By Stephen Ubanna
Adamu Aliyu Mohammed, a former Comptroller , Seme Command, and now Comptroller Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, may have come with very high hopes of fostering good working relationships between officers and men of the Command in order to translate to improved performance .
His ambition, according to a source, was to beat the track records of Mohammed Uba Garba, a former Comptrollers of the Command and who incidentally is the new Comptroller of Seme Command. He however could beat his chest that he was on the road of breaking records when he detained over a dozen of exotic vehicles and a seizure of 3000 bags of foreign parboiled rice of 50kg each in two weeks. The Customs Comptroller saw it as a good start in FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, and thus, promised to sustain the record.
In keeping with his promise, within the next two weeks, he showcased another 25 exotic vehicles including nine bullet proof jeeps which was evacuated from a private residence in Victoria Island, Lagos but detained in the Command premises. The bullet proof vehicles were said to have been evacuated from the private residence in Victoria Island acting on information, forcing officers to describe him as a ”man of his words”. The Command also made a seizure of 11,000 of 50kg bags of foreign rice within the two weeks .
Many had expected the beehive of activities in the Command to continue to sustain the bi-weekly mouth watering seizure of Contrabands and detention of exotic vehicles to continue but he appears to leave everybody in the dark. The first and second two weeks of September had come and gone but nothing has been heard from the Comptroller, who his aides claim had been too busy in the office. Perhaps, he may be tidying up his usual two weeks record of performance to the Headquarters. A visitor to the Command premises and the warehouses at Ikeja, last Thursday, would be surprised at the dearth of edetained vehicles .
A source told the Magazine the Customs Comptroller had evacuated the exotic vehicles including two bullet proof jeeps detained at the instance of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs to the available space at the back of the Command office Complex to pave way for new arrivals. The source disclosed that Lura may have assured him of plans by his patrol officers on bush operations to transfer new intercepted vehicles to the Command. By Tuesday, November November 6, 2018, the much of the available space in front of the Command office had been taken over by vehicles supposedly arrested and transferred by the Operation and Lagos Roving officers. Most of the vehicles were said to be very dirty showing that they were intercepted from smugglers in the bush. The Command Strike Force officers were also said to be making appreciable impact in the Customs anti-smuggling war.
A school of thought believes that Mohammed, the Customs Comptroller is doing well which may have endeared him to Hammed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS. Their major worry, however, was the erratic nature of the FOU, Zone Customs boss.
They claimed that he may have learnt his lesson from the treatment meted out to his predecessor, Mouhammed, who was petitioned against by fifth Columnists in the Command, who would not want the right thing to be done but to impose their will on others, which if not done means the person is cutting corners. The petition may have forced Ali, the Comptroller General to send a Headquarters investigation team to the Command to look at the Command records over their detained vehicles . The Comptroller was said to have been absolved and commended for his uprightness. Perhaps, to avoid playing into the hand of these fifth Columnists who had abused his predecessor accommodating nature and human sympathy, he may have opted to be erratic in his actions to scare people away from coming to him including Journalists. But officers who knew from the Headdquarters, Kwarra/Niger and Seme Command confirmed that ”it was his nature”. They said officers and visitors to the Command are lucky that he is gradually mellowing down to relate with people.
As a prelude to watching over the office Complex and the warehouses for security purposes, , he was said to have overhauled the Close Circuit Television, CCTV, in his office. Initially, he was said to have stationed some of the Command Task Force officers , armed to the teeth, at one end of the Command office Complex to keep vigil over the exotic vehicles transferred to the back of the office Complex building.
The officers who were said to be very harsh did not hesitate in shouting at agents who had come over to the Command to sort out their Container problems , visitors or their Colleagues on mufti found on the corridor leading to the back of the building to ”keep moving” as the Comptroller is watching over them ,through his CCTV”.
The Customs Comptroller, according to a source, was very particular about the security of officers and men of the Command. He fears that an aggrieved smuggler whose vehicle was arrested and transferred to the Command premises could trail officers of the patrol team to Ikeja to lay ambush for them.
He was said to have to have told the patrol team officers to be” their brother’s keeper” to avoid to losing any officer to smugglers. The Comptroller may have put the officers on the red alert because of security reports about plots by smugglers to kidnap officers carrying out their legitimate duties. The Comptroller ‘s advice may have encouraged patrol team officers to be in group in their operations, and armed to the teeth. The era where a patrol team driver could go out with an officer is over. It would be recalled that last year a driver attached to the then Lagos Roving headed by Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs was kidnapped by smugglers at Sango Otta after an operation and not been found.
Mohammed may not have allowed people’s impression about him as he moves to sanitize the warehouses where laborers harbored by the Command were said to have been doing whatever they like over the years. Some of them were said to be cronies to officers and thieves on their own right. There had been several instances in the past where there had been incidents of stolen goods in the warehouse but no one was said to have been brought to book. Muhammed , the former Area Comptroller , was said to have started the process of cleaning up the warehouses and putting it under firm control by deploying more officers to the warehouses to be patrolling it day and night to ensure adequate protection of detained vehicles and Containers. Mohammed, the Current Comptroller , may have taken the last option of asking the laborers to quit the warehouse and then reapply. He believes if he needs the services of the laborers he could hire them for the particular job and pay instead of allowing them live in the warehouse which exposes all the detained and seized smuggled goods in the warehouses to them.
He was said to have extended quit order to the hawkers , vulcanizers, mechanics and car washers around the Ayinde street . He did not spare the woman who was said to have been provided a space to sell food by a former Comptroller of the Command as part of the clean up exercise of the Command and its environs.
He was said to have stationed operational vehicles along the Ayinde street to ensure that the sacked intruders on Customs land did not return. The Magazine sighted the food seller under a tree behind the Command office Complex, with traces of worry on her face .
The Command’s weekly meetings where the Comptroller meets with the sectional Heads, Patrol and Surveillance Team leaders as well as the officers in-charge of checkpoints which ought to have been an avenue for the Customs Comptroller to listen patiently to the various patrol leaders to know what they are going through in their respective teams and checkpoints and how best to help them, according to a senior officer who spoke to The Magazine , has turned out to be a” blame game and talk shop for the officers”.
The sectional Heads and Patrol team leaders were said to have seen it as an opportunity to outline their achievements , particular the Patrol team leaders who give records of their spectacular seizures, since that is what the Comptroller wants to hear to win his heart.. It is not surprising why some of the team leaders always get fully prepared with their records before the meetings to answer questions emanating from the Management team.