Customs: Exposed, As Mohammed Sanitises FOU, Zone A

By Stephen Ubanna

For years, there had been rumours making the rounds of the rackets going on at the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos,  warehouse at Ikeja, Lagos .  The rumours  became  more manifest last two years with the regular seizure of Contraband tyres,  Foreign parboiled rice and poultry products by the Command patrol team officers on bush and road operations.

The Magazine learnt that  traders, vehicle mechanics and vulcanizers and  behind the Command office Complex  fence practisingg their trades  who were said to have been acting as fronts for officers or  labouers who have  tyres, vehicle parts, bags of Foreign parboiled rice and poultry products to sale at the warehouse.  Okada riders were also said to have also been involved in getting Customers for those who have tyres to sale .    .

But these had consistently been denied by past Comptrollers  and  Public Relations officers of the Command including Jerome Attah, an Assistant Superintendent  and the Command incumbent image maker , describing it as the handwork of mischief makers.

Unknown to the officers, Aliyu Mohammed, a former Comptroller of Seme Command  and now Comptrller of the Command, described in Customs circles as a  thorough bred manager of officers  has devised a roadmap  to sanitise the Command warehouse and clear it  of the bad eggs to stop the pilfering of seized goods.

Compt. Aliyu Mohammed: Taking Precautionary Measures
Compt. Aliyu Mohammed: Taking Precautionary Measures

As a prelude to sanitising the warehouse and its environs,  he was  to have cleared the  Mechanics,  Vulcanizers and traders behind the  Commandoffice Complex fence. The Customs Comptroller was said to have given a standing order  to  Deputy Comptroller Yaya, who is in-charge of Enforcement to arrest any trespasser found behind  the Command office Complex fence trading or doing any other business. The Restaurant operators were also give a quit order by the Comptroller.  When the Magazine visited the busy street which share  boundary with the Command fence, the usual line up of Vulcanizers, mechanic  and traders including  agents  looking for  Customers to link up to officers in the Command were n where to be found.

A resident of the area confirmed that  the usual movement of people with vehicles behind the FOU, Zone A, office complex  fence  for one transaction or the other  have disappeared for fear of Mohammed.   The unexpected  may have happened on Sunday, September 16, 2018, forcing the Comptroller to order the detention of  some   officers of the rank of Assistant  Superintendent to Deputy Superintendent caught in the act at the warehouse.

Trouble was said to have   started for the officers when  some seized cartons  of poultry products from smugglers which were transferred to the warehouse  by a patrol team were  loaded into a bus  to be taken to a site for burial.

It was learnt that some officers in the warehouse had protested  taking the seized  poultry products to the approved site for burial but insisted that it should be sold to a trader who was said to have been contacted for the deal. the Magazine gathered that there was a heated debate between those opposed to the sale of the intercepted smuggled Poultry products from smugglers and those against it.

in what looked like a   set up, Eye-witness account disclosed that when the officers who supported the sale of the hundreds of cartons of poultry products loaded into the van, a call  was quickly  put to Mohammed, the Area Comptroller who was not in Lagos at the time of the incident.  The Customs Comptroller was said to have ordered the arrest and detention of the officers, pending for further investigation. there are indications that the officers may be demoted or dismissed from the Service if found guilty. This is because  Customs Comptroller from the onset had made it clear to the officers that he would not tolerate indiscipline  and  any one found  to be an embarrassment to the Service would dealt with.  A senior officer who spoke to the Magazine on condition of anonymity said the officers  does not deserve any pity but have gotten what they had bargained for.

The Ikeja Customs warehouse incident may have forced the kebbi state born Comptroller to force the labourers  engaged in  unloading  intercepted  Containerised Cargoes and truck laden goods for examination and re-loading the goods back into the Container or trucks for proper documentation. The Customs boss was said to have made the situation worse for the laborers, who according to a Customs source, must hproduce guarantors for proper documentation and accountability. With the recent exposed deal in the warehouse, Relations or close friends of the labourers used in the warehouse may not be willing to  stand in as any of their guarantor for fear of getting into Mohammed’s  trouble who is not ready to spare any person found wanting in the warehouse.

