Customs: Ali Place Comptrollers In The North West Under Close Watch, Praises The Two Muhammeds And Agbara’s Anti-smuggling Drive

By Stephen Ubanna

For years, there have been rumour making the rounds that the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, anti-smuggling war have failed in the north , particular north western states of Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kaduna nd Katsina,  President Muhammadu Buhari, home state. 

At present in these states, foreign par boiled rice and vehicle are being smuggled into the country  without  control as though there are no Customs anti-smuggling officers at the Border Communities to put the situation under control. The Customs anti-smuggling war critics believe are  effective only in the  south west, south east, south-south , north central and north east geo-political regions.

The Value News findings  shows that while past and present Comptrollers of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A,  Ikeja and  Zone C, Owerri, overseeing the anti-smuggling operations in the south west , east and south-south geo-political regions have succeeded in putting many of the exotic  vehiclle and foreign parboiled rice  smugglers out of circulation, the situation is not so in the northwest geo-political region which share border with Niger Republic.

Note  that as a  one of the land locked  countries its transit cargoes  delivered to the country mostly from the Cotonou port, Republic of Benin.  A  driver plying the Lagos  _Cotonou International route , confirmed that over  100 trucks from the northern part of the country enter Cotonou , every week , to load rice which were  usually smuggled into the Nigerian market from the north west , north east and the north Central states of Kwarra and Benue .

Muhammed: Impresses Ali

It was learnt  vehicles imported through the  Cotonou  port  into the land locked country were mostly smuuled   into the nigeria market  through these northern states with the active connivance of the officers who see it as an opportunity to make quick money. Insiders told  The Value News that an ability to speak Housa  is an asset  to any officer  that wants to be in the  good book of the smugglers. It is not surprising why the Comptrollers who could not understand , Housa/Fulani, the dominant language in the north are in the dark to know  what the anti-smuggling officers are doing  when they are go out on operation. The situation is worse in Soko/Kebbi/ Zamfara and Kaduna/Katsina  Commands. The FOU, Zone B and CC, Strike Force, in the Kaduna and Bauchi  Zonal Commands have not helped  matters as they have faailed to compliment the efforts of the resident officers.

 Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, may have kept it to himself the rot in the north west  anti-smuggling , awaiting for an opportunity to explode. The opportunity came on Wednesday, July 10, 2019, when he had meeting with the Comptrollers of the Federal Operations Units, FOUs,  Land Border Stations and CGC Strike Force , across the country ,  which have the mandate to oversee the anti-smuggling war  across  the country  to know their problems  and what  needed to be done to support them to discharge  their duties.

The meeting became necessary because of the recent signing of a trade pact between President Muhammadu Buhari, and Patrick Talon, of Benin Republic in order to avoid unfair trade. Even though the pact has not yet come into existence,  the Customs Comptroller General , was said to have singled out Muhammed Ali, Comptroller, FOU, Zone A, Mohammed , Seme Command and Michael Agbara, Ogun Command, as those that are working while the other anti-smuggling Comptrollers exist in name. He was said to have  warned   Sarikin Mustapha, Sokoto/Kebbi/ Zamfara- Nasir Ahmed,  Kao/ Jigawa- Ted Odogwu and Abdulrrazaq Oyeleke, the Area Comptroller, Kaduna / Kasina  Command.   stating that he is not impressed with their jobs.  Kolobe Baba-Kura, a deputy Comptroller and Coordinator of the  CGC, Strike Force, Zone C and D based in Kaduna and Bauchi  Zonal Commands was not left out in receiving the sharp tongue of the Customs Comptroller General, insisting that their efforts was not good enough. He stops short at saying that  the Commands  cannot be found  in the Customs anti-smuggling radar, an indication that they do not  exist.

Recall that the  Katsina born  Nigerian President  had banned the importation of vehicles  and foreign rice  into the  country on January 1, 2017, on the recommendation of the Federal ministry of Finance, which was approved by then  members of the Federal Executive Council, FEC, 

Ali , the Customs Comptroller General , on the orders of the President, was said to have  given the anti-smuggling Commands and their Comptrollers the  nod  to implement the policy to the later to protect the local economy   and increase patronage of the country   seaports  by  automobile importers , who were aid to have relocated to Cotonou ports and  other ports in the West African sub-region to take delivery of their vehicles. He had expected the FOUs, CGC Strike Force and the Border Command, to intensify their anti-smuggling war and ensure   no prohibited item  or phamarceutical products  found their way into the Nigerian market.

