The Value News

Smugglers Dare Customs Operatives As They Claimed to Be Local Rice Farmers Attacked By An FOU , Zone A, Patrol Team

By Stephen Ubanna

Between December  2020 and now, smugglers operating in the south west flash point  states of Ogun and Oyo states are  no longer finding it funny in the hands of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving Team, headed by Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs. Some of the smugglers were said to have lost thousands of bags of the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice, 50Kg each worth millions of naira to the Command.

The most recent operation that was said to have been carried out by  the  Team  that led to the interception of  six pick- up  loads of  undisclosed quantity of foreign  rice, although, only three vehicle loas of the foreign rice  was said to have occurred  along the Lagos –Abeokuta  Express  Way and the  Shagamu inter-change roundabout before the Breweries was had occurred on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021.

DC.Yahaya: Acting Compt. FOU, Zone A

The Value News learnt that information had leaked out  that smugglers  from the neighbouring West African country of Benin Republic, described as a home of smugglers, had concluded arrangement  to drive  into the country in a convoy of vehicles loaded with foreign rice from the  Ilara border axis of Ogun state.

 It was gathered that Usman Yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller and the FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller  whad  instructed Jack to mobilise  his Team members  and ensure that the smugglers Convoy of vehicles  loaded with the  foreign rice  did not find their way the Lagos market. Acting on the Customs Comptroller’s instruction, Jack was said to have mobilised his Team members for the Operation. He was said to have  arranged  for some  soldiers to be party of the Team. The request  was said to have been granted. Jack and the Team members  were said to have laid ambush  for the smugglers  at the  Lagos-Abeokuta Express Way  and Shagamu inter- change roundabout for much of Monday, February 1’st, 2021 and Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021.   

The Team members , according to an  eyewitness account had waited for  the smugglers for much of  Monday but  they around the vicinity.  They we force d to  hang  on at the location till Tuesday, February ,2, 2021.  May  It was when they have lost hope that  the dare –devil  smugglers have changed their mind of coming into the country with their Convoy of vehicles loaded with  foreign rice that signs of their coming into the country  began to manifest. Note that  they had    That may have strengthened up  Jack and his Team members  to tighten up security at the Lagos-Abeokuta Express Way and Shagamu Inter- change roundabout to prevent them from having their way into the country with their smuggled  foeign ice.

 An informed source told The Value News Magazine that the  FOU, Operations and Lagos Roving Team members and the soldiers  that had joined them  for the Operation had strategically positioned themselves and blocked the Lagos-Abeokuta Express Way and Shagamu Inter-change roundabout, the route that had been mapped out to be used by the smugglers to deliver the smuggled foreign rice  to the dealer’s warehouse in Lagos.

 The blockage of the road may have prevented the smugglers who had entered the road  with their Convoy of  vehicles loaded with foreign rice to plot to return to Benin for fear that another Customs Team  might  be laying ambush for them. They may have found themselves  in  a very tight corner that they could not go forward or backward with their Convoy of vehicles.

 This may have forced the smugglers to mobilise  support from the local Communities within  the area to force the FOU , Zone A, Team members , out of the road.  Given previous  experience where the smuggles had abandoned their vehicles loaded with Contraband  foreign  rice to  escape to the bush to evade arrest by Customs Operatives, they may have expected the smugglers to do so this time around. They got it wrong.    Unknown to them, the smugglers were fully prepared to do battle with them to facilitate the movement of their  convoy of vehicles.

Customs Patrol Van battered By Smugglers

Aware that the game is up,  the smugglers  with their  paid fierce-looking  supporters  who were armed  with AK 47, were said to have opened fire on Jack and his Team  members.  The Customs Patrol vehicle side marrows were shattered. The smugglers may have had the  ulterior motive to kill the Customs Operatives as one of the soldiers in the Team was seriously injured.  Three  Customs officers  were said to have  also  received bullet  wound from the smugglers.

The  Value News findings   shows  that  one  Frank, an Assistant Superintendent who was in front of the Patrol vehicle at the time of the smuggler’s attack almost lost his life. The bullet fired from the backside of the Customs Patrol  vehicle  was said to have   pierced  through the  front Seat and scratched his head. The smugglers and their supporters   bullet which   were said to be flying from different directions was said to have also  hit,, one of  his legs, though not too serious as to remain in the Hospital  like the three other  officers who were said to have had serious injuries.

Customs Patrol Ridden With Bullets

 The situation on the Lagos-Abeokuta  Express Way and the Shagamu inter-exchange was very  worrisome  that  many   car owners  and  Commercial vehicle drivers from the south east and different parts of Oyo,  Ondo and Ogun states coming into Lagos,  were forced to abandon their vehicles on the road and ran for their safety.

