By Stephen Ubanna
In spite of the fact that smugglers operating between the four border states of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo and Ekiti, in the south west geo-political and Benin Republic, have resorted to laying ambush for Patrol Teams, in the region, this may not deterred Usman Yahaya, acting Comptroller, Federation Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos, from discharging their anti-smuggling duties.
This is evident going by the recent interception of a Toyota Canter at Ifo, a neighbouring town to Abeokuta, Capital of Ogun state. The Toyota Canter was found to be carrying Dangote flour sacks but foreign par boiled rice concealed in it. The FOU, Zone A, Rapid Response Team, RRT, under the close watch of one Sani, an Assistant Comptroller, was said to have been made the seizure acting on information.
The Magazine learnt the Team could have encountered serious difficulty in taking the Truck load of Dangote Flour which had had foreign parboiled rice Concealed in it because of the alleged strong resistance by Youths of the Ifo Community who were said to have been hired by the smuggler to prevent the Sani led Team from taking away the truck to their Ikeja premises. The Patrol Team Leader may have sensed danger ahead that he was said to have sent an SOS to the Area Comptroller for reinforcement.
The FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller may have instructed Jack Okpabi, An Assistant Comptroller and the Command, Head of Operations and Lagos Roving to deploy a support Team to the RRS to ensure that the intercepted truck load of Dangote Flour which had Contraband rice Concealed in it was transferred to the Ikeja premises without hindrance. Jack, according to informed sources was said to have acted on the instruction .It was not surprising why the Consignment was transferred to the Command Ikeja premises without obstruction from the hired Ifo Youths.
The Magazine cited the Toyota Canter loaded with Dangote Flour and the Concealed foreign rice on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 and several other intercepted cars loaded with smuggled foreign par boiled rice in the premises, begging to be transferred to the Government are house to create space for new arrivals from the various Patrol Teams and those at the check points.
It is on record that between December 20, 2020 and now, The FOU, Operations and Lagos Riving as well as. Other Patrol Teams, were said to have been ambushed and attacked. The most recent of such attacks was at the Ilaro area, of Ogun state, which people believe have may illegal routes that could be used by the foreign rice and vehicle smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities between Benin and Ogun state, particular.
Information may have filtered out that a Patrol Team from the FOU, Zone A, were on their way to the Ilaro Community to block the rice smugglers or trace them to their safe haven and take over possession of the Contraband .This may have given the smugglers the opportunity to ambush the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team, members, and shot at their two operational vehicles as it approaches the Community. The fallout was that the Team two operational vehicles were riddled with bullet holes.
An eyewitness account disclosed that for the Customs Operatives and the soldiers who went on the Ilaro operations to have returned safely to their Ikeja base despite the close range attack by the smugglers was a mystery. Infact the Customs Patrol Team Operations at Ilaro remains the talk of the town. Wherever two or three people gather , the confrontation between Customs Operatives and the economic saboteurs dominate their discussion. The Magazine was reliably informed that some officers were hit by the smugglers’ bullet.
Angered by the smugglers attack, the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team officers were said to have regrouped to launch a counter-attack on the smugglersT.he smugglers may have known that the game was up when they saw some 50 heavily armed soldiers and Customs Ppersonel, coming after them that they were forced to flee and return back to Benin Republic. Initially, the smugglers had expected the FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team members, who were ambushed, to abandon, the bullet -ridden Operational vehicles but they were disappointed as the Customs drivers managed to move the vehicles out of the danger zone.
Recall that on Tuesday, February2,2021 Jack, who heads the FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving , who had acted on information about some pick-ups load of load foreign rice heading to Lagos from the Ilara border. Armed with the information, the Team had blocked the Lagos-Abeokuta Express Way and the Shagamu roundabout to ensure that the foreign rice smugglers who were coming into Lagos, on a convoy of vehicles did not gain entry into the city.
The Team was said to have successfully intercepted the first six pick-ups that had entered the Lagos- Abeokuta road . Unknown to the FOU, Zone A, Team members, the smugglers had reached a working agreement with their Co-criminals, armed with AK-47 , who were said to have emerged from the bush and opened fire on the Team Patrol vehicle which was riddled with bullets.
The Criminals , may have shot at the Team Operational vehicle to prevent the officers from Ttaking away the six pick-up loads of rice intercepted to their Ikeja premises. The ambush attack, according to Thephilous Duniya , a Deputy Superintendent and the Command spokesperson, and who had issued a Statement confirmed that one soldier and three Customs officers, were hit by the smugglers’ bullet. One of the smugglers was said to have been killed in the process.
In spite of the fact that the smugglers hired attackers did everything within their capacity to frustrate the Jack led Team from taking the intercepted pick-ups of Foreign rice to the Command Ikeja premises, it never made any impact. The fearless Jack attack and his boys with the support of the soldiers were said to have succeeded in taking the six intercepted pick-ups loaded with foreign rice to their Ikeja premises to the admiration of Usman Yahaya, the Area Comptroller, who was said to have thanked them for a job well-done.
Recall that in December 22, 2020, the FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving , which had remained a problem to the foreign rice smugglers were said to have been ambushed and attacked at Ayetoro area of the Ogun state. The attack may not have discouraged the Jack led Team from carrying out their Legitimate assignment as the six intercepted Fords loaded with 800 bags of 50Kg each of Foreign rice at the Kekelomo area of Ayetotoro Community were transferred to the Command premises in Ikeja. Three officers were said to have received bullet wounds while one of the smugglers was said of have been hit by strait bullet in the process of resistance to prevent the Team from taking away the seizures to their Ikeja premises.
Perhaps to bring the situation under control and reduce the smugglers attack on Customs Operatives carry out their Legitimate duties, Dapo Abiodun, the All Progressive Congress, APC, governor of Ogun state, may have to mobilise the traditional rulers and Baales of the Border Communities to sensitize them on the dangers of attacking uniform personnel dong their legitimate because of the dire Consequences.
Hameed Ali, a retired army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, may have shocked the members of the House of Representatives Committee on Customs on Thursday, February 4, 2021, at the presentation of the Service’s N242.45 billion 2021 budget.
Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, had said that the 15,000 customs officers may not be able police the borders across the country because they are too may. Abba Moro, a one-time minister of Interior had said that there are over 1,499 illegal and 84 official identified entry routes into the country from the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Niger, Chad and the Central African country of Cameroon.This confirms the news making the rounds that Nigerian borders are very porous and which permits transnational arms trafficking and smuggling of other Contraband into the country, particular, foreign par boiled rice.
An aggrieved Ali, who could not hide his feelings had said that smuggling take place in these border Communities with these neighbouring countries because of ‘’lack of government presence as the people have to cross the border to go to school and also fetch water’’. According to him, the people of these border Communities who are protecting the smugglers in their nefarious activities do so because they owe ‘’no allegiance to the Nigerian government’’.
Appealing to the officers and men of the OUs and other Interventionist Units across the country ‘’not to relent in the anti-smuggling drive but continue to do their best in policing the nation’s land borders’’ had, he urged other security agencies personnel not to abandon the fight against smugglers to the Customs alone but should be involved in the fight to bring the smugglers to their knees. President Muhammadu may have armed the Security agencies personnel including Customs operatives to shot at sight anybody they see with AK 47. This is bad news for smugglers who go about with AK47 to ambush Customs Patrol Teams as thy no longer find it easy to do so.