By Stephen Ubanna
Mohammed Aliyu, the Kebbi state born former Comptroller of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Seme Command, the country’s largest border station, who was affected in the recent major shake- up and redeployment of about 70 Comptrollers appear to be waiting on the wings to take over from Muhammed Uba Garba, his counterpart at Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja.
Insiders told the Magazine that his redeployment to FOU Zone A did not come to him as a surprise because he had long expected it even when he was serving at the Customs Headquarters. This is because he wants to prove to critics that he would do better as an Enforcement officer at his new Command than what he did at Kwara/Niger and Seme Command. But he may have to put at the back of his mind that FOU, Zone , A, is a different kettle of fish as he had the six states in the south west geo-political region :Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Ondo and Ekiti to police including the seaports and bonded terminals in the region.
The Magazine learnt that Muhammed, who is expected to take over from him at Seme has prepared his hand over note . The Magazine learnt Aliyu, who was initially desperate to be redeployed to the Command by using his contacts at the Headquarters to influence the posting was no longer in a hurry as he was said to have told his successor that he should not be in a hurry to hand over to him as he prepares his own handover note at Seme Command.
There are indications that Aliyu, the Seme Comptroller will take over from Muhammed, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller on Monday, August 12, 2018. This is evident going by the side talks at the Command at the gathering of officers.
The Apparent shift in coming over to resume duty at the Command from Muhammed may have given him the opportunity to give account of his one year and three months stewardship at the Command. The Customs boss had expressed appreciation to the officers and men of the Command including Journalists who stood by him in the anti-smuggling war within the period, noting that without their support he could not have made the laudable achievements in curtailing the activities of rice smugglers and the activities of fraudulent importers with their agents at the seaports. He is optimistic that Aliyu would do better as he is ”more aggressive than him”. He urged the officers to extend the same level of Cooperation given to him to his successor.
Given an insider information, the Customs Comptroller disclosed that within the last two weeks, the Command ‘s Operations and Lagos Roving team, headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the Warehouse Operation team headed by Sule Muttalib, an Assistant Comptroller of Customs including other patrol teams made spectacular seizures.
An elated Muhammed disclosed that the Command intercepted a MAN Diesel Truck with registration number XB 286 BEN along Afromedia Estate by Egbeda junction beside Alaba international market carrying 2,748 cartons of DSP Codeine Cough syrup 100mg of 100 bottles per carton. The truck was also said to have carried 95 cartons of Chaka pain Xtra . The drugs were said to have been intercepted by the Lura led Operations and Lagos Roving team . This is the second time that the Customs Command Operations and Lagos Roving team had intercepted Codeine manufactured in United Kingdom in the last one month. The Magazine learnt that the driver had abandoned the truck on sighting the officers of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team and fled.
The seizure of the Codeine drugs was in addition to 49 cartons of tramadol capsules 100mg that were evacuated from a warehouse at Ajoa Estate. The interception of the Pharmaceutical drugs were said to have been based on credible information.
Many believe that the Customs Command easily intercept the drugs substance because the government had banned the importation of Pharmaceutical drugs that contain Codeine into the country. The intercepted Codeine, the Customs boss confirmed had a Duty Paid Value, DPV, of about N1.175 billion.
Given the inter agency relationship, the FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller disclosed that the intercepted Pharmaceutical drugs will be handed over to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, for further investigation and prosecution of suspects.
Perhaps, what may have gladdened the heart of the Customs Comptroller within the two weeks of the Command’s operation was the evacuation of 21 sacks of Pangolin Scales weighing 1,031 kg and four pieces of Elephant tusk weighing 35kg from a shop at Tejusho market, Yaba. The Tejusho operation was said to have been based on credible intelligence by the Mutalib warehouse team.
The dealer of the Pangolin scales and Elephant tusks was said to have fled leaving the Customs personnel to take over the shop. A s at press time , the shop owner was still at large as the Command step up its investigation towards getting the dealer arrested for prosecution.The seized pangolin scales and Elephant tusks , according the Comptroller has a DPV, of about N254 million.
It would be recalled that Mallam Usman Jibril, accompanied by the CITES delegates from the United Nations, Un, had visited the Command last April where he inspected various seizures of Pangolin items presented to him and his team. He was said to have commended Muhammed and his officers for a” job well done” and urged them to continue the anti-smuggling drive. Jibril who had repeatedly made it clear to those that care to listen that the” trade on such endangered species is prohibited” , and therefore the ”need to fight against such illegality so that such endangered species do not go into extinction, has vowed that there was no going back”.
The last two weeks of the Command Enforcement operations under Muhammed was also said to have resulted in the interception and detention of 17 exotic vehicles. The 12 of the exotic vehicles detained were said to have been linked to the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team. The vehicles were said to have been detained over alleged underpayment and could only be released if the owners pay the Demand Notice, DN, bill that would be given to them. It was gathered that five of the exotic vehicles had been seized outright by the Command for non compliance to the country’s fiscal policy.
The Command also made a seizure of a Dangote truck loaded with smuggled rice from the Idiroko axis in Ogun state. The truck was aid to have been loaded with 380 bags of ”50”kg bags of rice and a vehicle containg 140 kegs of processed ”25’ kg vegetable oil. Muhammed who could not hide his feelings in the Command strive to drive away rice smugglers from the south west geo-political region out of the market disclosed that the Asian Countries of Thailand and Vietenam, which are the major rice exporters to Nigeria and the West West African sub-region in general has lost the market.
He confirmed that prior to the ban on the importation of rice through the land border because of the inclusion of rice by the Central Bank of Nigeria among the 41 items barred from accessing the Foreign Exchange market , the country was importing 1.3 million metric tones of foreign par boiled rice per annum , stating that this has dropped to 784 000 metric tones. This is not unexpected. This is because since July , 2017, the CBN, had not issued Form M , to any rice importer in the country.
The FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller , may have made a head way in getting Imohimi Edgal, Commissioner of Police in Lagos state to release the nine vehicles loaded with foreign parboiled which was intercepted by the then Command Lagos Roving team headed by Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs but fell into the waiting hands of Ibrahim Idris, Inspector General of police men on the road.
The vehicles driver had fallen into the waiting hands of the IGP’S patrol squad because they had followed one way. Each of the vehicles was said to have carried about 25 bags of ”50” parboiled rice. The nine vehicles, loaded with smuggled rice ought to have been released long ago by the police Authorities to the Customs Command but they had put up stringent conditions in place before it would be handed over to the Customs.
The Customs Comptroller could not hide his joy when he confirmed that the Command got four Commendation letters from the Comptroller General, Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General for their achievements. H gave kudos to the Customs Comptroller General for his support to the Command that brought about the feat achieved which was acknowledged by people from all walks of life , both within and outside the south west geo-political region.
It is not surprising why importers with their agents including smugglers are jittery over his deployment to Seme. This is because they knew it is no longer going to be business as usual as he would block all areas of revenue leakage in the Command and bar unnecessary visits to his office by agents. He has a message to importers with their agents to do the right thing to get away from his trouble or be ready to face the full wrath of the law. He would want smugglers still operating within the Seme axis to turn a leaf or because ready to be forced out.