But there are indications that the Customs Comptroller may recall most of labourers back as the Command  still need their services in the warehouse. This is because the Command Provost Marshalls who have taken over control of the warehouse  would not be able to do the job of the labourers  by unloading andre loading goods into inmpounded Containers or trucks. This is given credence  by the daily turning in of Containerised goods and truck  laden goods that are being transferred to the warehouse by the Command Operations  and Lagos Roving team  headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and other patrol teams.

Between Monday, September 17, 2018, the  Lura  led  Operations and Lagos Roving team which was said to have  impounded over 10 Containers load of cargoes released at the seaport,  including some exotic vehicles, released from Five Star terminal   at Tin-can Island port and Port Multi-services Terminal limited, PTML would still need the services of the labouers to facilitate the examination of the cargoes in the warehouse.

TOnly recently, an additional two trucks laden with foreign parboiled rice    were said to have been intercepted and transferred to the Ikeja Customs  warehouse by the Command Rapid Response Squad headed by Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs.  To count the number of the ”50” kg bags of the Thailand rice on each of the trucks, would still require the services of the  labourers , an officer remarked.

Many believe that since Mohammed resumed duties at the Command about three  weeks ago, there have been intense Competition  among the   patrol team leaders in the Command to impress him with seizure of Contraband  goods  including Thailand rice, smuggled from the land border. The good news  was that what may have escaped the Command  either  at the sea port or at the land border had fallen into the hands of  the Abdullahi Kerewa, a Deputy Comptroller and National Coordinator, Custom Strike Force, officers in Zone A, lagos at the land border routes scatered in the south west geo-political region.

It would be recalled that the Federal government  on  January 1, 2017, banned the importation of foreign  parboiled rice and vehicles through the land border stations  into the country.  The  foreign rice and vehicle importers who could not cope with  the government fiscal policy, wwere said to have resorted to sponsoring smugglers with the assistance of security operatives, particular, soldiers and the police to carry out their nefarious trade.

Muhammed Uba Garba,a  former Comptroller of the FOU, Zone A, Command and now Comptroller, Seme Command was said  to have  made a mockery of the smuggler’s tactics at the porous Ogun and Oyo/Osun  land borders .  Using the services of informants, he  was said to have been instrumental to the seizure of 11 trucks load of rice  in the  Oyo/Osun alone in less than two weeks .

In one of the operations,  the Command was said to have made a seizure of eight trucks load of rice which was Concealed with Nigeria Breweries limited, NBL, bottles of beer at Shaki  border Community  axis of Oyo  state.  In the second operation at Ogbomosho, an additional three trucks load of rice were impounded by the Jack led team after clearing  the roads  of the miscreants  hired by the smugglers to forestall the Customs officers  from  leaving the town with the trucks load of rice.  The security back up of the Lura  patrol team was said to have helped to  in transferring the trucks to the Command premises.

Indeed,with the seizures rolling in daily into the Command Customs warehouse and the ease at which the legal Department are pursuing for the Condemnation of the intercepted items at the High Court  in Lagos to turn  it into government property,  mohammed , the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss, has  sent a  warning  signal  to the smugglers to  to turn a new lead or  lose their goods which they had borrowed millions of naira from the banks to import and clear at Cotonou port in Republic of Benin or any other port in the West African sub-region to the government.

He has made it clear to those that care to listen that there is no going back in the war against smugglers as those who  contravene the government fiscal policies would pay dearly for it. The Customs boss has every reason  to beat his chest that smugglers in the south west have no hiding  pace any longer because the entire south west had been effectively covered by his officers and the Strike Force team.

Already,  the Seme  axis , has become a no go area for rice  and petrol smugglers who have resorted to the Creeks in Ogun state to smuggle the iems. , Muhammed , the  Seme Command, Customs Comptroller  who is getting the desired Cooperation  of the Military operatives and Department of State Security Service, DSS personnel at the land border  may be making an impact in the Command anti-smuggling war as the smugglers are no longer finding it funny.

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