By Stephen Ubanna
Binga Olofinyilola, a former Deputy Comptroller, Administrations, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone B, Kaduna , may not have done his home work well before jumping at the offer over his first major deployment as a Comptroller to take over Western Marine Command, Apapa , Lagos from Sarki-Kebbi, who took over at FOU, Zome B.
Unknown to Olofinyilola , he was coming to a Command which had been operational tools, particular, patrol Crafts to contain the activities of waterways smugglers in the six states in the south west geo-political region:Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun Ekiti and Ondo.
Past and Present Comptroller Generals of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, were said to have made no effort to equip the Western and Eastern Marine Commands, the two Amphibious Commands of the Service to effectively tackle the activities of waterways smugglers who are equipped with sophisticated weapons for operations .
Investigation by the Magazine shows that Premium Motor Spirits, PMS, popular petrol, which have continued to be smuggled into Republic of Benin from Nigeria while foreign parboiled rice and second hand clothing are smuggled into Nigeria as the Western Marine Command, WMC, or Eastern Marine Command based in Port Harcourt, have no answer to the Water ways smugglers.
Investigation by the Magazine shows that two Customs Amphibious Command have insufficient operation Crafts to patrol the Coastal waters from the East or western of the nation . The situation was so bad in the south west that that the Command could boast only of one patrol Craft. That much was confirmed by Binga , the Comptroller.
The Magazine learnt from the onset he had made the officers understand that he was out to learn from them. It was gathered he did not keep his distance away from the officers as he waas always in regular Consultations with them, particular, Adamu Mohammed, the Command, Deputy Comptroller, Enforcement. The relationship between the duo, according to a source, had been very Cordial as the Comptroller could hardly stay alone without Adamu by his side for one operational meeting or the other, a soruce told Magazine. This is because the Comptroller do not want to been seen as running the Command alone as was the case by former Comptrollers of the Command which resulted in operational failures as waterways continue to outsmart the officers on their way to deliver their smuggled goods to their sponsors either in Nigeria or Republic of Benin.
The Magazine learnt that the Contraband seizures that had been made in the last one month by the Command was not without the support of the Navy officers who mobilised their patrol boats into the sea to give the Command officers security support. This is evident with the recent Ijofin operation in Ogun state, in which the Command , was contacted by Aliyu Mohammed, Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, to mobilise its patrol Craafts into the sea to contain the activities petrol smugglers. Given that the Command has only one operational patrol Craft in the whole of the south west, the Navy became the alternative source of support. With the Navy support, the Command was able to take over the Ijofin axis leading to the sea and all the locally built boats carrying the smuggled Jerry Cans of ”25” petrol were evacuated to the Command waterfront at the Apapa office Complex.
Eye witness account disclosed that the locally built boats were loaded with about 15,000 kegs of 30 litres of petro each and which had been aushered to the general public including security operatives on the advice of Mohammed, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller and the arrowhead of the Ijofin operations. The Comptroller had put the Duty Paid Value, DPV, of the ”30” litres keg of petrol evacuated to the Command with the local bults at N81 million. True to his promise to his FOU, Zone A counterpart that the boats would be destroyed after evacuation of the kegs of petrol, it had been destroyed with the use of labourers hired for the job.
Many believe that without the involvement of the Navy, the Ijofin operations may have flopped as the smugglers were well equipped to contain any Customs attack both on land and sea to be able to smuggle the product into Republic of Benin through the Ijofin Creek.
A senior Customs officer informed the Magazine that the Ijofin operation was just one of the many operations supervised by Binga since he assumed duties about a month ago. Emaanuel Tangwa, an Assistant Superintendent and the Command image maker confirmed that barely four days in office , Adamu mobilised his patrol team officers had made massive seizures of Cannabis, popular , India Hemp along Badagry Creeks, thus signalling a challenging mission for him in the Command. The seizures included 800 ”50” bags of Thailand parboiled rice each. There are many Creeks in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Sokoto ,used by the Smugglers to carry out their nefarious activities , which needed to be fully expored by the WMC officers, as an Amphibious Command.
It would be recalled that Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the officer and the FOU, Zone A, officer in-charge of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team was said to have disarmed at different times some rice smugglers who had entered Oyingbo and Ekre Creeks in Lagos and Ogun states respectively . the water ways smuggllers were said to have been dispossessed of Thousands bags of foreign parboiled rice of ”50” each. The seizures were said to have b een made early this year by the Command without the support of the officers of the WMC, the Navy or the Marine police. The seizure was a lesson to the smugglers that the game was up and hiding place for any category of smugglers either by land or Creek or sea.
Maritime analysts believe that if Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, could adequately mobilise the two Amphibious Commands of the service to police the nation’s Coastal waters , the FOU, Zone A, operation and Lagos Roving team other teams would be freed of the troubles of extending their operations of running after smugglers in to the Creeks but concentrate on the land to contain their activities and force them out of the illegal business .
But Binga, the WMC, Comptroller, has assured Nigerians that they have no cause to worry about these waterways smugglers as his officers are equal to the task. He disclosed that the seizures that had been made in the Command in the recent time at Idiroko, Yekeme and Badagry Creeks was a clear indication that the waterways smugglers are in for trouble if they do no not change their old ways of doing business in the country, insisting that more ” seizures of Contraband will be made” between now and the tail end of Decemeber 20, 2018.
But the anti-smuggling situation in the far north may not be as rigorous in the far north as in the southern part of Nigeria. This is evident going by the call of Usma Bello, a retired Comptroller of Customs and now Kanwan Katsina III to the officers when Oyeleke Abdullaziz, Comptroller of Kaduna/Katsina Command called on in his Palace at Ketare. The retired Customs Comptroller could not hide his feelings when he urged officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service to ”double their efforts in curtailing the smuggling of prohibited goods, particular rice and poultry products into the country to enhance the service revenue generation. Bello noted that with the heavy investment in the anchor borrower scheme for rice production and other agricultural programs, smuggling of foreign parboiled rice from the nation’s porous borders must stop.
An angry Traditional ruler declared that if smuggling of foreign parboiled rice will be allowed to continue, it will affect the government on Agriculture and local rice production. Bello is in a better position to advise the Customs anti-smuggling personnel in the north and the country in general to sit up to contain the activities of Smugglers as an insider who retired as a Comptroller. Smuggling of rice , vegetable oil and poultry products remain a regular phenomenon in the north as the Customs personnel appears to be collaborators. Areas in the region where Customs personnel appear to be alive to their duties, the smugglers and youths of the Communities had been very hostile to them. Take for instance the recent incident at Zamfara state in the north west geo-political region where two officers were allegedly kidnapped at a Customs Checkpoint as others ran for their safety even with the AK 47 in their hand. Sources told the Magazine that the kidnappers are demanding for millions of naira before the officers could be released. The kidnap of the alleged two officers may have put the officers in the north and the country in general on the red alert at their respective duty post.
- Intercepted Local Boats loaded with smuggled Jerry Cans of Petrol
- Usman Bello: Kanwan Katsina III: Advises Customs officer To Stop Smuggling Of Rice