There are fears among officers and men of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS about the capacity of Comptroller Mohammed Aliyu to sustain the tempo left by his predecessor at the unit.
The apprehension came amidst suggestions that the controller failed to leave a robust anti-smuggling record in Seme Command where he served before his present deployment.
Comptroller Aliyu swapped position with Comptroller Muhammed Uba Garba after a major shake-up, last month by the Hameed Ali-led NCS, that affected over 70 controllers across various Customs formations in the country.
But his arrival at FOU has raised many posers as to whether he’s a round peg in a round hole.
There are reports that the unit has made some seizures, including some exotic cars, consumable and other items since the arrival of Comptroller Aliyu to the unit.
“He’s very desperate to overturn the record of the former controller” said one officer in the unit, who seemed not enthusiastic about the new sheriff in FOU, Zone A.
That seemed not to impress those that have doubts over the ability of the controller to prove critics wrong.
Comptroller Aliyu, some say came to his new posting with a lot of baggage, from his failure to rein in smuggling while he presided over Seme command, to allegations that rice and cars smuggling festered so much along Seme and adjoining borders connecting Nigeria with Republic of Benin.
Even though the federal government has banned the importation of vehicle and rice through the land borders, the prohibited items still made their ways unhindered through the Seme border into the country while Comptroller Aliyu presided.
‘Ordinarily, this should not have happened, considering the level of support the border commands have received so far from the Comptroller General, who is poised to stamp out smuggling,” John Odu, a security expert told the magazine.
The belief is that most of the items seized by the FOU Zone A during the period made their way into the country through Seme border.
For instance, between June 13 through to July 24, 2018 the unit anti-smuggling team, intercepted various contraband goods with a Duty Paid Value of (N1,120,714, 338.12) one billion, one hundred and twenty million, seven hundred and fourteen thousand, three hundred and thirty eight Naira, twelve kobo.
The items included 21 exotic vehicles; 9,504 bags of foreign parboiled rice; 333 cartons of frozen poultry and 287 bales of second hand clothing.
The seized vehicles include, one Mercedes Benz G-500 (2016); one Toyota Hilux (2017); a Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (2016), a 2014 Toyota Hilux Bulletproof; a 2018 Toyota Corolla; two Toyota Camry (2016); a 2016 Honda Civic; a 2016 Honda Accord; and one Dodge Charger (2016), among others.
The 21 exotic vehicles had a Duty Paid Value of N484,458,778,.92.
Most of these items were believed to have been smuggled in through Seme.
Security experts versed in customs operations insist that the items should not have escaped the prying eyes of customs checkpoints along the border. There are many checkpoints along the Lagos/ Badagry expressway, mostly manned by men and officers from Seme command very hour of the day.
In spite of this, smugglers had a free reign for several months that Comptroller Aliyu was boss in Seme command, close watchers of NCS told the magazine.
Earlier in February, the unit had intercepted various contrabands with a duty paid value (DPV) of N1.1Billion for the month.
The seized items include 18 vehicles, 4,201 bags of foreign parboiled rice, 2,619 cartons of frozen poultry products, 1,105 jerry-cans of vegetable oil, 2,637 pieces of used tyres, 1,333 bales of used clothing, 2,001 kg of Pangolin, 343kg of Elephant Tusks among others.
Field officers at the unit had confided in the magazine that the laxity on the part of authorities in Seme command was mostly responsible for the seizures made under Comptroller Muhammed Uba Garba, because as they implied, the abnormality that reigned supreme in the last 12 months, in terms of smuggling could have been averted if comptroller Aliyu was serious with his job.
Sources in customs told the magazine that the initial plan by customs headquarters was to redeploy him back to Abuja, as punishment “for letting the CG down despite the trust place in him. After much pleading some close aides to the CG that such will send a wrong signal, it was decided that he be given a soft landing,” a top customs officer in Abuja told the magazine.
The same source further disclosed that Comptroller Aliyu deployment to FOU is temporary that his bosses “in Abuja are already shopping for replacement because the unit is a very strategic one, and key to the CG anti-smuggling campaign” he stated.
He said the deployment of Comptroller Garba to Seme command is deliberate on the part of the CG and his team to prove the allegation against Comptroller Aliyu, at the same time tighten belt around the Seme border corridor.
Comptroller Aliyu failed to respond to telephone calls made to him by the magazine to respond to the allegations. The Spokesman of the command, Jerry Attah, could not be reached at the time of filing this report.