Customs: Ali Bows To Pressure To Reorganise Strike Force Into three Zones

By Stephen Ubanna

 Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, who may be counting his days in office, appears to have bowed to pressure from Maritime stakeholders to reorganise the  Strike Force, HSF, to meet the aspiration of the agents.

Kayode Farinto, Vice President , Association of the Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents , ANLCA, was said to have started the battle  to get the  Comptroller  General, CGC, SF, barred  from examination of Containerised  cargoes at the seaports and the  road,  over allegations that they were creating bottlenecks in the clearing process .  Farinto and his cohorts were said to have used their contacts  in the Presidency and the Customs Headquarters to force Ali, the Customs Comptroller to ensure that  the adhoc team were barred from the   seaports.

 He had threatened to mobilise the agents  to withdraw their services from the ports  and the land Border areas if  the Customs boss fails to heed to their appeal to scrap the Strike Force  which has  as National Cordinator, Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI,  had lend their voice to the complaints against the CGC Strike Force by the ANLCA top official insisting that the team must be disbanded  to facilitate the clearing process at the port.  Muda Yusuf, the Director General  collaborated the claims of the ANLCA officials that the activities of the CGC Strike Force slows down  the cargo clearing process  as ”amounts to creation  of another layer of authority to intercept  and seize cargoes  that have been duly released by  all the agencies  involved  in the examination  of the cargoes”.

The Cabal in the Service, who have the ear of the  Bauchi state born Customs Comptroller General , were  said to have  impressed on him to  listen to the Complaints of the Industry  Stakeholders  and do something fast to put the situation under  control beforre it gets out of hand.

Unknown to the Cabal, Ali, had already  made up of his mind what to  do with the adhoc team to make it more effective  in its assignment.  The fallout was the reorganisation of the Strike Force  into three Teams  and  each Headed by a Deputy Comptroller, who would serve as the Corordinate while Kirawa, the former National Coordinator services was withdrawn to the Customs Headquarters.    

In what looked like   Customs  officials and Stakeholders gang up  against the Yobe state born Deputy Comptroller and former National Coordator of the CGC Strike Force, Augustine Chidi, a Deputy Comptroller General in-charge of Enforcement, Investigations and Inspection, on the orders of Ali, announced  the dissolution  of the  team  believed to have stepped on toes and decentralised its operations. The value News learn that the former Strike Force  leader who many believe  who many believe did well within the last one with the seizure of over N17 billion worth of goods and recovery of of abot N1 billion , which  could have enetred into private pockets  across the country was not given opportunity to defend himself before the Management as he was asked to vacate office with immediate effect.

Insiders told the Magazine that there was the initial confusion over who should take over as the Coordinatator  of the newly  created Zone A. It was learnt one Lere, a Deputy Comptroller was initially penciled down to take over the Zone but was quickly  replaced by Usman Yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller In-charge of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A,  Enforcement, to satisfy certain interests both within and outside the Service. It was gathered that the duo were  at the Warehouse  Road office of the Strike  Force donned with Babariga white but  only Yahaya  found his way to Kirawa’s office for discussion and official handover. Kirawa may have hastily handed over to the   Coordinators  of the new Zones to avoid playing into the hand of the Management team.

 Going by the new  arrangement,  Yahaya, who takes over Zone  A, comprising of Ogun, Lagos, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and Osun, the six   states in the south west geo-political region, which share Border with Republic of Benin, has Mohammed Aliyu, the Comptroller ,FOU, Zone A , and his former boss, who has establised no nonsense anti-smuggling officers , particular the Command Lagos Roving team,  Headed by Riks Lura, A chief Superintendent of Customs and its Strike Force, regarded as a terror by smugglers in the south west,,   Headed by  one Ahmed, a Superintendent , to contend with in the region.

