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.
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.
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.
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.