importation of vehicles through the land border was basically to improve the patronage of the Nigerian seaports , particular, Tin can Island Port and Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, WHICH RORO facilities.