By Spehen Ubanna
Officers and men of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, had pledged their loyalty to Mohammed Aliyu, a former Comptroller, Seme Command and now Comptroller of the Command. The officers and men of the Command made the pledge amidst appeals by the Muhammed Uba Garba, a former Comptroller of the Command , now redeployed to Seme Command in the recent shake up in the Service that affected 70 Comptrollers. Appealing to the officers to extend the same level of Cooperation given to him in his one year and two months at the helm of affairs at the Command, he said it is the only sure way to enable him to succeed in the Command anti-smuggling war.
The Customs Comptroller advised the officers to be open to their new boss, described as being” very transparent” to enjoy his support, . He was said to have told Mohammed, the FOU, Zone A, Comptroller that the standard of anti-smuggling operations at the Command had been raised very high and must not be allowed to go down. Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller , Nigeria Customs Service was said to have given the Command four commendation letters under Muhammed , the former Area Comptroller.
The Customs Comptroller who had mobilised his management team had welcome the FOU, Zone A, new Customs boss to the premises by showing him some of the seizures made by the Command on Friday, August 17, 2018. The seizures include a 738 kg of pangolin scales valued at about N158. 08 million, with a Duty Paid Value of , DPV, of N175.7 billion.
The pangolin seizure shown to him was said to be the fifth to be made by Sule Mutalib an Assistant Comptroller and head of the Command warehouse operation team between last year and now. Usman Jibrin, the minister of Environment, accompanied by Juan Carlous, Legal Adviser of the Geneva, Switzerland based Convention on International Trade on endangered Species , CITES, of wild flora, was said to have been impressed with the pangolin seizures when he saw it at the Command warehouse last May . An elated Jibrin had urged the Customs Comptroller and his officers not to relent in smoking out the pangolin dealers because of its contravention of the CITES policy which prohibits the export of pangolin scales and elephant tusks.
As a prelude to his exit from the Command to Seme, his new base he had given commendation letters to four outstanding officers for their contribution to spectacular seizures in the Command. One of them was Muttalib, who was recognised for his pangolin scale and elephant tusks seizures with his team. Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and the Command head of Operations and Lagos Roving team was also given a commendation letter for his contribution to anti-smuggling operations in the Command, particular interception of such dangerous drugs as tramadol and Codein Cough syrups which had been banned by the Federal government from being imported into the country .
Officers who spoke to the Magazine disclosed that by singling out the four senior officers for commendation in the presence of the new Comptroller of the Command, would have warmed them into his heart and othersseen as not being hard working. They noted that giving Commendation letter to the four officers would polarise the Command and dampen the enthusiasm of the officers except Mohammed moves in fast to douse the tension created by it and reassure the officers of providing a level playing field for all the patrol and Surveillance teams including the Checkpoints officers to excel.
Eyewitness account disclosed that at the Command Board room, where Muhammed, the former Comptroller of the Command had handed over a prepared handover document to his successor, he had vacated his official Seat for him to take over the proceedings of the day.
He was said to have also handed over the Comptroller’s official ceremonial barrette to him and collected his own in return. The officers and Journalists who spoke had poured encomiums on the duo for their outstanding performance in their respective Commands. It would be recalled that Ali had visited the Command more than any other Customs Comptroller General to see for himself the spectacular seizures made, particular, exotic vehicles instead of waiting for reports on such seizures.
mohammed may have put a smile on the face of the officers when he vowed to defend those who do not compromise their position but do the right thing. ”I am simple but would not entertain gossips”, he had declared. This is a warning to sycophants to be careful .
He further said that though he would run an open office, any officer who do no not have any official matter to discuss with him have no basis coming to see him”. The former Seme Customs Comptroller also have a word of advice for his predecessor now at Seme Command: please don’t Compromise. Stand firm in your actions to earn your respect”.
Describing Seme as a smaller Command compared to FOU, Zone A, which jurisdiction covers the 16 Customs formation in the south west geo-political region, says it is mighty, as all eyes in the Abidjan corridor in the West African sub-region are on it as the busiest border in the region. This is because of the volume cargoes that pass through it yearly.
Perhaps, one project dear to Mohammed’s heart which he was said to have pleaded with Muhammed, his successor to show interest and complete was the perimeter fencing of the Customs land at Seme which had reached advanced stage of completion.
But those who knew the new Seme Customs Comptroller said there is nothing the kebbi state born Comptroller of FOU, Zone A, Command, would request from his colleague to do that would not done even at his own inconvenience because of their close relationship.
They are optimistic that Muhammed would complete the project as requested by his colleague. The duo were said to have retired to the Comptroller’s office for a close -door meeting after officially taking over from his predecessor.
As a prelude to the change of baton at FOU, Zone A, Mohammed , his successor, had handed over the reins of power to him at Seme Command on Thursday, August 16, 2018, under the full glare of other security agencies personnel at the land border. A police officer who spoke to the Magazine said if it was possible to stop his redeployment to FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, they could have done it because ,” he was very good”.
The Magazine learnt that there was an incident on the day of the handover at Seme Command over a dead body on the road which was brought to the attention of the former Comptroller but he tactfully shifted the case to his successor to take action on it. Muhammed was said to have declined to do so, ,insisting that since the former Comptroller was still around, he must not shift the responsibility to him. It could not be ascertained who eventually solved the problem.
Not bothered by such an ugly incident, the former anti-smuggling Czar of FOU, Zone A, has said to have sent a warning signals to smugglers in the Seme axis to turn a new leaf or be ready to face the wrath of the Law . He was said to have also warned importers with their agents who indulge in fraudulent activities with their Customs collaborators to shortchange the government to change or be exposed as the revenue target set for the Command must be met.
Many believe that one thing that could work in favour of the new Seme Customs boss was his understanding of French,an international language, spoken in Republic of Benin and other countries in in the sun-region. Moreso, he may not be treated as a new person to the country’s Ambassador to Republic of Benin, as the duo, both the former and the incumbent Comptroller , at the invitation of the Ambassador were at the Embassy last year to rub mind with him.
The close rapour between officials of the Seme Customs Command and officials of the Embassy speaks volume. This evident at a recent meeting chaired by the Ambasador at Cotonu, Capital of Republic of Benin. The Ambassador was said to have asked the former Seme Comptroller to stand in for him as chairman of the meeting when he stepped out. The Beninese officials at the meeting never protested as they followed the proceedings to the end . Maritime analysts see it as a good starting point for Muhammed, the new Seme Customs boss.