Customs Impound Multi-million Naira Smuggled Petrol

By Stephen Ubanna

More facts have emerged how  11 locally built boats loaded with about 80,000   Jerry Cans  of 25 litres of  smuggled petrol  was intercepted by a joint operations  of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ogun Command and Western Marine Command, WMC, of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, on the  eve of Friday  August  31, 2018.

The Magazine learnt that when  information filtered  out  through a paid informant to Mohammed Aliyu, Comptroller, FOU, Zone A,  about plans by some unscrupulous Nigerians to smuggle  Premium Motor Spirit, popular Petrol, to Republic of benin, a neigghbouring country in the West African sub-region. The  product, according to the informant were to be smuggled  through Ijofin Creek in Ipokia local government area of Ogun state.  The Comptroller, a close told the Magazine did not hesitate  in reaching out to Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the officer in-charge of the Command’s Operations and Lagos Roving team,  Jack Okpabi, another Chief  Superintendent of Customs in-charge of the Command’s Rapid Response Sqaud, Officer in-charge  of the Crack Squad and other patrol team  leaders to put the officers on the alert for the Ijofin operation.

Aware that his image  would be marred in this first major anti-smuggling operation in the Command if  it flops, Aliyu was said to have reached out to his counterparts at Ogun Command and Western Marine Command to mobilise their officers for the operation as the Command could not execute it alone. He was also said to have also informed the Brigade Commander   and the Commissioner of police and Head of the Civil Defense in Ogun state, on the  to join the operation in order to strengthen  the security and  ensure that the operation was a success.

Mohammed Aliyu : Comptroller FOU, Zone A
Mohammed Aliyu : Comptroller FOU, Zone A

Many believe that the FOU, Zone A, Customs boss may have sought the support of his counterparts in the other Ogun and WMC including the  sister agencies to adequately confront the smugglers, believed to have  made  adequate security arrangement  before  staking their resources into the illegal petrol smuggling business .  The operation was said to have been kept a closely guarded secret.

The Magazine learnt that the responsibility of Coordinating the operation in the ijofin Creek  was handed over to Jack  a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the officer in-charge of the Command Rapid Response Squad.  Lura, a Chief Superintendent  of Customs  and the officer in-charge of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team was said to have also made his officers  available  for the operation at the instance of the Comptroller.

As a prelude to the Ijofin creek operation to confront the PMS smugglers, it was gathered that  Jack had sent  a Surveillance team to the area to prepare the ground  and give him on the spot assessment of the smugglers activities at the Creek to avoid failure. The whistle blowers were also said to be  on ground to  monitor the  situation and give  feedback to Jack and his team .Insiders told the Magazine that when the coast was clear to strike, the leader of the Surveillance team gave signal to Jack,  the Coordinator of the  operation to  move in.

Given the mandate given to him to ensure that all loopholes were blocked by biyu, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller, who was said to be carrying out his first major  anti-smuggling  operation in  his new Command,  a source disclosed that the raid on the Creek was well Coordinated.

This is because  officials of the  WMC had moved into the  Ogun waterways  with their functional Crafts to patrol the area to forestall the smugglers from   sailing  into Republic of Benin with the smuggled item.

The source confirmed  that when it became clear that the   Enforcement team of the WMC  at the instance of Adamu Mohammed, the Command Deputy Comptroller  in -charge of Enforcement had taken over the waterways,  Jack and his team  moved into the Creek to take possession  of the  11 locally built  boats  and its contents with little or no resistance. The  Ogun  Command Crack squad  were not left out as they also mobilised to the site. The Army, police and Civil  Defense officials were also ground to give additional security back up to the Customs team . Officials of  federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, were  also on ground  to clear the road  for easy vehicular movements.

The magazine gathered that  the dispossession of the smugglers of the 80,000  Jerry Cans of 25 litres each of petrol from the  water ways smugglers forced  Aliyu, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller to make adequate arrangement  to secure  the Creek   and the 11 boats carrying the smuggled products.  He was said to have engaged the services of the Army at an agreed fee  to work with the Customs officers  stationed at the Creek, pending the evacuation  of the products for public auction.

