By Stephen Ubanna
The Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, anti-smuggling war in the south west appears to have taken a turn for the worse as smugglers a frustrate the various Customs Commands, patrol teams, in the region , particular, that of Ogun Command , who are carrying out their legitimate duties in the state.
The dare-devil smugglers may have been forced to step up their attack on the Customs Command’s patrol teams in the state because of the alleged matching order given to the Enforcement Commands including the Federral Operations Units, FOUs , across the country to stop prohibited goods from being smuggled into the country by Hamed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller, General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS.
Note that the onset, Mohammed Aliyu, the current Comptroller , Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, had prepared to scuttle the operations of the smugglers in the state. The Customs Comptroller, was said to have armed the Command Roving team, headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, and B. Ahmed, a Superintendent , in-charge of the Strike Force to ensure their teams effectively police Ogun , described as a home of smugglers. The smuggling operations in the state, according to Maritime watchers, became pronounced in the state as Muhammed Aliyu, Comptroller , Seme Command, went after the smugglers in the area , as those who could stand not the superior fire power of the Command patrol teams were forced to relocate to the state to carry out their nefarious trade . Those who could not find their bearing in the state may have relocated to Shaki and Iseyin in Oyo state, thus giving the Command Enforcement and Strike Force teams job to do.
But of much the anti-smuggling war remained in Ogun state, which, going by the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS, records, has about 84 unofficial routes used by smugglers in the state to carry out their illegitimate operations.
The FOU, Zone A, patrol Teams, according to a senior Customs officer, who spoke to The Value News, disclosed that the anti-smuggling war is making a headway in the south west , particular, Ogun state because of the aggressiveness of the Lagos Roving t patrol teams , who works , according to the instruction , of CSC Lura, their boss and the Strike Force . The two groups, which are provided with credible information by one Ajao, a Superintendent, and Head of the Command Information patrol team are really giving the Ogun smugglers sleepless night. Besides facing the smugglers squarely in the jungle of Ogun state Border Communities, Ahmed led Strike Force, may have made matters worse for them by effectively covering the Ijebu Ode – Benin Express Way to ensure that there is no escape route from smugglers who escape the eagle of the Command or Ogun , Oyo/ Osun patrol teams. The plan has worked as the team has continued to intercept exotic vehicles , foreign parboiled rice and truck laden cagoes released from the Border area on the road.
The continued seizure of the exotic vehicles and foreign parboiled rice, by the Aliyu patrol teams in Ogun state, may have forced Michael Agabara, the Ogun Command Comptroller to wake up from sleep as he was said to have order the Area patrol teams to take cue from the FOU and the Lagos Zonal Command of the Deputy Comptroller Kirawa Abdullahi Coordinated Headquarters Strike Force, HSF, to smoke out the smugglers in the state from their hideout to forestall their smuggling activities, which is giving the state a bad name. The Ogun Customs Comptroller may have given the Command patrol teams the matching order to be more aggressive in their operations to match the speed of the FOU, Zone A and HSF, anti-smuggling patrol teams in the state. The matching order may have forced the Command patrol teams to go all out for the smugglers in the state but creating opportunities for the hoodlums to launch attack on the teams to frustrate them from intercepting their smuggled vehicles loaded with foreign rice.
. Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari, had banned the importation of foreign rice and vehicles , through the nation’s land Borders on January 1, 2017, basically to increase the patronage of Nigeria sea ports. The Presidential order may have stregthened the resolve of the Ogun Area Comptroller patrol teams to make the state a no area for the smugglers. They got it wrong as the smugglers have their plan B.
Only recently, one of the Command patrol teams had a problem with smugglers along the Idiroko – Atan axis of the state. trouble was said to have erupted when the Ogun patrol team attempted to stop some vehicles load of forein parboiled rice head to Atan, a neighbouring Community to Sango Otta, to discharge at a warehouse. The smugglers , who had their paid agents in the area, did not find the action of the Customs personnel as they were said to have attacked them. Eyewitness account said the Customs patrol team head beat a retreat to avoid loss of lives. That may have given the smugglers and the irate youths , who double as agent, the impression that the officers were running to save their live.
Unknown to them the Ogun Customs patrol team, had called for reinforcement from other security agencies along the Border route to clear the hoodlums from the scene. It was learnt that the intervention of the FOU, Zone A, HSF, and the police including the Army save the situation from degenerating as normalcy was quickly restored to the area.
The question on the lips of most people was: how did the vehicles load of rice, escape the eagle eyes of the of the various Customs checkpoints along the road as to get to the Atan axis where it was intercepted by another Ogun patrol team. This may have given critics the impression, that the smugglers may have made their bookings in advance before putting the vehicles on the road but did not take into consideration of the possibility of another Customs patrol coming around the area to do their work.
Given an insider information, A.A. Maiwada, an Assistant Superintendent and the Ogun Command Spokes person disclosed that the Atan axis in Ado-oDO Ota, local government Area, of the state is a notable smugglers route famous in creating choas. According to Maiwada, they are ready to do anything to protect their smuggled goods including attacking officers .
There were conflicting reports that in the recent attack on officers,one of the smugglers was killed by stray bullet the squabble But the the Ogun Command Image makers described the claim as untrue.He stressed that there was no casualty during the fracas between the Command patrol team and the Atan hoodlums.
Note that last January, irate youths had marched on the Command patrol team at Owode, a Border Community between Nigeria and Republic of Benin, following a raid on a Celestial Church of Christ , Parish , which left one of het of the smugglers sustaining gunshots while five officers were also wounded.The Ogun Command patrol team were said t have stormed the Parish after discovering loads of smuggled bags of rice allegedly warehoused in the church premises by suspected smugglers. Angry youths at the the Border Community were said to have resisted the Ogun Customs personnel from carting away the items.
While smugglers may be facing tough times in the south west, the situation appears different in the north west. Available reports has it that suspected smugglers drive with reckless speed to clear Customs patrol teams on the road. Indeed, this was exactly what happened at Gumel road in Jigawa state recently. A suspected smuggler had crushed one Azeez Tunde Wasiu, a Customs Inspector and a member of Kano/Jigawa patrol team on the road to Gumel toen in the state. The Customs Inspector may have been rammed over by the desperate smuggler who was prepared to sacrifice any officer to facilitate his escape with his smuggled vehicle loaded with foreign rice from Republic of Niger.
According to Isa Dan-Baba, an Assistant Superintendent and the Kano/ Jigawa, Spokes Person, the deceased officer and his colleagues were pursuing the suspected smuggler in an marked Volkswagen Golf , from Sule Tankartar road towards Gumel town .
Dan-Baba disclosed that after the Customs unmarked vehicle had overtook the smuggler’s own on the road but, the officer who met his untimely death had hastily dropped off to shoot at the tyres of the smuggler vehicle to demobilise him but got it wrong. The smuggler was said to have increased his speed before the officer could cork his gun had ran over him.
The smuggler may have escaped with the vehicle loaded with the foreign parboiled rice as the Kano/Jigawa Customs Command Image maker did not give any further information as to what happened to the vehicle and the suspected smuggler.
This may have given Critics the impression that smugglers have a free reign in the north west geo-political region compared to what obtains in the south west and south -south geo-plitical regions where FOU , Zone A and Zone C, patrol teams including the HSF , patrol teams, are not ready to give smugglers breather . The quatities of seized goods, particular, foreign parboiled rice and exotic vehicles , in government warehouse in Lagos, Beni, Calabar and Enugu, by Fou, Zone and Zone C, Owerri , Imo state, speaks volume.
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