By Stephen Ubanna
It was unexpected that Hadiza Jumai Ali, a 53 year-old wife of Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel, and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, will die on Monday , October 29, 2019. This is because there had never been any rumor from the rumor mills that she was sick and thus, receiving treatment in any of the known Hospital at Abuja.
Ali, the Customs Comptroller General , was said to have been going about his official duties without worry of having a sick wife to attend to at home or in the hospital, fueling speculations that all was well with him. Unknown to many the Customs Comptroller General was undergoing pains but had refused to allow it show on his face or his work.
It would be recalled that on Monday October 21, 2018, he was at the Seme border as one of the advance team of President Muhammadu Buhari, for the official handing over Ceremony of the European Union Commission, EUC, multi-million naira built Seme-Krake joint border between Nigeria and Republic of Benin.
Prior to the handing over Ceremony on Tuesday, October 22, 2018, he was said to have held a close-door meeting with some of his Area Comptrollers in the south west. Officers who saw the Comptroller General at Muhammed Uba Garba, the Seme Command Comptroller’s official residence said he was calm and talking sparingly. His usual jokes with journalists was missing.
He was said to have been escorted to the Ikeja airport by Adamu Aliyu Mohammed, Comptroller Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, to aboard the next available flight to Abuja to join his family on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. Insiders told the Magazine that he may have rushed back to Abuja to attend to Hadiza, his sick wife. She was said to have been suffering an undisclosed sickness for years. The source was told that Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, had taken her to different hospitals both within and outside the country for diagnosis and treatment but that was how far he could go.
Barely two weeks after Buhari and Patrice Talon, his counterpart in Republic of Benin, performed the official handing over Ceremony of the Seme-Krake joint Border, Hadiza, who had been with him in his trying years of his military Career and who served as a one- time Kaduna state First Lady, when Ali was the state military Administrator between 1996 and 1998, died on Monday, October 29, 2018. The death of the 53 year -old Hadiza, may have thrown the Customs Headquarters into total confusion as officers who knew about her sickness but kept it a closely guarded secret were forced to relocate to Ali’s residence .
Customs sources told the Magazine that when the information about her death was finally confirmed, the Customs Headquarters was locked down for operations on Monday, October 29, 2018. Her death threw the officers and men at the Zonal and Area Commands into mourning. This is evident going by the way most of the officers holding key positions in the Zonal and Area Commands, abandoned the treatment of important clearing documents on their tables to board the next available flight on Tuesday, October 30, 2018 Abuja to join their Colleagues at Ali’s residence in mourning the late Hadiza. . Most of the ineffective Area Comptrollers, who never had any opportunity of facing the Customs Comptroller General , saw the death of Hadiza, as opportunity to see him face to face. Some Deputy and Assistant Comptrollers, who were at Abuja, from the Zonal and Area Commands who were at Ali’s residence to give late Hadiza a befitting burial , according to a source, were busy parading themselves to be seen by the bereaved and Mohammed Buhari, a Brigadier General and his Principal Staff Officer, PSO.” It was a parade of sycophants”, an officer remarked. Unknown to them, Ali and Buhari, the Brigadier General may not have bothered themselves about the officers that show up at the family house or the burial ground because of their military background .
The death of Hadiza, according to Joseph Attah , a Deputy Comptroller and the Customs National public Relations Officer was a ”big loss to Ali and the family. Hadiza, had been a major pillar in the Customs Comptroller General implementation of the Presidential mandate for the reform , restructure and improving the revenue generation of the Services over the last three years. Given her alleged support, Ali was said to have taken the Customs anti-smuggling war to a new dimensions as trucks load of foreign parboiled rice and exotic vehicles had continued to be seized by the officers, particular, officers of the Operations and Lagos Roving team headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, of FOU, Zone A, and the Strike Force team in Lagos.
A visitor to Idiroko, Ogun state, between last Monday and Tuesday, would be surprised that the officers at the various Customs Checkpoints along the Sango-Otta -Idiroko road decided to put in their best to stop rice smugglers as a way of paying their last respect to Hadiza, the late Comptroller General’s wife. The officers , armed with long walking sticks , like traditional herdsmen , were said to be using the sticks, as weapons to stop suspected vehicles instead of using their AK 47 to avoid accidental discharge. There was a confirmed incident where a tipper driver was said to have loaded scores of 50Kg bags of rice on the tipper but us white sand to cover it to give the impression that the tipper hired to deliver the sand to a Customer at Otta. Acting on information , the tipper was said to have been intercepted and transferred and to the warehouse at Idiroko where the foreign parboiled rice was discovered. The officers were said to have also made one or two pickups load of scores of 50kg bags of rice on Tuesday, which were transferred to the Idiroko Customs warehouse.
The Magazine learnt that the only time officers along the Sango -Otta -Idiroko road had made such spectacular seizures of rice, was when information filters out that Agbara Ojobo Michael, Comptroller ,Ogun Command , would be visiting Idiroko.
There are over 83 illegal routes used by smugglers of foreign parboiled rice and exotic vehicles in Ogun State , alone. Most of the unrepentant smugglers, within the Seme and Owode axis, were said to have relocated to Ogun to take advantage of the numerous illegal routes in the state to smuggle. Their case was said to have been made worse at Seme axis, by Muhammed, the former anti-smuggling Czar of FOU, Zone A, and now the Comptroller of Seme Command, who had tightened up the noose against the smugglers that they have no escape route. This is because there is only one long stretch route , that is the Lagos- Seme route or the Creeks that could be used to smuggle Contrabands into the Nigeria markets.