B y Stehen Ubanna
Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General. Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, appears to have matched his word with action with the introduction of the cargo trace and track tool technology into Customs operations.
Ali had alluded at the last International Customs Day Celebration at the Nigeria Customs Training College , Gwagwalada, Abuja, of the planned introduction of the security device , based on the ongoing discussion with the United States Information Communication Technology, ICT, giant, Oracle Corporation for the use of its software to ”entrench its fully e- Customs operation.
Ali had said that the technology , ”if put into use by the Service, will go a long way to bring about safe trade as it has the track and trace tool for cargo tracking”. As a prelude to the introduction of the Oracle ICT soft ware into Customs operations, the Comptroller General was said to have approved the use of the ICT facility for the Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, personnel, for now to assist them in passing credible intelligence for Customs operations.
Indeed,Abdullahi Dikko, former Comptroller General, NCS, was said to started the process of automation of the CIU operations to function like other security outfits such as the Department of State Security, DSS, Military and Police intelligence Units with supply of voice recording bull pen, Dark Sun shade recording eye glass but that was how far he could go.
Given his military background as an intelligence gathering officer, Ali may have realized that the anti-smuggling war across the country would not make a head away without arming the CIU personnel with intelligence gathering tools to facilitate their work.
The Customs boss was said to had fully equipped the CIU personnel with the security gadgets to aid them in their intelligence gathering across the country. the Magazine had opportunity of seeing one of the security gadgets which had facilities for both voice and visual recording.
It was learnt that a CIU personnel with the tracking tool at the land border could easily locate smugglers operational site and pass the intelligence information to the Area Comptroller for processing and action. The Magazine had the opportunity of seeing the gadget used for intelligence gathering at Seme border on Wednesday, February 14, 218.
The officer, who was dressed in mufti was said to have brought out the gadget which looked more like a Chinese built touch light mobile phone , pretending to be making calls but was actually recording the visuals of a smuggling operation at a beach in one of the land border Communities at the Badagry axis.
The officer was said to have alerted his colleagues across the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS , building at the border to pass the information to the Command Enforcement Unit to quickly mobilize against the smugglers before they escape with their offensive goods which may find its way into the Nigeria market.
It was gathered that a team of the Seme Command Enforcement officers armed to the teeth moved into the beach to forestalls the smugglers from taking the alleged smuggled items into the Nigeria market .
The Magazine also saw on the security gadget visuals of recorded black assorted Toyota Lexus jeeps vehicles that were lined up to be smuggled into the country through unapproved routes at the land border but were intercepted by Customs operatives.
Mohammed Aliyu, Comptroller Seme Command may have found the CIU personnel as close allies in the Command anti-smuggling war. This is evident by the daily seizures of smuggled goods at the land border. Last January, Mohammed confirmed that that the Command made 64 seizures of offensive goods with a Duty Paid Value of N18 million.
Many believe that smugglers who were aware of the new security gadgets being used by the CIU personnel to trace and track smugglers with their offensive cargos may have relocated to Ogun and other border Communities in other states in the south west, where there are several unapproved routes to carry out their nefarious trade
. Investigation by the Magazine shows that the usual large crowd of people found at the land border over the years pretending to be doing one business or the other at the land border had gradually disappeared for fear of losing their offensive goods to Aliyu’s anti-smuggling men
Even tricycles riders who built bunkers at the bottom of their tricycles to smuggle petroleum products across the land border were no longer finding it funny as they could easily be caught with the aid of the cargo tracking tool.
A taxi driver who spoke to the Magazine at Mile 2 International motor park lamented that they are no longer getting enough passengers going to Seme border for business as they may have found out that smuggling is no longer a lucrative business along the Lagos -Seme route.
Security experts would want the Comptroller General to extend the use of the security device to track offensive goods to FOUs patrol teams across the country to support their anti-smuggling operation. They cited the raid on Tuesday, February 20, 2018, by the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Roving team, led by the officer in-charge of the team, Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, at Idiroko, Ogun state.
The Jack led team was said to have arrived at the location where some smuggled assorted Japanese vehicles were allegedly parked at about 5.30am but found that the vehicles had been removed to an unknown location, fueling suspicision.
They had argued that if the Comptroller General had allowed the FOUs personnel across the country to use the security device like the CIU personnel, the Zone A , Roving team, personnel could have discovered the new location where smuggled assorted vehicles were parked at Idiroko to seal up the lace, preparatory toits evacuation to the Command ware house at Ikeja.
There are indications that fifth Columnists within the Command may have leaked the planned raid of the smuggler’s illegal Car Mart at the Idiroko, thus forcing him to remove the vehicles to another location.
It would be recalled that the first attempt by a team sent out by the rugged and ever unsmiling Jack to raid the illegal Car Mart at Idiroko was met with stiff resistance from the smugglers. One of the Customs operatives’ hand was said to had been ratcheted despite holding an AK 47.
Eye witness account confirmed that the officer was quickly rushed to a nearby hospital to stop the bleeding as his life was in danger. Attah Jerome , an Assistant Superintendent of Customs and the Command Image maker confirmed that the officer underwent series of surgeries to be alive.
perhaps, the use of dangerous weapons to attack Customs operatives on the Idiroko illegal Car Mart raid may have forced Jack to lead an operation to smoke out the suspects at their hideout in Land border Community. The team were said to have arrested the suspects who were brought to the Command on handcuffs, including the gang leader. They were said to have been detained .
The Command legal department, according to sources had been directed by Mohammed Uba Garba, the Area Comptroller to prepare the charges against them in readiness to dragging them to Court for attacking officers on Legitimate duty.
Acting on information and on the approval of Garba, the Command Comptroller, Jack , who handles difficult operations was also said to have raided a private residence at Ikeja GRA, where five executive Rolls Royce were carted away to the Command until investigation are concluded on the vehicles. The first set of Rolls Royce that were detained by the Command, one of it was said to have attracted a Demand Notice, DN, of N45 million as against N5 million that was initially given and the owners were said to have paid it without blinking and took delivery of it.
But Uyi Car Mart, owner, a source said may not be lucky. The rugged Jack was said to have led a team that sealed up two Car marts around Lekki second gate . One of the Car Marts was said to have put on display 31 assorted Japanese vehicles for sale and the second Cart Mart had only 10 vehicles on display for sales.
Some Principal officials of the Car Mart were found at FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, premises on Wednesday, February 21, 2018, with their documents to facilitate the release of the vehicles. A source informed the Magazine that the file on the alleged Lekki sealed Car Marts had come out from the Comptroller’s office and had passed through all the administrative processes to the Valuation Unit where a DN was said to have been raised.
There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that some of the vehicles at the suspected Uyi Car mart stocked with over 30 Japanese assorted Toyota products may be seized because it had no covering import documents. There are insinuations that some of the vehicles documents were faked as clothing” fueling speculation that it may have been smuggled into the country through unapproved routes.
A senior Customs Officer disclosed that the alleged Car Mart owner infraction was worse than making” False Declaration” , thus playing into the hand of Garba, the Command Area Controller. In spite of the ”Faking of document” infraction leveled against the Car art owner, officials were still optimistic of reaching a compromise with the Command to facilitate the release of the vehicles which are worth millions of naira.