Anti-smuggling: WMC Seizures, As Kidnappers Dare officers At A Zamfara Checkpoint

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.

Usman Bello: Kanwan Katsina III: Advises Customs officer To Stop Smuggling Of Rice

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.

pix:

  1. Intercepted Local Boats loaded with smuggled Jerry Cans of Petrol
  2. Usman Bello: Kanwan Katsina III: Advises Customs officer To Stop Smuggling Of Rice

 

 

 

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