By Stephen Ubanna
This is not the best of times for serving Comptrollers under Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS. This is because of the no nonsense attitude of the Comptroller General who is ready to sack or suspend any officer found wanting, irrespective of the rank. It is not surprising why the Comptrollers appear to be very meticulous in their actions and directive to their officers on the field to avoid exposing themselves to the fifth Columnists in the service who had the ears of Ali, to trap them.
The Comptrollers may have learnt their lesson from Olakunle Abdurazak Oyeleke, Comptroller, Kaduna/ Katsina Command, suspended early this month (September, 2018) by Ali, over undisclosed reasons . The suspension may have be slammed on him barely two months in office.
As a prelude to getting to the root of the problem that led to the Comptroller’s alleged suspension, the Comptroller General was said to have set up an investigation Committee, an indication that the fate of Oyeleke , the embattled Kaduna/Katsina Comptroller still lies on the hang.
When contacted ,Joseph Atta, a Deputy Comptroller and the Customs Spokesman, confirmed, the suspension but said the matter was” under investigation”. It could be ascertained the duration of the Investigation Committee, whether it would be one month or three months. But a source told the Magazine that the Committee is under intense pressure to expedite action on the Investigation so that the suspended Comptroller would know his fate instead of keeping him waiting endlessly.
Feelers from Customs circles shows that the Kaduna/Katsina Command Comptroller may have been suspended over alleged ofence committed by his officers, which many believe, he could not have claimed ignorance as their boss. This is because the officers who may have roped him into trouble could not have gone out on operations on their own without his approval. This may have made the case of the suspended Comptroller a difficult one.
The rumour making the rounds was that his case may have been worsened by suspected moles who were out to force him out from the Command for standing on their way. A senior officer who spoke to the Magazine disclosed that some members of the Comptroller General, CGC, Task Force on Investigation, may have also played a part to expose the mess at the Command which facilitated the suspension of the embattled Comptroller. The suspended Comptroller , according to a source,may have opportunity of defending himself from the Kaduna/Katsina Command mess when he appears before the Investigation Committee.
Officers who could not hide their feeling over the alleged suspension of the Kaduna/katsina Customs boss by Ali, described it as a ”set up”. They noted that as a former Comptroller, Federal operations Unit, FOU, Zone D, Bauchi, which had nine state states in the north to cover in its ant-smuggling war and revenue generation drive, there were never lapses or negative reports about him to the Management. They noted that he effectively mobilised the Officers of the Command to police the 27 border routes scattered in the nine states under his jurisdiction .
A source confirmed that until his redeployment to the Kaduna/ Katsina Command last August, the then FOU, Zone D, Comptroller and his officers were said to have made several spectacular seizures of Contraband with a Duty Paid Value , DPV, of about N187.08 million. Between December, 2017, and May, 2018, the Command, was said to have made a seizure of 4,488 bags of 50kg each, of foreign parboiled rice, 430 cartons of noodle, 1,430 of ”25 kg” Jerry cans of vegetable oil . The management may have considered it a very impressive performance compared to other anti-smuggling Commands reports because of the activities of the Boko Haram insurgents, particular in the north eastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.The Magazine thatthat there were instances where the insurgents turned smugglers had laid ambush for officers on anti-smuggling operations in the region to distabilize them.
t The experience garnered at FOU, Zone D, Bauchi, may have toughened him to face squarely the smugglers a at the Kaduna /Katsina axis and the Corporate Organisations which evade the payment of Excise duties . He was said to have made a promise to build on the achievements made by Olusemire Kayode, the former Comptroller of the Command.
Unknown to him, the Cooperation which he got from officers at FOU, Zone D, may be lacking at the new Command. This is because of the alleged struggle by the Officers to outshine their boss because of their link at the Management level. He may have started well initially at the Command as the officers were making seizures.
