Customs: Seme Controller Gets A Respite

By Bayo Bernard

Comptroller Muhammed Uba Garba of the Seme Command of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS has unknowingly saved himself from the wrath of decision makers at customs headquarters in Abuja and what would have turned out his redeployment from the command, few months after he took charge.

Last week, the command announced the seizures worth millions of naira have and arrest of some notorious smugglers .

The comptroller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Hameed Ali had in August this year effected a minor shake up leading to the redeployment of Comptroller Muhammed from FOU, Zone A, Ikeja.

The thinking among customs echelon at the time was that the lanky customs officer will replicate his anti-smuggling success at his new posting.

But after what seems like a long lull in anti-smuggling activities by Muhammed and his men, doubt had mounted about the ability of the controller to deliver on the Comptroller General of Customs mandate to block smugglers and their damaging economic  activities from that end.

Seme Command is right in the heart of border between Nigeria and Benin Republic, one of the busiest border posts in the continent, very notorious for smuggling activities.

Those familiar with Comptroller Muhammed’s feat at the Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Ikeja were beginning to think that he has lost the midas touch. His achievements at the FOU must have been overhyped, they contended. Who wouldn’t think along that line, because for more than two months it was as quiet, in the command as the thespian grave-yard, one observer said

At a point, the magazine learnt that those that have the ears of Hameed Ali, the CG at the NCS headquarters in Abuja were beginning to pile pressure on him” that his boy in Seme appears not to be getting things right.”

It was further learned that some controllers had seized the momentum to lobby those who can speak in their favor to lobby the CG” in case there’s any opening in Seme.”

Some said he was resting on his oars after what seemed like a good outing in FOU for close to two years that he was in charge of the unit.

While this was going on Comptroller Muhammed said he has been busy studying the new environment to come up with a workable strategy to deliver on his mandate.

One officer close to him told the magazine recently that” the controller has not necessarily been lackadaisical in his duty as being insinuated in some quarters. He has been meeting with stakeholders, including sister agencies, traditional rulers” on how to rid Seme and environs of smugglers.

The source also said that generating more revenue for the federal government has been uppermost in the mind of Comptroller Muhammed.

The magazine was told last Wednesday by a top customs’ source in Abuja that the CG does not have a special relationship with officers, that what matters to him “is that officers are helping him to deliver on the mandate given him by President Muhammed Buhari to rid the Service of corrupt officers, generate more revenue and reduce smuggling to the barest minimum. Any officer not ready to do this will be shipped out” the officer said.

“A controller was recently redeployed from a command barely two months after resuming office. That’s the CG for you, he would not determine the fate of any officer based any primordial sentiment, what matters to him is merit.

The source was referring to Comptroller Adetoye Francis who was redeployed from PTML barely two months after he was posted to the command. Other cases abound where controllers have been removed unceremoniously from their post, the source further said.

It remains unclear if the CG is considering redeployment of officers soon, but those that are very close to the former soldier told the magazine on Monday that the option cannot be totally ruled out at this time of the year when smuggling is expected to surge.

May be that’s enough to put all controllers on their feet to do more to justify their postings. Comptroller Muhammed too. The command has announced a haul of seizures in just two months.

Among the goods seized are 16, 729(50kg) bags of foreign rice, worth more than N300m, 115 cartons of poultry products, with value over N72m and 57 jerry cans of vegetable oil(50 litres each.

Apart from this, over 1000 used tires, 71 gerry cans of petroleum products, 378 bags of sugar(50kge each) were also seized by the eagle-eyed customs officers.

The seizures also include 40 bales of used clothing, 57 packs of tramadol 387 sacks of coconut and others. The duty paid value of the seizure within the two months period is put at N839.51 million.

Seven suspects have been arrested in connection with the seizures and have been handed to the police, the command said.

The raid on smugglers’ hideouts also led to the seizure of 21 vehicles, which include a Toyota 2016 model, Toyota Sienna and others.

From all indications, Comptroller Muhammed is trying to prove one point” I’m up and doing in Seme.”  May be the CG is listening.

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