By Stephen Ubanna
The inability of Sarki- Kebbi Mustapha , Comptroller of Western Marine Command, WMC, to effectively mobilise his officers to police the waterways and Creeks in the south west geo-political region appears to have given a leeway to the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Lagos Roving team, to step in .
Sarki-kebbi and hiss officers may have failed in their responsibility to adequately police the waterways and Creeks in Lagos and other states in the region had been attributed to lack of functional h Crafts. A visitor to the Command would be surprised at the number of broken Crafts which littered the premises water-side.
Over the years smuggled goods from the Republic of Benin had entered into the Nigeria market from different places within the Command’s jurisdiction such as Yekeme Creek, Gbao Creek, Choki Creek, Ijofin Creeks, Aseke Creek, market waterside, Badagry axis, Alaba market water-side, Zamare water front, Ere water ways, Wekan axis and Idiroko water front among other.
The smugglers may have found the waterways and the creeks in the southwest a safe haven to carry out their nefarious activities of smuggling rice and other prohibited items banned from coming into the country through the land border areas by the government as the anti-smuggling officers of the FOUs in Lagos, Owerri, Bauchi and Kaduna, are swarming like bees across the major highways and notorious routes used by smugglers in the border Communities across the country . the situation is so bad in the south wst that the rice smugglers appear to have found their way to the use of unknown Creeks to WMC officers to carry out their nefarious trade.
The Republic of Benin based smugglers may have been succeeding in taking their smuggled rice and other items into the Nigeria market through the Creeks but luck ran out of them on Wednesday May23, 2018 at Oyigbo water side in Lagos mainland local government area.
Acting on credible intelligence before jetting out to Abuja, for a meeting at the Customs Headquarters on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, Mohammed Uba, the Comptroller of FOU,Zone A, had drawn the attention of of Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the in-charge of the Command Roving to be on the alert to forestal smugglers who are coming through the Creeks within the Lagos axis with their smuggled rice loaded into two big locally built ships with various Compartments to accommodate the items.
Mohammed was said to have put his ears on the ground to know the Creek or waterside the alleged smugglers would berth to discharge the goods. When it became obvious that t The smugglers would be berthing at Oyigbo waterside, the Comptroller and Riks kept it a closely guided secret.
The FOU, Zone A, Lagos Roving team boss , on the orders of the Comptroller was said to have sent an advance team which laid ambush on the Oyigbo axis to know when the smugglers would sail to the water side wit their smuggled rice. He was said to have prepared his officers who were armed with AK.47.rifles for the operation. He was also said to have reached out to the Commander of Operation MESA, the military wing of Rapid Response , for backup in case of any resistance by the smugglers.
Given the seriousness of the operation, the FOU, Zone A, Roving team leader was said to have led the operation and was the first to step out from their patrol van with his rifle when they arrived at the scene at about 11 pm on Wednesday, May 23, 208. He has his reason of stepping out first from the branded Customs patrol vehicle before any other officer in the team at the site to direct all attacks at him.
But the smugglers were not in a position to confront the Customs personnel involved in the operation as they were forced to abandon the ships and their content and flee for their safety, thus paving the way for Riks and his team to take possession of it.
A source disclosed that 7000 bags of ”50 kg” foreign parboiled rice, vegetable oil and other items were found in the two ships .
An insider informed the Magazine that the Oyigbo operation was just one out of too many of such operations that had been led by the officer in the past. The source cited the Ere operation in Ado-Odo-Otta local government government Ara of Ogun state. The Ere operation may have brought out Riks as a very courageous and fearless officer who could dare smugglers even at the risk of his life. This is because the Ere axis in the state is regarded in both official and unofficial circles as a no go area for unformed men including Customs personnel because of the aggressiveness of the youths of the area who believes that smuggling is their legal right as indigenes of border Communities.
He was also said to have been instrumental to the celebrated eight tucks of rice intercepted by the then Lagos Roving team of the Command led by Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and now officer in-charge of the Command Rapid Response team at Iseyin axis in Oyo state last March. This is in addition to the interception of three trucks of rice intercepted by the team at Ogbomosho, also in Oyo state.
Riks , who was the then officer in-charge of Ijebu-Ode Surveillance team was said to have mobilised his officers to intervene in the Ogbomosho operation , when information leaked out that the Jack led team had been driven back by the aggrieve youths of the town. He was said to have led the Ijebu Ode team to Ogbomosho to provide a back up to the Command Lagos Roving team which eventually took possession of the three trucks load of rice from the smugglers.
Another successful intervention of the Ijebu-Ode Surveillance team led by him was the operation at Lafenwa, outskirts of Abeokuta, which translated to the dispossession of the smugglers of over 2,000 of ”50kg” bags of foreign parboiled rice.
May believe that Riks may have carved a niche for himself in anti-smuggling operations at the FOU, Zone C, in 2016, where he successfully led a team that raided Ikang Community in Bakassi local government Area of Cross River state and carted away 8000 ”50” bags of foreign parboiled rice which were loaded into 13 trucks and transferred to Customs warehouse in Calabar. The bags of rice were said to have been smuggled into the Bakassi Community through Cameroun. The Bakassi operation may have exposed him to Dangladima .A., the Deputy Comptroller General, DCG, Enforcement and Investigation as a courageous officer who should be saddled with tough assignments.
It was not surprising why his name was always on the lips of the DCG to lead the team for any operation initiated by the Headquarters but handled by the FOU, Zone A, in the south west. A senior Customs officer who spoke to the Magazine disclosed that he led the pack of the officers of the FOUs, nation-wide in 2014, in the seizure chart and may likely repeat the feat in 2018 going by the seizures he had so far made in the last five months.