By Stephen Ubanna
Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and Officer in-charge of the Lagos, Roving team, of the federal, Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, known in Circles as a dogged in Lagos and rugged officer, appears to have played into the hands of car mart owners.
Jack is seen as acting out the secret of Mohammed Uba Garba, the Area Comptroller and Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service against the car dealers who are no pushovers in the society because of their financial muscle. The car mart owners who are well connected in government may have lost their patience with the Customs anti-smuggling officer and award winner over his constant raid on their car locations and private homes that they had resorted to plan B, according to sources.
trouble was said to have started for the rugged and bulky Customs officer when he concluded his surveillance of two cart marts at Lekki , a high profile area in Lagos , over alleged information that the assorted vehicles stocked at the cart had no import documents and duties were never paid on them.
The case of the car mart owners may have been made worse as it was alleged that the vehicles on display at the carts may have been smuggled into the country from Republic of Benin, one of the neighbouring countries in the West African sub-region through Seme border.
The Roving team leader was said to have been given the nod to go ahead with his men and seal up the the suspected two car marts at Lekki, preparatory to evacuating the vehicles to the Command warehouse, Ikeja. Given the Comptroller’s backing, Jack was said to have mobilized his men to the car marts, located at Lekki.
One of the carts was said to have been stocked with 31 assorted Japanese Toyota brands and the second cart mart had about 10 vehicles on display. Going by calculation, the two car marts had stocked 41 assorted vehicles .
It was learnt that Jack had confronted the car mart owners on arrival over allegations that the vehicles had no Customs documents. The car mart, according to eye witness accounted were said to have been asked to show proof that they had the necessary import documents and relevant duties paid either through the sea port or the land border on or before January 1, 2017, before the ban on the importation of vehicles through the land borders.
the Magazine learnt there was a heated argument between the FOU, Zone A, Roving team leader and the suspected car mart owners. The aggrieved cart mart owners were said to have requested for his mobile phone no. which he was said to have gladly obliged them. unknown to him, his picture had been taken and posted in phase book and the message sent to him, describing him derogatorily , you this jack, we will get you. A few days later, a hired assassin was said to have called him on his phone, threatening him with fire and brime stone.
Putting on the garb of a trained Enforcement officer was said to have trailed the hired assassin caller to his base . He was said to have confronted him that there was no time too late shoot him. Insiders told the Magazine n that he besieged the alleged hired assassin caller’s base with is men armed to the teeth. He was said told him told him to go and tell his pay masters that they should do the right thing.
on another occasion , he was said to have gone out for a foot ball practice within the Lekki axis but was confronted by some hood looms who threatened to kill him. He was to have reported the incident to the Comptroller, who ordered him to get them in order to write statement on what prompted them to issue the threat to him for discharging his lawful duties.
On Tuesday, February 13, 2018, he was said to have mobilized his men to the scene of the encounter where one of the hood looms was caught and dragged to the Command. He was said to have wept profusely when he came down from the Customs operational van, pleading with Jack to order his men to give him 12 lashes, forgive him and allow him to go. He claimed that he was never serious with the threat as ”it was a mere joke”. The suspect was quickly to Customs cell, where he was detained .
It would be recalled that the bulky Customs Enforcement officer had raided various cart marts in Lagos for much of last year. One of the raid at Ikoyi was said to have resulted in the evacuation of over 51 assorted vehicles including four Bullet proof allegedly without End User Certificate from the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA.
Another major raid was said have been carried out at Omole Estate, Ikeja, after one week of close watch , resulting the evacuation of 51 assorted vehicles. The Consistent raid on cart marts may have forced other car mart owners to move their vehicles from one location to another to forestall Customs attempt to cart them away to their guest house.
Garba, the Area Comptroller, confirmed that last January alone, the Command with the efforts of the Lagos roving team and the officers at the Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state , Check point, detained four Rolss Royce,one of Porche Panamera, Jaguar, Toyota Land Cruiser and Bentley, each. Two Lexus jeep and G Wagon each. Five Toyota Corolla and Seven Mercedes Benz, According to him some of the vehicles were intercepted at Ijebu Ode Check point and others evacuated at various raid in Parkview estate, Victoria Island, Banana Island, Alhaji Bankole Crescent, Ikeja and Tola Adewumi Street, Maryland.
Aware that even if they successfully beat Customs operatives to it to smuggle the assorted vehicles to their cart mart or park it in their homes, it may still end up at FOU, Zone premises, many of them were said to have resorted to do the right thing by importing their vehicles for sale through the nation’s seaports to avoid losing it to Customs.
many believe that the recent threat on Jack’s life was not unexpected. He was said to have heard a similar experience at Federal Operations, FOU, Zone Z, Owerri, Imo state, when Victor Dimka , now Commandant, Nigeria Customs Training School, Kano, was the then Comptroller of the Command.
He was said to have intercepted two ”40” Container loads of tramadol allegedly released from the port. The drug syndicate were said to have sent hired assassin after him in his hotel. It was gathered that at the dead of the night the hired killers had invaded the hotel and started shooting sporadically which shattered the louvers of his hotel room. The gun shots was said to have woke him and his men up and they quickly faced them in a gun battle. It was learnt that three of them were killed instantly and others escaped.
Given the SOS message, he was said to have sent the Commandant of the state anti-robbery squad, SARS, five of them were rounded up and taken to the SARS headquarters for interrogation. It is not surprising why Jack is always in the Company of his boys armed to the teeth with AK47 to ward off any attack on him. There is need, therefore, for Garba, the FOU, Zone Customs boss beef up security around his men in the south west to avoid caving in to threats by hood looms over their consistent seizures that could slow down their anti-smuggling operations in the region.