Take for instance, the month of August, 2018, alone, the Command, was said to have generated about N852 million, which Oyeleke claimed was about N340 million, higher than the revenue generated in the month of July. The Command was also said to have also made 81 seizures of Contrabands with a DPV, of about N33 million . The seizures , according to him, included 31 vehicles, 606 bags of foreign parboiled rice of 50kg each, 239 bags of 50kg each of imported sugar, , 73 bales of second hand clothing, 327 Jerry cans of vegetable oil of ”25 litres each.
His suspension may have denied him the opportunity to join other Comptrollers in the Zone to welcome Orgah Odibu, the new Acting Assistant Comptroller General, Headquarters Zone B, Kaduna, last week.While Oyeleke may have landed himself into trouble at the Kaduna/ Katsina Command, barely one month at the helms of affairs in the Command , Kayode, his predecessor, and his Operational team, officers, appear to have found their footing at FOU, Zone C, going by the spectacular seizures regularly made, including foreign parboiled rice, particular, from the Bakasi and Ikom , axis of Cross River state.
Only recently, the FOU, Zone C Comptroller, confirmed the seizure of cartons of Pharmaceutical drugs containing cough syrups with Codeine, diazepam, tramadol injection and tablets, which had been banned by the government. Adamu Aliyu Mohammed, Comptroller, FOU, Zone, Ikeja, and his Predecessor, Muhammed Uba Garba, now Comptroller , Seme Command, may have opened the eye of their Counterparts in other Command about these dangerous drugs.
Perhaps, the major, seizure of the FOU, Zone C, Customs Comptroller and his officers was the seizure of military camouflage uniforms and other military related items at the Onitsha Bridge head. , Anambra state. Onitsha is the Commercial nerve center of the state and the entire south east in general.
According to him, the military uniforms were Concealed in a truck laden with household wares at the Ontisha Bridge Head . Given an insider information , he disclosed that there were about 90 pairs of camouflage trousers and shirts, 97 pairs jungle hearts, 40 pairs of jungle boots, 202 pieces of round neck vests and rolls of plain khaki materials that were found in the truck.
The Onitsha camouflage military uniforms seizure were said to be the second to be made by the Unit in less than six months. Last July the Command impounded a truck laden with over 4,000 pairs of military camouflage uniforms and 300 pairs of combatant boots. The military items may have released from the Oil and Free Zone Seaport, Onne, Rivers state. This is evident going by the location where the items were intercepted by the FOU, Zone C, officers. It was said to have been intercepted along the Aba-Eleme highway, while heading to an undisclosed location in the south east . There were indications that the agent may be taking the Consignment to the importer’s warehouse at Aba, the Commercial nerve center of Abia state.
With the seizure of the military uniforms, Comptroller Kayode, may have sent a signal to smugglers in the south east and the south including the politicians , who are still hoping to import weapons, military uniforms and other military related items to scare opponents in the 2019 general elections that it was no longer going to be business as usual. He was said to have beamed his searchlight at the seaports, border routes in the two southern regions to be careful. Agents taking delivery of their Client’s Containers which had K-leg were said to be upbeat while approaching the Onitisha bridge because of Concealment or Under Valuation . They fear being stopped by Kayode’s no nonsense fierce looking officers on the road. Some of them who have had a smooth journey from Lagos, beating all the Customs Checkpoints on the road , were said to have actually been stopped by Kayode’s men on the road and bassed on intelligence gathering and their Containers transferred to the Command premises at Owerri for Examination.
Those found guilty were said to have been issued Demand Notice, DN. The FOU, Zone C, officers , sources said, may have been given more jobs to do on the road in the south east and south Geo-political regions, particular Anambra state, but for the interventionist measures put in place by Mohammed the, FOU, Zone A, Comptroller and implemented by the Operations and Lagos Roving team officers on the road. The officers and the Ijebu Ode, Ogun state, Surveillance , team, at different times, were said to have re-routed suspected Containerised cargoes going to the south east back to the Command warehouse, at Ikeja, for Examination and DN, issued to those found guilty.