END SARS Protest: Customs Count Their Loses As Smugglers And Agents Fail To Practice Their Trade Of Shortchanging The Government

By Stephen Ubanna

For the two weeks of the END SARS protest, against Police brutality  across the country, it  may  have turned to be the worst of  times for  Hameed Ali , a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS and his men.

 The hoodlums who were said to have  hijacked he protest in the south west states  of  Lagos, Ogun , Oyo, Ekiti, and North Central state of State Kwara including the north East state  of Adamawa,  may have seen it as an opportunity  to get back at Customs.

The hoodlums, which included the smugglers ,  had seen Ali and his men  as the  major   threat   to their smuggling activities as many of them were said to have lost millions naira  worth of goods, particular, foreign par boiled rice, drugs, textiles and vehicles, described as Contraband  to Customs over the last  four years

 The thousands of  bags of  the  Asian  country of Thailand  Foreign parboiled rice of 50Kg each , Kegs of vegetable Oil of 25  litres, Bales of  second Hand  Clothing,  Ladies bags  and  tyres including drugs and textiles that which were  seized from the smugglers were transferred to the GWH,  by the  Customs  anti-smuggling Patrol teams.      

    It was therefore  not very surprising that when the  opportunity for the smugglers, who may have penetrated the ranks of the  END SARS protesters came, they did not hesitate in making use of it.   Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller and Customs spokesperson, had said  that  six of its Commands were attacked  by the hoodlums.

 The attacks on Ogun 1, Idiroko, Ogun sate,  where   Michael Agbara, the Area Comptroller and his men  were said to have been having a running battle , with the smugglers, over the last one year, speaks volume. Bukoye OLoyede, a Deputy Superintendent and the Command spokesperson, said the hoodlums , who had invaded the Command in the guise of the END SARS  protest were ’’armed with guns, machetes, axes,  charms and other dangerous weapons’’ and were .  shooting at the officers on duty in a bid to scare them  to loot the GWH. He may have alluded to the fact that they were disappointed as all their efforts came to naught.

Customs Personnel Seize Motorcycles And A Tricycle That Conveyed Hoodlums To Attack A Service Facility

The hoodlums were said to have also attacked   the  Customs  Patrol base  at Oke Ore, Yewa south local government  Area of the state, leading  the shooting of one Solomon Alagye,  an Assistant Inspector of Customs who was said to have died from the bullet wounds. Also , in one of the south west States,  a Customs Patrol vehicle was  aid to have be  driven away by the hoodlums, suspected to be smugglers , but recovered after a few days of search it .

 More worrisome was the attack at  the   Kwara Customs Command , north Central Nigeria, Adamawa, north east and Jigawa , north West , including the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C,  under the close watch of Kayode Oluseimere, outstation at Benin city, Edo state.

Many believe  the attack  by the hoodlums on Tuesday, October 20,  2020,  at FOU, Zone C, outstation, Benin city, which had  forced the officer-In-charge,  Messhach Uban, a Deputy Comptroller, and his officers to flee  leaving the GWH  open for the hoodlums  to loot  bear eloquent testimony that they were out for the  Customs. The hoodlums who had overran  the FOU, Zone C, outstation were said to  have  looted the GWH, dry by carting away  thousands of bags of  Foreign rice, Vegetable oil , bales of second Hand Clothing and other items found in the  warehouse . They were said to have also  vandalized  some  of the vehicles found in the Warehouse premises including the  ones that are still under detention.  Eye witness account  said Uban  and  his officers were forced  to  escape through the fence when it became  obvious that the hoodlums would not spare any officer  found  in the premises .

 Efforts to get the actual figure of the number of bags  Foreign rice , of 50 Kg each, Kegs of Vegetable  oil of 25 Litres each, from Jerry Attah, a  Deputy Superintendent of Customs and the Command  spokesperson,   through phone calls and messages to Jerry Atta,   did not materialise.

Uban, the officer in-charge of the FOU, Zone C, outstation who   was said to have found himself back at the  premises  was said to have told those that cares to listen that  if Johnson  Kokumo,  the  state  Commissioner of Police   had responded to the SOS , message sent to him  to deploy  his anti-riot  Policemen to the scene, the hoodlums may not  have  succeeded in looing the goods in the warehouse as they would  have been dispersed. The hoodlums were said to have operated in the warehouse for more than four  hours as there was no resistance.

