By Stephen Ubanna
President Muhammadu Buhari, of the Ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, appears to have sent a message to Nigerians that there is no going back on the blanket ban on Foreign Agricultural Food importation into the country.
This is evident by on-going by the joint Border security Operation, being conducted by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller general , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS,and Mohammad Babandende, his Counterpart in the Nigerian Immigration Service, NIS in Collaboration with the military , police and other Security and Intelligence agencies.
At the instance of Ali, the Customs Comptroller General , who is Heading the lead agency, Customs, the security and Intelligence agencies were said to have joined forces to, launch a Joint Border security exercise code named , in the military parlance as’’ Ex-Swift Response’’ as part of the measures to secure the country’s land and maritime Borders.
A Statement by Joseph Attah , a Deputy Comptroller and the Customs Spokesperson said the Operation will be executed in the south west, south-south, north west and, north east excluding the land locked geo-political regions of the south east and north central.
As a prelude for the kickstarting of the Operations, which had no definite time of elapsing, The Value News cited the movement of the Customs, military , other Security and Intelligence agencies personnel and operational vehicles to Seme -Krake Joint Border between Nigeria and Republic of Benin, on Tuesday, August 20, 2019. The movement of the military and para –military personnel as well Operational vehicles was said to have continued on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 to Idiroko Border in Ogun state, described as a haven for . The exercise may have continued on Thursday with the movement of personnel and Operational vehicles to Saki and Iseyin in Oyo and Osun axis. The movement of the personnel and vehicles to these Border locations is expected to be followed by movement of equipment from military bases to the affected regions to ensure a success of the Operation.
Attah, the Customs Deputy Comptroller may have known that the people of the Border Communities may be filled with fear with the large presence of security Operatives and equipment in their locality as he was said to have appealed to them to remain calm and go about their normal business without any fear of molestation. He had stressed that that the ‘’overall objective of the exercise was to ‘’ensure a peaceful and secured country in the interest of national security’’.
Security sources informed The Value News that the same movement of military and paramilitary personnel including Operational vehicles to the Border Stations in the south west were also carried out simultaneously in the south-south, northwest and north east for proper Coordination by Babagana Munguno a retired Major general and National Security Adviser, NSA.
Note that the adhoc Team has an additional responsibility to tackle ‘’terrorism, armed Banditry , smuggling, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, among others’’in the affected regions. That much was confirmed by Attah, the Customs Image Maker.
Yusuf Magaji Bichi, Director General, Department of State and State Security, DSS,may have fully prepared for the national Assignment as he was said to have m mounted a Computerised information monitoring vehicle in the premises of FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, to be overseeing what the team members are doing on the Border areas. The fear of many was that the Information Computerised vehicle would be profiling the calls made and received by the officers while on duty.
But the FOU, Zone A, personnel has turned it that it was stationed to monitor what is happening in their Offices at the Command. Some of the senior Officers, a visitor, lamented , were said to have started behaving funny to friends using the DSS Computerised vehicle as an excuse, to drive them away from coming to their office, claiming, that the Presidency are watching whatever is happening in the Command,. Analyst described this as a sign of fear gripping the Officers and men of the Command, which may affect their productivity.
Investigation shows that Ali , may have warned the Team members in order not to over step their bounds by making it clear that Industrial raw materials for manufacturing finished goods are not banned from coming into the country through the Land Border. The Beninoise Authorities had made it clear to those that cares to listen including the government that all Transit Cargoes must be routed through Seme/Krake Joint Border , an indication that Idiroko and Land Border Stations , across the country are out of it. This is where the Border Officers and Men , have to Collaborate with the Joint Border security operation Team to concentrate their efforts on anti-smuggling Operations to actualize the President’s dream of minimizing smuggling activities in the country.
Ali , the Customs Comptroller General , may have prepared the minds of the officers for the national Assignment as he was said to have deployed an Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, ACG, to Head each of the geo-political regions Joint Security Drills Operations. It was learnt that ACG Amajam . B. A, is in-charge of the south west drills Operations.
He is to be assisted by Abdullahi Kirawa, a Deputy Comptroller and former National Coordinator of the Customs Comptroller General , CCG, Strike Force. Until his redeployment for the national assignment, he has completed his documentation in Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, and made to be in- charge of Special Duties by Mohammed Alityu, the Area Comptroller. . Kirawa, as the DC, of the adhoc Team in the south west is expected to bring to bear his experience in organizing the old CCG Strike Forceand making Spectacular seizures of rice in the various regions valued at millions of naira.
