By Stphen Ubanna
Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, appears to have taken importers and smugglers operating in the south west, north west and south east unaware with the redeployment of Zonal Coordinators of the Customs Strike Force, controlled from his office.
Muhammed Buhari, no relations of President Muhammadu Buhari, a Brigadier General and Principal Staff Officer, PSO, of the Customs Comptroller General who was said to have issued a Statement concerning the dissolution of the present Comptroller General Strike Force Squad across the country instead of Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and the Service Spokesperson. Buhari had confirmed that Ali had dissolved the present Customs Strike Force’’ as Constituted. The Brigadier General disclosed that Ahmadu Shaibu, a Deputy Comptroller is the new Coordinator of the Lagos Zonal office of the StrikeForce while one Sarumi, an Assistant Comptroller would oversee the Strike Force Zonal office operations.
The deployment of the former CGC Strike Force Coordinators was said to have also affected the Kaduna and Owerri , Zonal offices. Olorukooba, who is also a Deputy Comptroller, was said to have been redeployed to the Kauna Zonal office or Zone B, while Amairi, an Assistant Comptroller would be in-chrge of Operations . M.A. Yusuf, another recommended Deputy Comptroller for the reconstituted CGC Strike Force was said to have been redeployed to the PortHarcourt Zonal office or Zone C, to be assisted by EE. Ita, an Assistant Comptroller.
The Customs Comptroller General may have taken the bold initiative to rejig the Zonal offices of the Strike Force offices across the country to strengthen their Operations because of the news making the rounds that the officers have Compromised. More worrisome was the Complaints of aggrieved Ware- House owners in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve Center that the Strike Force, Enforcement officers, at the instance of Kakudi, a Deputy Comptroller and for Coordinator of the Zonal office regularly seal their WareHouse as they were made to pay through their nose to get it reopened.
Even Agents who spoke to The Value News disclosed that the Lagos Zonal office of the CGC Strike Force, Enforcement officers had deviated from the mandate of Ali, the Customs Comptroller General to help in trade facilitation. The Agents lamented that the Officers had become stumbling block in the clearing process at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin can Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, and all the various private Bonded Terminals scattered across Lagos state by creating artificial bottlenecks.
The Strike Force Patrol Officers along the ports environment were said to have developed clinical ways of forcing Importers with their Agents to pay certain amount of money on ‘’20’’ or ‘’40’’ Containers, released from the terminals over alleged Contravention of the government Fiscal policies, to have a free passage but some of the Agents were said to have fallen into the waiting hands of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, officers on the road and the Container transferred to the Command premises.
Investigations by The Magazine shows that the CGC, Lagos Zonal office Operation officers were equally enveloped in Compromise , thus leaving the anti-smuggling operations in the six south west states in the hands of the FOU, Zonal A, under the close watch of Usman Yahaya, Patrol officers.
This may have informed why the Customs Comptroller General needed an Officer who believes in the vision of the present Management Team had to rid the ports of Fraudulent Importers and give the smugglers a decisive blow in the south west.It was therefore, no very surprising why Shaibu, a Deputy Comptroller who was a one-time officer in-charge of Operations at the FOU, Zone C, Owerri, imo state, under the close watch of Kayode Olusemire but later redeployed to FOU, Zone A , Ikeja, to Head the Command Administration department was recommended to him for Consideration.
A senior officer who spoke to The Magazine disclosed that Shaibu, had made an appreciable impact at the south east anti-smuggling Operations with his Patrol teams by sanitizing the ports and putting the smugglers operating in the region under control with the support received from Olusemire, the Area Comptrolle,.
The officer noted that he had succeeded in chasing out the fraudulent Importers and Agents operating at the south east ports of Port Harcourt Area 1, Onne and Rivers port, with the frequent interception of their Containers along the Aba –PortHarcourt road that was released from the ports over alleged Concealment or Under-declaration, thus resulting in under payment of duties, forcing many of them to relocate to the Lagos pots to do their transactions.
Even Foreign rice and vehicle smugglers operating at the south west states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo,Osun and Ekiti who had escaped the eagle eyed officers of the FOU, Zone A, Enforcement Officers on the road would not forget their experience with the Customs Deputy Comptroller in a hurry as their smuggled Contraband from the neighboring West African country of Benin Republic were said to have ended up at the Government Ware House in Benin City, the Edo state Capital.
Those who were said to have managed to escape the eagle eye of the Command Enforcement Officers along the Lagos Benin or Ondo- Benin road to enter the south east roads were said to have been disappointed as their goods ended up at the Government WareHouse, Owerri. This may have informed why the Government Ware Houses in Benin city and Owerri, were always filled to the brim with Contraband and the premises littered with intercepted Containers and Vehicles.
The smugglers at the Bakasi and Ikom axis of Cross river state also had Shaibu, who was said to have led Operations on several occasions to contend with. He may have proved to be a hard nut to Crack with the interception of live ammunition at a Customs Checkpoint along the Elele-PortHarcourt road in the oil –Rivers state. The live ammunition were said to have been Concealed in a vehicle conveying goods from Onitsha , the Anambra state Commercial nerve center to Port Harcourt .
Given the Orientation that may have been given to the Enforcement Officers at checkpoints and the patrol Team Officers on the road to shun Compromise and ensure that the right things are done at every point in time, may have emboldened the officers at the Elele checkpoint flag down the vehicle and insist on searching it.
It was gathered that there were attempts by occupants of the vehicle to hoodwink the Enforcement Officers that there was nothing incriminating in it. They were said to have attempted to Compromise the Officers but were disappointed.
The eagle eyed Shaibu’s men were said to have uncovered the cartons of live ammunition during the search on the vehicle and quickly transferred it to the Government WareHouse , Owerri for ducumentation.
Many believe that the seizure of the live ammunition may have boosted the profile of Shaibu, the new Coordinator of the CGC, Lagos Zonal office as a no nonsense Enforcement Officer. This may have informed why fear has gripped the Lagos Fraudulent Importers with their agents and the smugglers operating in the six south west state that the game is up.
Described as a strategists in Customs circles who knows the job, Maritime analysts fear that the FOU, Zone A, Enforcement officers monopoly of the six south west states anti-smuggling Operations over the last two years would may have come to an end, as Shaibu put down his plans into action that would involve ejiging the Patrol Teams and telling the Officers the dos and don’ts to fit into the new CGC Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office. He may have sent a signal to the Officer to keep away from their old way of doing things to avoid running into his trouble.