Olusemire: Comptroller, FOU, Zone C

The attack at the GWH, Ilorin, Capital of Kwara state , by the hoodlums, on Saturday, October, 24, 2020,   and the resistance  put up by the officers on duty should serve  as a source of  encouragement to officers in other   Commands in the Future.  The fearless Customs officers on duty   were said to have confronted the hoodlums and succeeded in seizing  th e 24 motorcycles and a tricycle  that conveyed the them  to the  Customs facility. The hoodlums,  according to Ahmed Bello, the Area Comptroller had  attacked  the Command  with guns, matchets, axes, charms and other dangerous weapons, the  same instruments  used in attacking FOU, Zone C , outstation, Benin city.

Informed sources dis,closed that for forty minutes, there was a gun dual between the hoodlums  and the armed Customs personnel  but the policemen were nowhere to be found.  Two Customs officers were said to have been hit by the attackers bullet and were quickly rushed to Hospital for Treatment.  By successfully resisting the hoodlums, despite  their large number,  Ahmed , the Kwara Command Area Command  has sworn’’ to do everything within the ambit of the Law to protect government properties under his control’’. 

Perhaps, one Area Comptroller,  who  could  not  be taken unawares  by the hoodlums  in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve entre was Usman Yahaya of the  FOU, Zone A. He  was  said to have rolled  out the Customs Armoured  Personnel Carrier, APC,  which was stationed at a strategic location  within the Command premises to ward off any intruder.

 The  FOU, Zone A,Customs  acting Comptroller may not have stopped there   as he was  said to have recalled some  of  the Patrol Team officers back to the office to beef up  the  Command security and protection of  the GWH  and  detained vehicles  including the   Containers  transferred to the Command premises which  were yet to be  examined  and revalued.

This  may have made the FOU, Zone A,  a no area for the hoodlums , for the  two weeks  they were busy looting  warehouses  where the  Private sector, Coalition Against COVID 19, CACOVID  Palliatives were stored in some states of the  country including THE  attacks on some Customs Commands, across the country.

 The FOU, Zone A, Area Comptroller, may have taken serious the security of the Command and is environs, because if  the Customs  Command should fall into the hands of the  hoodlums, it would be  a big blow to  the  Customs Authorities.  It was therefore , not very surprising  that Yahaya did  everything within the two weeks of the END SARS protest in the  country to protect the Customs facility  placed under his care.

 He  was said to have equally  taken interest on the welfare of the office and was s said to  have  reached out  to  those   not found  on their  duty post to know  what  is holding back. Like an Army General, who must leave  by example, he was  been  in the office for the two weeks of tension in the country  as a way of motivating the officers in order to leave their duty posts unmanned.

While in some states of the Federatiion, the anti-smugling officers were said to have  disappeared from their  Checkpoints  and the  Patrol Team officers  working in bits and fits for fear of being attacked by the hoodlums, the smugglers operating in the south west states would never  forget Yahaya, the Command Area Comptroller in a hurry  because of the measures  put in place to police the  borders that it was very difficult for the smugglers to operate in the region.  Those who  think   they  could smuggle   Foreign par boiled  rice or fairly used vehicles from the neighbouring Benin Republic were disappointed.  Acting out a script, the Command  anti-smuggling officers never disturbed any smuggler to avoid given room to the smugglers to attack them in the guise of the END SARS, protest but they tightened up security  at the various routes  used by the smugglers  within the Command Jurisdiction.

Yahaya: Acting Comptroller, FOU, Zone A

 The Comptroller Genera of Customs, CGC. Strike Force, Lagos Zonal office, under the  close  watch of Ahmadu Shuaibu., a Deputy Comptroller, and his   Patrol Team   officers, may have made things  worse for the smugglers and fraudulent Agent , who may not want to do the right thing as they  Were everywhere, from the Lagos seaports to the states, to  compliment the  efforts of the FOU, Zone , Personnel.

 Shuaibu, the  Coordinator of the CGC Strike Force,  Zone A, may not have given himself a moment of rest as he was  said to be shuttling  on a daily basis between his Customs Training College , Ikeja office and Ikorodu Lighter Terminal  where the  Overtime Cargoes  are kept to ensure that the right thing was done.

  He was said to have also had his eye at  the Apapa operational  base, to put  Importers with their Agents on their toes.  A visitor to the  Customs Training College , last Tuesday  would be  surprised at the Truck load of IIndustrial  rods and  a ‘’40’’ Container that were transferred to the College by his fear for proper Examination. Bad news for the Agents that  may have  taken  delivery of the cargoes from the Lagos  seaport.

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