Many believe that Tahaya may take advantage of heading the Command Enforcement Unit,  which affords him opportunity to attend its weekly Management meetings to review its anti-smuggling  plans for the week to put some of these strategies into  action to outsmart his former boss patrol teams. he may get  it wrong as his  appointment as the CGC, Strike Force Coordinator, ZoneA, may have  forced Aliyu, the FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller and his Patrol team leaders to go back to the drawing to review their operations   in readiness for the chllenges ahead.

A senior who officer who spoke to The Magazine  disclosed that  agents and other Industry Stakeholders  would soon  realise their mistake for fighting for the recoval of Kirawa who may be mean in taking decisions  in giving Demand Notice , DN, to importers who  contravene  the government fiscal policy through  wrong Classification of their goods to make under payment as Yahaya, who looks  calm may be worse in issuing DN, to importers with their agents caught in the act.

 But another senior officer officer who had worked  under him at Agbara Checkpoint when he was the Officer In-charge described him as a changed officer who has lost much of the fire in him  as Ali may soon  begin to  notice the lapses  because of reduced seizure and drop in revenue recovery for the Service in the next couple of months.

But one appointment that was said to have been  hailed in Customs circles was that of  Adamu .D. Mohammed  a Deputy Comptroller, In-charge of Enforcement. Western Marine Command.

  Unitil his redeployment  the Command from FOu, Zone A, where he served as the Head of the Lagos Roving Team,  as an Assistant Comptroller, they had made spectacular seizures including cache of arms  released from Apapa seaport.

 It was learnt that the importer had made several attempts to  bribe his way to take delivery of the items but was disappointed. The seizures were said to have been u made during the Administration of Abdullahi Dikko a, former Comptroller General  of   Customs  but  the team members  were never rewarded. The onus lies on  Ali, the current Comptroller General of Customs., who believes in rewarding hardwork to call for the team members file  and quickly promoted them after  due Consultation with  other members of the Management team.

 It is not surprising why Adamu was promoted to the enviable rank of a Deputy Comptroller and thus became the Deputy Comptroller , Enforcement in Western Marine  Command. 

Abdullahi Kirawa: Former National Coordinator, CGC, Strike Force

Many had expected to do perform the same magic  he did in FOU, Zone A, to make spectacular seizures  but he was frustrated to  do the work as he had done it at   his previous Command because of dearth operational crafts.

 Insiders informed The Magazine that he did not allow it to frustrate  him as he reconnected withhis previous  informants at FOU, Zone  A, who made their services available him. In one operation alone, one of the the Command  water ways patrol  team  tut together by him was said to have made over 5,000 50 Kg Bags of  foreign parboiled rice with the  support of the Navy.  

This may have informed the reason why Maritime watchers  said  smugglers in the south east and the Niger Delta, particular, Cross River state , are in trouble, as Adamu would smoke  them out from their Ikom and Bakasi hideouts.

 The more porous North ,  which falls under  the newly established Zone B, of the Task , was  said to have been put under the control  of   one Kolobe . B, also a Deputy  Comptroller. Not much is known about him in Customs Enforcement Circles but those who knew him said  he would   not fail in the new mandate.

 Recall that the CGC  Strike Force,  came into existence  following the dissolutio of  the Customs Compliance due to the outcry of the importers with their agents. Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and Customs Public Relations officer , who gave an insight about the mandate of the team said   it is to further ” sanitise and strengthen the services’ anti-smuggling operation  across the country”.  Attah may have given room for the agents to fight the Team when they started seeing checks erected by it on the road to stop duly released Containers  from the seaports. 

Note that that the Customs PRO , had said that  the team will not erect check points  on Nigerian highways to gladden the heart of agents.  He had said that the only time the members could be found on the road  would be if  they have credible intelligence  information from  Surveillance operatives.  the Surveillance operatives, he disclosed  are to operate  covertly  upon suspicion  of smuggling  but must carry out their diligence before  informing the team in of their Zonal offices. But past  National Coordinator of the Strike including Kirawa had not kept to the mandate as the team members mounted road blocks on highways to compete with the FOUs personnel across the country to intercept Containers and make seizures.

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