Security analysts fear that the Team may not make much impact in containing the activities of the smugglers in the Border areas, particular in the six south western states of Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo and osun which shares boundary with the Republic of Benin or the north western states of Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, sokoto, Zanfara and Kebbi which shares boundary with Niger.
The situation, the security analysts opined may not be different in the north eastern states of Adamawa and Taraba, which share boundaries with the Central African country of Cameroon or Borno and Yobe, states, which share boundaries with Niger and Chad, under Boko Haram and the Islamic State West Africa Province, ISWAP, Insurgents siege, over the years, thus, making it difficult for both the NCS and NIS , personnel to do their job at the Border areas in the region
The question on the lips is: will the Ex-Swift Response , which is a security exercise involving the military , para-military and and Intelligence agencies in the country be different from the military Campaigns in the north western states of Zamfara and Katsina or the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe?.
Many believe that by making the security exercise open before its implementation,, the government has already made mockery of the policy as the human traffickers and the Beninioise, Nigerien , Chadian and the Cameroonian based smugglers may go underground to keep the adhoc Team members idle T According to Maritime analysts, they may dare the adhoc team by going into the smuggling business on a skeletal scale to keep the Officers busy to justify the huge government expenditure on them.
They had argued that what the government ought to have done was to allow the adhoc Team officials to hold a round table discussions with the Comptrollers of FOUs and Land Border Commands across the country, including the Coordinators of the CCG Strike Force in the Zones including the NIS Border and Highway Comptrollers, to know their areas of Challenge and how they could effectively come in to assist t to contain the activities of the smugglers and human traffickers.
The analysts had noted that what the Team may be doing in the regions earmarked for the operation Ex-Swift Response may not be different from what the FOUs, and the CCG, Strike Force across the country including the Border Commands, particular, Seme Command are doing: anti-smuggling Operations.
Many believe that what Ali and Babadende, his counterpart in NIS, had done in order to win the ear of the President was to throw a purely Customs and NIS Operation open to other security and Intelligence agencies, particular, DSS.
At present the FOUs and CCG Strike Force , had filled the gap may have be left in the anti-smuggling Operation of the Border Commands in the various zones in the last two years Take for instance the operations and Lagos Roving Team, Headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the arrow Head , Akin Ainsoye, a Superintendent, who was said to have participated in making most of the major seizures in the Command , a source disclosed would be challeneged to do more.
Note that the Team, alone, had intercepted over 15 bullet proof vehicles , donkey skin, and thousands of ‘’50 Kg bags of rice worth billions of naira in the last one year, a feat yet to be matched in any other FOU, ommand across the country.
Recall that the intercepted bags of rice, deposited in Government Ware Houses, all over the country, at the instance of the President in 2016, have continued to be allocated to the internally Displaced Peoples , IDP Camps in Adamawa, Borno, Yobe states, north east Nigeria and Edo, in the south-south Nigeria.
Aliyu, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller, who may want to sustain the tempo of anti-smuggling Operations in the Command was said to have directed the various Patrol Team leaders under the Command to mobilise their men and go out for more spectacular seizures that would shake the country like the donkey skin, Tramadol and Codein seizures including the exotic vehicles smuggled into the country from the Border Areas on the excuse that they were cleared from Nigerian ports.
The situation is the same at the Seme-Krake Joint Border which has only one functional route , the Owode axis to enter the Lagos market with smuggled goods, although, dotted with several watersides and Creeks .
Insiders told The Magazine that it had been a major battle for Muhammed Uba Garba, the Area Comptroller and his Patrol Team leaders ,over the last one year to the Contain the activities of the smugglers who had completely resorted to the use of the Creeks and watersides, to carry out their nefarious activities.
. Indeed, with the Collaboration of the military and other Border security agencies, the smugglers may have learnt their first bitter lesson that the Seme -Krake and Owode a no area as most of them were forced to relocate to Ogun state which have over 80 unapproved routes
Eyewitness account disclosed that the open arms in which Mohammed , the Seme Command Area Comptroller , welcomed the Team to the Seme-Krake Joint Border speaks volume, an indication that there is no hiding place for the smugglers.
The worry of security watchers at the Joint Border is where to keep the most of the food items that would be intercepted from smugglers within the period of the Joint security Operation at the Land Border, particular, foreign parboiled rice. This is where Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, should be thinking of constructing an additional Government Ware House at Seme Border to keep with the pace of seized food items any time soon.
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