 The Customs boss may not have made any negative  remarks on  the anti-smuggling operations in the south east and south-south   under the  close watch of   Olusemire Kayode,  Comptrollers  FOU, Zone C, Shehu Musa,  cross River/ Akwa Ibom Commands and Yahaya Usman, a Deputy Comptroller, and Coordinator, CGC, Strike Force,  Lagos Zonal Command  Headed by Yayaya Usman, a Deputy Comptroller or Adamu Abubakar Mohammed, another  Deputy Comptroler, and Coordinator, CGC, Strike Force, owerri Zonal Command, Zone C.   Kayode and Adamu, may have  got the message clearly that the duo may  have  read the riot act to their patrol teams  who were said to have doubled their  efforts in the recent time making spectacular rice seizures  around the Ikom and Bakassi axis of Cross River state. They  were said to have intercepted Containers and vehicles released from the Lagos seaports including smuggled vehicles along the Lagos Benin road .

The CGC  may have been  impressed  with the two Mohammeds overseeing FOU, Zone a  and Seme Command including  Agbara, Ogun Command, because they  have not given smugglers in their respective areas any  respite.

Take for  instance  FOU, Zone A, despite the normal seizures of foreign parboiled and vehicles, found in the Government Warehouse  at Ikeja,  like every other Command of the Service it, has added donkey skin, and bullet proof among its seizures to distinguish it from other FOUs across the country,  which are not  popular in the lexicon of Customs dictionary . The spectacular seizures which  made possible  with the  drive  of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team, Headed by  RIks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs. CSC  may have  put  Aliyu, Command’s Comptroller who have had provided the enabling environment for the team to perform to be in the good book of the Customs Comptroller  as a performer.

 The most recent seizure by the team was about 820 sacks of  donkey  skin  in warehouses located within Oyo and Ogun axis in the south west geo-political region meant for export the Asian country of China for the use of Pharmaceutical Companies which manufacture of drugs  used for curing of High Blood Pressures, HBP, and terminal sicknesses. The Value of the  donkey skin Consignment , according valuation experts was put about N1.9 billion.

 Note last May , the  Riks led  team was said to have  made over  1000 pieces of donkey skin loaded in two ”20” Containers  in one operation at the Okota axis of Lagos state worth over N1.5 billion.

 This is in addition to the seizure of several cartons of banned pharmaceutical drugs such as tramadol and Codein. The raid by the team of a warehouse suspected to be stocking piling cartons of  Codeine drugs at the  Alaba International Market was said to have yielded results as 347 cartons of Codein worth about  N146 million were evacuated to the Command premises by them.

The team may have put  the Mohammed led Command on a class of its own with seizures of  about 15 bullet proofs   smuggled into the country from republic of Benin  and parked in private residences and different  locations in Lagos. The latest of such bullet proof  seizures was the 2019 model valued  at about 49 million.  

For Mohammed, the Comptroller of Seme Command, he has successfully made Seme, Owode out station, the Creeks and Watersides in the Badagry axis , a  no go area for smugglers as foreign rice , tramadol and vegetable  oil  smugglers  who had attempted to use the Creeks  would never forget  their experience in a hurry. This is because they lost the  smuggled Consignments worth millions of naira to government.

 He was said to have engaged  the services of the Army Operation Mesa at Badagry to evacuate  the recent rice seizures at one of the  Creeks in the Badagry area. The most recent seizures by the Command  that may have gladdened the heart of the Customs Comptroller General  was the 13 bags of expired rice  smuggled into the country  which may have given the management an insight that  some of the ”50” bags of rice imported from Thailand , through Cotonou port but  smuggled into the country may have expired.

 The recent seizure of 627 dozens   of table water  from China  discovered in a four transit trucks  laden with cargo at Seme-Krake Joint Border, worth about N3.043 million may  proved to the Comptroller General  that the anti-smuggling war at is real and not a fluke as detractors had wanted him to believe in order to turn against the  Seme Customs Comptroller.

It was not surprising  while all attempts by detractors to blackmail the Customs Comptroller by using fictitious pictures of truck loads of rice heading to Internally Displace, IDP, Camps , from the Command in  the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as being smuggled into the  country  were dismissed on arrival Note that the Government Ware House at Seme, is always filled with intercepted foreign rice, Vegetable oil,  second hand clothing and other items.  The drugs are usually handed over to  officials of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC.

Agbara, the  Comptroller of Ogun, who may have woken up from slumber , he has tighten up security  around  the  83 illegal routes in the state  that rice and vehicle smugglers could  no longer have  a hiding place .   There was  a report that was said to have been sent to the Customs Headquarters showing  that the Command made  close to 90 vehicle seizures .  The recognition of  the two Muhammeds and Agbara, as  the three  super anti-smuggling Comptrollers may have emboldened them do  make more seizures in their  respective Commands  in the south west, thus covering the inadequacies of other anti-smuggling area Comptrollers in the region.

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