Given the tight security  at the Ijofin Creek provided by  Customs personnel,soldiers, Civil Defense  and the police, Aliyu, who was  accompanied by Lura, the officer  in-charge of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team and other senior officers had mobilised  three  teams  armed to the teeth  for the visit on Monday, September 3, 2018. The Customs Comptroller had gone to the Creek to see things himself  instead of relying on the information given to him by Jack, the Coordinator of the operation to send his report to hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General NCS.

When the Magazine visited the Command premises on Tuesday,September , 4, 2018, the seizure of the multi-million product by a Customs joint operations, Coordinated Jack  dominated the talk of officers.  Jack, an officer confirmed may have warmed himself to the heart of the Kebbi state born Comptroller  of FOU, Zone , as he was said to have been having regular consultation  with him. The Magazine sited him coming out from the Comptroller’s office beaming with smiles. ”I have no office. My office is on the road”, he reportedly said.

G Eye witness account  confirmed, that the official take- over of the Creek by Customs personnel with the support of the other security agencies personnel may have  given the Customs  formations involved in the operation  to evacuate their share of the  products  to their respective  Commands. The FOU, Zone A, was said to have got the lion share as the initiator of the operation.

The Command’s Operations and Lagos roving team at the instance of the Comptroller, was said to have evacuated 11 trucks  load of the seized smuggled product  to the  mechanical Workshop turned warehouse on  Monday, September 3, 2018. An additional four  trucks  load of the Jerry Cans of  ”25” of the product  was said to have been  evacuated to the Command by the team on Tuesday, September 4, 2018. The Command  was said to have spent  about N1i5 million to evacuate the products  from the site, according to a source.

The evacuation of the Jerry Cans of the ”25” product  to the Command  may have given opportunity for officials of the Lagos state police Command, Civil Defense  , the Army Operation MESA  and Federal  Road Safety Commission, FRSC,  personnel to gather  at the Command  on Monday, September 3, 2018, to  have their own share of the seized smuggled products. The  Magazine   sited the officials of these other  security agencies  as they stationed their  pick up vans awaiting  for the Customs  officials going  into the  Command Mechanical workshop to collect their allocation from them

Decency was said to have been thrown to the winds as the security personnel struggle to get the free   Jerry Cans of petrol from  the Command Provost Marshalls. But the actual sales of the seized products to the public  was said to have started on Tuesday, April 4, 2018. It was a bazaar of  a sort  as the uniformed  men struggle with Civilians  to buy the products.

The Magazine attempt to take the picture of the three trucks that brought  some of the products and the long queue of buyers were frustrated by soldiers and Customs Provost Marshalls who were at the scene.  Efforts to make the security operatives  realise that the Magazine has the mandate of the Public Relations officer and the approval of Rashid Adahunsi,  the Command no nonsense Deputy Comptroller, Valuation, who Coordinated the sales to do so was frustrated.

They had had snatched the Magazine Professional Camera  and quickly rushed to the CPM office   to keep it with their  Head, an Assistant Superintendent. the situation  was so embarrassing that by-standers rained abuses on them  for abuse of tax payers uniform. The Magazine did not hesitate in going after them to avoid  damaging the lens of the expensive Professional Camera.  Visitors at the Command security gate looked in awe  over the  harsh words coming out from the Provost Marshals mouth.

In anger the Magazine  was forced to report to the Deputy Comptroller who took it up with the Head of the Provost Marshall with a matching order to release the Camera to the Magazine without further delay. He was said to have grudgingly released it by  calling  Journalist names.

Maritime analysts would want Aliyu , the Comptroller of the Command, who may have watched the scene with the close circuit television in his, CCTV, in his office to call his Provost Marshalls, to avoid causing further embarrassment  to  the Command.

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