Customs: FOU Anti-smuggling Officers Comb The Ogun And Oyo Forest, Make Spectacular Seizures

By Stephen Ubanna

When Mohammed  Aliyu,  Comptroller Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja,  got a signal on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, that he was  needed at the Customs Headquarters,  Abuja, for a meeting with Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, the next day, he did not  hesitate in taking the next available flight. He may have left without any reason to worry as he has his aniti-smuggling officers o ground  who could deliver.

Unknown to him the  Customs Comptroller General, has arranged a  special  meeting with the Comptrollers of the FOU Commands  and land Border stations across the country to address the problem of  problem of smuggling activities   across the country and how to put it under control. The meeting was said to have been attended by Yahaya Usman, a Deputy Comptroller, and Coordinator,  Comptroller General Strike Force, CGC, Strike Force,   Lagos  Zonal Command and his counterparts in Owerri and Kaduna Zonal Commands.  Augustine Chidi, a Deputy Comptroller General, overseeing Customs   Enforcement, Investigations and Inspections of the Service was also said to be at the closed door meeting.

The meeting between the retired Army Colonel and the Comptrollers of FOU and Land Border   Stations  across the country including the CGC’s Strike Force Coordinators in the south west, south east/ south-south and the  north  was coming  on the heels  of President Muhammadu Buhari,  return from the 12th  extra-ordinary meeting of  the African Union, AU, Meeting on  Africa Continental Trade Agreement , AfCFTA, in Niamy, Niger, last Thursday.

Nigeria has joined AfCFTA, as the 53rd  member of  the  African Union economic group while Republic of Benin signed as the 54th member nation.  The  two West African countries,  share Borders  in the north and the south west geo-politicl political regions.  the Katsina state born Nigerian President had signed a trade pact with Patrick Talon, his Beninoise counterpart  but  emphaised on the need for fair trade of the manufactured  goods or Agricultural products produced within the countrie and not third party exports.

Note that Cotonou port , in Benin has been thrown open to all sorts of imports  without any restrictions , including foreign paboiled rice, processed vegetable oil ,vehicles and second hand clothing which are not allowed to come into the country through the land Border.

Based on the trade pact, Nigeria  is expected  to export  cocoa, , cotton, cement , leather, cashew nuts,  sesame shea butter, palm oil, ferliser, petrochemicals,a nd rubber among other  items. The  trade in the non oil exports, between the two countries, according to Segun Awolowo, Executive  Director, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, NEPC, will fetch the country bout $30 billion annually. For now, Beninoise  pineapples has taken over the Nigeria market, even  without the formal launching of the pact.

The initial  fear that Beninioise business Community  may take advantage of the trade pact to export  third party goods, particular , pharmaceutical products and other  manufactured  goods from Europe, particular, France, and the Asian countries of China and India, may have forced Buhari to  talk things over with Ali, the customs Comptroller General  on how to further tighten the security along  the nation’s land Borders with the Republic of Benin so that  goods not approved on the Economic Community of West African States, Common External Tariff, CET., were not allowed into the country through illegal routes. The Customs Comptroller General may have passed the Presidential message  to the Area Comptrollers of the FOUs and Land Border Stations across the country including the Coordinators of the CGC Strike force in the Zones at their recent meeting  in Abuja . The Customs Comptrollers and CGC Strike Force Coordinators , may have passed the message to their  various patrol teams  forcing them  to go on rampage to smoke out the smugglers from  their hidings.

In spite of the fact   that  Aliyu , the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss, had not returned to the Command  as at last Thursday,   Ahmed  B.A, a superintendent of Customs, SC, with the support of  Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent  of Customs, CSC, and the arrow head of donkey skin, worth over a billion , seized between Ogun and Oyo axis as well as most of the exotic vehicles including a 2019 model of bullet proof   valued at  about N 90 million,  was said to have intercepted  ”50” bags of foreign bags o foreignf rice from different locations in Ogun and Oyo axis , which were said to have been loaded into a truck  that was hired to transfer it to the Command premises.  The team was also said to have also intercepted   pharmaceutical drugs which were conveniently loaded into the two trucks, for transfer to the Command premises to be used as a welcome gift to the Comptroller.

Compt. Muhammed: Effectively Blocked The Seme axis for Smugglers

The  incident report of the seized items, worth millions of naira, were expected to be handed over to Aliyu , the Area Comptroller , next  Tuesday,  July 17, 2019 , by CSC.  Riks, during the Command  enlarged management meeting. The meeting , according to sources, affor  the patrol team leaders  the opportunities to speak out about their challenges and what needed to done  to assist them to overcome such challenges  in order to make more seizures  for the Command.

 There are indications  that the Strike Force team,, may have made the spectacular seizures from smugglers in the recent time  because of the close working relation with Ajao, a Superintendent  and Head of the Command Information Patrol team and whose  boys were  at  different locations in the south western tates of Ogun, Lagos, Ekiti, Ondo, Osun and Oyo, monitoring the movement of the smugglers .  The grand  master of the  anti-smuggling operations in the Command, Riks, was said to have always been consulted  by the various  patrol teams whenever they  encountered  any  difficulty either   on the road or in the bush carting away  smuggled goods  as  he had always provided solutions  for such seized goods to be  successfully transferred to the Command.

A senior Customs officer who spoke to The Value News  disclosed that in the last one week,  officers and men of the FOU, Zone A, in  patrol teams had worked beyond  immagination, particular, the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team and members of the Command Strike Force were said to have effectively blocked the Ogun and Oyo  axis  for the foreign  rice  and vehicle smugglers.

 Given the seriousness of the Command various  patrol teams in the anti-smuggling  war, t of  other security agencies personnel , who had been involved in aiding and abetting smugglers appear to have gone underground  to avoid been humiliated by the fierce looking  Customs officers  on the road.

The meeting at Abuja, may have solved one major problem  in the south west, where  Yahaya and his cohorts in the CGC  Strike Force had seen themselves as Competing  with the officers and men of the FOU, Zone A, and  undermining the efforts of the land Border station Comptrollers, particular, Muhammed Uba Garba, of Seme Command.  

maritime  watchers would want Yahaya and his chorts in the CGC, Strike Force, to see themselves as working towards the same goal Aliyu and the Land Border Comptrollers of suppressing smuggling operations and protecting the nation’s economy   instead of  Competing with them.  

Going by the way , Yahaya,, the Lagos Zonal ,Coordinator  and his team members, are  going about the  anti-smuggling operations as in the south west, they may have  opened  the door for smugglers  to penetrate their ranks and cause more  havoc on the economy.

 This is where Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, may have to call the Lagos Zonal Coordinator  of the CGC , Strike Force to order, to force  him and his team members to work within the confines of the law establishing it or be removed  instead of turning into  a weak spot of the Customs anti-smuggling war by resorting to blackmail.

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