By Stephen Ubanna
Acting Comptroller, Usman Yahaya, of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, is a happy man. Yahaya source of happiness is that fraudulent importers with their Clearing agents at the Lagos seaports of Apap, Tincan Island port and Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, would never forget him in a hurry
.The situation is the same at the land border areas in the south west states of Ogun, Lagos, Oyo and Osun, and Ekiti, where the smugglers and their security operatives Collaborators including Customs personnel are having sleepless as they could not predict Yahaya’s Patrol Teams, particular, the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Headed by Jack Okpabi, an Assistant Comptroller which could strike at any time.
Take for instance the Patrol Teams of the Jack led operation and Lagos Roving raid last Saturday at the Idiroko axis of Ogun state and Agbara, where some vehicles loaded allegedly loaded with more than 200 bags of foreign par boiled rice were intercepted and transferred to the Command premises for proper documentation.
Recall that last June, the Yahaya’s trained Enforcement officers had intercepted some six fairly used vehicles loaded with foreign Poultry products around an undisclosed location in Ogun and Lagos state. An eye witness account told The Value values that the Poultry products smugglers were driving into the country with their eight vehicles loaded with the prohibited poultry products into the country but luck ran out of them. The first six vehicles that were said to have entered into the country were said to have fallen into the waiting hands of the FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving, Patrol team officers, forcing the two other vehicles that were still coming from the neighbouring Benin Republic side of the border to make U—Turn to Benin.
Note that the well- disciplined Yahaya’s Operations and Lagos Roving Patrol Teams have not concentrated their opeations alone in Lagos and Ogun states but had extended it to Oyo states, where the vehicle, Foreign par boiled and vegetable oil smugglers operating between Nigerian and Benin Republic, through the Shaki and Iseyin axis, had repeatedly cried out for help. This may have informed why there had been celebrations in the transit importers with their agents and Smugglers Camp when information filtered out that the Customs Comptroller has less than three months to retire from the service. The celebrations may be short-lived as the Command Enforcement officers involved in the anti-smuggling Campaign in the south west geo-political region are still much around, doing what they know best: anti-smuggling.
The FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller, may have sent a signal to the south west based smugglers that they would continue to lose their smuggled goods into the country from the south west states, no matter the tricks employed to carry out their nefarious trade.
A Statement by Peter Duniya, a Deputy Superintendent of Customs and the Command spokesperson, shows that between April 20, 2021 and July, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, less than three months, the Command various Patrol and Surveillance Teams intercepted 14, 789 bags of 50Kg each of Foreign par boiled , 727 cartons of unregistered drugs, 2,784 cartons of poultry products and 28 units of fairly used vehicles which were promptly seized.
Other items intercepted by the Command Patrol and Surveillance Teams that were seized by the Command included 6,000 litres or 4,640 jerry cans of 25 litres each of Premium Motor Spirit, OMS, popular, petrol. The Jerry cans of Petrol were said to have been intercepted from different location in the south west states land Border areas of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo. This is in addition to the seizure of 237 bales and six sacks of second hand clothing ,including 20 cartons of Tramadol and 885 pieces of the North American country of the United Sates, US, manufactured tyres.
The worst hit are the smugglers of alcoholic beverages who were said to have forfeited 10, 400 cartons found in four intercepted Containers released from an unknown Lagos port to the government.
The Customs Comptroller may have shocked Nigerians when he disclosed that the 84 of the different kinds of vehicles that were intercepted by the Command Patrol Teams in different locations, particular, in Ogun and Oyo states were laden scores of bags of Foreign Par boiled rice of 50 Kg, each.
While the Comptroller General of Customs, CGC Strike Force, Team A, under the close watch of Ahmadu Shuaibu, a Deputy Comptroller had shocked Nigerians with seizure of four Containers load of Teakwood , for alleged export to the Asian country of China, which an insider told The Magazine was Made at the Lagos Premier port of Apapa, Deputy Comptroller Yahaya, who is yet to be decorated with his new rank of Comptroller, given to him by Executive fiat, had made a seizure of Containers load of rough and semi-processed wood.
With the 144 Contraband seizures that were said to have been made by the Command in less than three months, which the Valuation experts had put the Duty Paid Value , DPV, at N3.3 billion, acting Comptroller Yahaya had demonstrated that he is a thorough bred Enforcement officer who has dwarfed other interventionist units across the south west geo-political region.
The FOU, Zone A, Patrol Team, officers, may not have concentrated all their efforts in the seizure of smuggled goods through the approved and unapproved Land borders in the region had but had apprehended 23 suspects. An elated Yahaya had said that out of the ‘’ 23 nabbed suspects, 12 were granted administrative bails while eleven are still their Custody, awaiting further investigation.
Apealing to the Fraudulent importers with their agents and smugglers operating between Nigerian and Benin, in the region to turn a new leaf, he opined that ‘’the Command has the capacity and capability to render smugglers in the areas in the entire south west miserable ’’He noted that ‘’whatever is the driving force behind their action to cripple the economy’’, the Command will continue’’ to make it unprofitable for them’’.
Although , the Interventionist unit Patrol Team officers have continuously been attacked by smugglers and their hired Youths in in volatile areas like Oyo and Ogun, where smuggling is considered a Legitimate business by the people, the Customs Comptroller had told those that cares to listen that ‘’such confrontations would never deter the Command anti-smuggling officers from carrying out their statutory responsibilities of protecting the economy to avoid been turned into a dumping ground for foreign manufactured and agricultural goods.