The nonsense Jack who could not take the attack of the  smugglers on his Team  members may have remebered Hamedd Ali, a retired  army Colonel and Comptroller General of Customs maxim that Customs Operatives on anti-smuggling Operations should not allow themselves to be killed cheaply by smugglers.  He may have  made  clear to the  anti-smuggling Teams that if smugglers succeed in killing one officer trained  with tax payers money, they should kill two or more  of them.

  This may  have forced  the ustoms Assistant  to give an order to his boys to fire back at the smugglers. Their superior fire power may have hit  one  of the smugglers who was said to have died instantly.  The  killing  of the smuggler  may  have resulted  in alleged  protest in Abeokuta, the Ogun nstate Capital,  as the  corpse was said to have been  taken to  the  state governor’s office, amidst wide Condemnation by the Politicians of the Customs Operatives  action.

The smugglers were said to have  claimed  that they were  local  rice farmers and that the rice   found  in their vehicle   were locally produced and  bagged  50Kg each  which they were taking to  their Lagos Customers before they  ran into the FOU, Zone  anti-smuggling officers.

 The Abeokuta  protesters may not have told Dapo Abiodun, the All Progressive Congress, APC, governor of the state the home truth  that what they were carrying  in their vehicles which was in a convoy were foreign rice in order to win his support. The Value News had  cited the  three evacuated vehicles load of rice of 50Kg each out of the six  intercepted  with foreign neatly packaged at the FOU, Zone A, premises.

When contacted, theophilus Duniya, a Deputy Superintendent , and the Command spokesperson, who had issued a Statement confirmed  that officers of the Unit , while carrying out  their  statutory responsibility  of  enforcing the Customs  anti-smuggling  Laws ,’’ based on intelligence gathering , had ‘’intercepted six vehicles  laden with foreign rice  at the Abeokuta- Lagos Express Way’’.

 He disclosed that ‘’upon interception  of the six  smuggled vehicles loaded with foreign rice,  some armed hoodlums working in support of the smugglers  attacked the Customs Operatives to prevent them from transferring the intercepted vehicle loads of foreign rice to their Ikeja premises’’.  He noted that in their cross-fire, the Customs Operatives overpowered them  and thus, were able  were to evacuate three  of the  intercepted vehicles load of  foreign rice to the Government warehouse, Ikeja.

An FOU, Zone A, Officer In A Pool Of Blood Afflicted By Smugglers

He further  disclosed that three officers and a soldier who received gun shots from the smugglers are currently receiving treatment  at the Customs Clinic at the Customs Training College, Ikeja. Yahaya, the FOU, Zone A, acting Comptroller, who is not happy at the attack  at his  officers has vowed to bring ’’the perpetrators to book as a deterrence to others who may want to confront anti-smuggling officers in the future if found with smuggled Contraband’’.

An aggrieved  Yahaya was said to have  warned the Youths  of the south west states of Ogun, particular, to stop allowing  themselves to be used by smugglers to confront Customs Operatives on anti-smuggling Operations because of the dire consequences.

Appreciative of the support of the soldiers and  the law abiding citizens of the state  to the Customs Operations  , he was said to have  also  ‘’warned ‘’the people with Criminal intentions  to desist from such act  because officers of the  Unit,  are well-mobilised , backed up by the external Law  and would remain  resolute  at enforcing  the Laws without fear of intimidation’’. It is a strong message to the smugglers in the south west states  of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun , Ekiti and Ondo operating between Benin and Nigeria that it is no longer going be business as  usual.

The  ogun smugglers attack on the FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving Patrol Team  members may have raised the profile of  Jack , the Assistant Comptroller, who led the Operation  and his Team members ’’. Indeed, Jack  has continued to receive solidarity visits from   and phone calls from Colleagues  Congratulating him for surviving the smugglers attack which was at a close range.

AC Jack Okpbabi : Led The FOU, Zone A, Operation That Intercepted Xix Vehicles Load Of Foreign Rice

 The Magaine had cited Sarumi, an Assistant Comptroller and 2/IC, to Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator of the Comptroller Genral of Customs , CGC, Strike Force, Team A, in his IKeja office. He was said to have also played host to the Brigade Commander who released  the soldiers who had joinedthe            FOU, Zone A in the Operation.

 An elated Brigade Commander, was said to have promised to release at least 30   soldiers to the FOU, Zone A, Team  for such Operations in the future. This should gladden the heart of  Jack  and  his boys  that they are not alone in fighting the anti-smuggling war in the Command.  

Stephen Ubanna

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