By Stephen Ubanna
Muhammed Uba Garba, Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, is in deep pain. This is because he is yet to get a clue of the hiding place of Rasheed Abdusalam, a driver attached to the Command Lagos Roving team who was abducted by smugglers penultimate week while on operation at Sango Otta, Ogun state.
Using his experience as an anti-smuggling officer before rising to the enviable rank of a Comptroller, he was said to have used all his contacts including utilizing the services of military and police personnel in Lagos and Ogun states to search for the abducted Customs driver but no luck. Sources told the Magazine that he had played hosts different times with to some military officers to rob minds on how fish out the den where the officer was detained by the smugglers.
The smugglers, a sorce informed the Magazine may not have been concerned to use the abducted officer as a bait for the release of their seized vehicles or rice by the Customs Authorities as they were said not to have contacted the Command on what their demand could be to facilitate the release of the officer, fueling speculation that they may have an ulterior motive to dampen the enthusiasm of Muhammed and his officers in the fight against smugglers.
They may have gotten it wrong as the action of the smugglers to abduct the Customs driver including the recent impersonation of the FOU, Zone A, Customs Comptroller in a Face book account by fifth Columnists within and outside the service may have failed. The two incidents happening at the same time may have been perpetuated by the daredevils ostensibly to put Muhammed in the bad book of Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, as one who is not in effective control of his Command but pays attentions to inconsequential issues not related to the demands of his office.
The abductors of the FOU, Zone A, driver , in particular, may have had at the back of their mind that their action would turn the table against the Customs nation-wide.
Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller of Customs and National Public Relations officer, NCS, has assured the family of Abdulsalam , the abducted officer that there was no cause for alam. He was said to have told those that care to listen that plans on round to rescue the abducted officer. This is because of the matching order that had been given to the FOU, Zone , Management to find him. Describing Sango Otta axis of Ogun state as a” den of smugglers”, analysts have advised Customs teams on operations in the area to thread with caution for fear of losing any officer to smugglers who are always battle ready to face the Customs.
The Sango Otta axis may have earned the title due to the relocation of most of the dare devil smugglers previously operating from Seme axis to the area as a result of the tough anti-smuggling measures put in place by Mohammed Aliyu, the Comptroller of Seme Command. The Sango Otta axis, according to a retired Customs officer who at one time or the other had led patrol teams at Seme, Ogun and FOU, Zone are very sophisticated in their operations and could do anything to get back at Customs who they see as their greatest foe.
Given an insider account to the circumstances that led to the abduction of the officer, he disclosed that it was a fallout of FOU, Zone A, officers operation in the area. He confirmed that the operation was based upon intelligence report on smugglers activities in the area.
The Command , Lagos Roving team led by Jack Okpabi, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, described as very” fearless and rugged officer”, who had had led may successful anti-smuggling operations resulting in the seizure of trucks load of rice and exotic vehicles , he said had left with his team to the scene of the smugglers operation at Sango Otta at about 9:10 pm.
Contrary to Abdulsam’s family claim that the team were ill-equipped for the operation, the Customs National PRO, said the team were accompanied by soldiers in an branded bus and a branded Toyota Hilux van that was driven by the kidnapped officer.
Atta averred that the smugglers may have had their way because they laid an ambush against the FOU, Zone A, just after the South African retail,Shop Rite located at the busy Lagos- Sango Otta Express way.
An Okada rider plying the Sango- Otta, axis , told The Source that the smugglers , turned kidnappers escaped with ease because Jack’s men could not release their bullet for fear that it might ignite fire because there was a nearby filling state close to the retail shop and a tanker was said to be discharging fuel at that that time.
The Okada rider praised the Customs team for exercising restraint in handling the situation, noting that if the leader had given his trigger boys order to shoot at the smugglers, stray bullet would have hit at fleeing innocent people. He said the abducted officer may have played into the hand of the smugglers as he tried to save the driver of the bus with the team who was in great danger of being killed by the smugglers as the officers armed to the teeth had disembarked to pursue other smugglers within the town.
He noted that if the officer that led the operation had known in advance that one of his men was missing, Sango Otta and its environs would have being This is con on fire, confirming what Attah, the Customs PRO said that the team members only got to know that one of their Colleagues was missing after the dusts had settled as he could not be accounted for.
The auto -bike rider fears that there might be element of sabotage as the number of smugglers that showed up to challenge Customs team within short a time was unimagined. Indeed, Attah’s revelation of the Customs plans to rescue the abducted officer may have led to rest Abdulsam’s family accusation of Customs Complacency in the abduction of their son.