By Bayo Bernard
The Controller General of Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali(rtd) has an urgent task to quickly unravel the multi- billion naira allege deal involving Controller Musa Sarkin-Kebbi, comptroller in charge of the Western Marine command. Stakeholders warn that whatever action taken by the customs’ boss on this matter will make or mar his anti-corruption mantra.
This has become so in the light of allege land for cash deal by the current and immediate comptrollers of the command which in turn has robbed off on the NCS as a badly corrupt agency of government, despite the effort of the Controller General to rid the service of graft.
Stakeholders have expressed shock on how the land allocated to the command to serve as its headquarters located along Ibafon creek, adjacent Cocoanut area of Olodi-Apapa, Lagos have shrunk in the last few years under the watchful eyes of these Comptrollers deployed to the command from Abuja. The land totaling 10 acres according to the magazine investigations have been encroached on by different concerns, leaving the command with just a piecemeal of the whole original land area.
When the magazine investigated the issue, it was discovered that the leadership of the Western Marine command played a vital role in the allege land grab scam. All the controllers that have run the affairs in the command, checks reveal have allegedly made cool cash selling some portions of the 10 acre land to agreeable customers.
More than half of the land mass has therefore been sold to big men who were ready to part with huge cash. If investigation by the magazine is anything to go by, various sources who spoke on the issue said billions of naira must have changed hands considering the high cost of land in high-brow area such as Apapa.
Property experts who spoke with the magazine over the issue disclosed that the current market price of a plot of land in the area goes for at least N200 million. “For you to own a land in a place like Apapa you must have a deep pocket. No poor man can afford to buy a land in that area except he’s fronting for somebody,” Kazeem Eluwole, a property agent who leave in the area told the magazine.
Apart from selling a large portion of the land to cash and carry customers, most of the controllers allegedly involved in the scam are also said to have apportioned part of the land to partners and cronies, who in turn built properties which they manage un-behalf of the Officers.
In order to have it smooth with the deal the said officers, it was also learnt have secured the buy-in of some traditional rulers in the areas known as Baales. For their support, the Baales are said to have been awarded some portions of the land while cash were paid to others. One of the community leaders in the area who spoke with The Source, but requested anonymity in his identity, said some portion of the land has indeed been sold off.
The level of commercial activities in the area have become so worrisome so much so that it now pose security threat to the command which now occupy less that one acre of the entire land.
But the public relations officer of the command Assistant Superintendent of Customs E. Tangwa, in his response to the issue, disclosed that the command is investigating the matter.