Huricane Jack, Forces Lagos Socialites Off The Road

By Stephen Ubanna

Barely three days after  Okpabi Jack, a Chief Superintendent  and  officer in-charge  of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Roving team, Ikeja, was given an award and a” Certificate of Merit ”to authenticate  it  by Hammed Ali, a retired Colonel   and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, at  the last International Customs Day Celebration  at the Customs  Training College, Gwagwalada,  the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, he  led an operation that  intercepted two  executive  Rolss  Royce from a Lagos socialite  currently being detained in the  Command on the orders of the Comptroller, Mohammed  Uba Garba  over alleged   underpayment.

The interception of the two executive Rolss  Royce from the Lagos socialite in information acting on information  was to prove to critics  that he knows how to go about his enforcement job and that he hits at target without missing.  Three days after invading the home of the Lagos  socialite which resulted in the  evacuation of the two executive Rolss Royce from the place, it was the turn of another Lagos  socialite, one  OluOkewo, a real Estate Valier , living in one of the posh homes, at Parkview estate,  Ikoyi. Jack and his team were said to have evacuated some expensive vehicles including a Rolss  Royce valued at about N2 billion.

It was learnt that the Customs  award winner, described as a rugged and dogged officer  by  Colleagues had acted on  information  that the multi-million naira vehicles parked in the Lagos socialite home were brought into the country without payment of the appropriate Customs duty.

Prior to the recent invasion of these Lagos socialite homes over alleged importation and use of assorted vehicles without payment of the appropriate duties, he  had led  the team to evacuate three Rose Royce vehicles from the home of three Lagos socialites  in Ijebu ode,  Ogun state and Lagos respectively.  The cost of one of the vehicles was put at N160 million. while the least cost about  N100 million.

Working on the instructions of Garba, the Comptroller, he had not spared the Car dealers  who are feeling the heat .  he was said to have led an operation that evacuated 37 assorted vehicles  smuggled into the country through unapproved  routes and parked at a location around the Badagry axis. The vehicles , according to the Comptroller had a Duty Paid Value of  about N1.4 billion.  This is in addition to the seizure 27  other vehicles smuggled  through unapproved routes  in Ogun. The 27  vehicles alone, according  to  a source  had DPV of about N228.21 million.

Impounded Assorted Vehicles By The Lagos Roving Team
Impounded Assorted Vehicles By The Lagos Roving Team

He was said to have led an operation that evacuated 51 assorted vehicles  including four bullet proof   from a hidden warehouse in IKoyi, Lagos state worth billions of naira. There had been several other  assorted vehicle seizures that had been linked to the Customs award winner and his men.  One of such operations was  the evacuation of 51 assorted vehicles from a hidden location in Omole Estate , Ikeja. The  evacuation of the vehicles  to the Command and parked at the Customs Training School,  also at Ikeja, may have attracted the attention of Ali, the Comptroller General, to the school to see the seizures made by his boys at FOU, Zone A. The visit , according to an insider was at the invitation of  Garba, the Command Comptroller to sell Jack and his team to  the Customs  boss over their good deeds. The Comptroller General, may have left with the impression that  Jack is a ”hard working  enforcement officer  who knows his onions.

Many believe that what Jack and his men  had done so far to evacuate the   assorted vehicles from the Lagos socialites  home or  car mart  was not unexpected. This is because the Customs and  Excise Management Act , CEMA, Cap , 2004, gave  Customs the mandate to invade any home suspected of keeping offensive goods   without payment of appropriate  duty.

It is not surprising why Jack and his men  could walk into any  suspected socialite home in any part of Lagos  state  and evacuate vehicles of choice without looking back.

Jack and his men may have been succeeding in carrying out their  raids in suspected  Lagos socialites home but not without temptation.  This is evident  by an attempt by one of the Lagos  socialites whose home was raided by the Jack -led team to evacuate suspected two assorted vehicles allegedly   parked in his  home without payment of  appropriate  duty.

Aware of the  fact that the bubble had burst and there is no hiding place anymore , the Lagos  socialite was said to have reached out to his contacts in the Department of State Security, DSS, office in Lagos asking the security operatives to be with him in the house without any reason. He may have invited the DSS personnel to witness  how he would wriggle out of the Customs trouble with his money. He was said to have  tried to rope Jack in with a S20, 000  kickback. He got it wrong.

Angered by the  action of the Lagos  socialite,  the FOU, Zone A, Roving team leader who looked ”rugged and unsmiling”, was said to have ordered his ”boys” who were armed too the teeth to handcuff the Lagos socialite, whose name was still shrouded in secrecy and take him the Command to be detained until the Comptroller gives the final directive on him.

Insiders told the Magazine that the DSS personnel who were at the scene of the action were dumb founded. When they realised that the  Customs personnel were serious to evacuate the two executive Rose Royce  found in the Lagos Socialite Compound without listing to his plea to leave out one for him, resorted to plead  for the removal of the handcuff from his  hand and save him from the embarrassment of being detained in the Command.

It was learnt that when the DSS operatives  succeeded in getting the Customs personnel to remove the handcuff from his  hand he laughed , stating that these are ” special Customs officers, who could refuse his mouth watery bribe”.Jack and his  boys may have put fear on other Lagos socialites  parking fleet of different models of executive Rose Royce and other assorted vehicles in their homes without payment of appropriate  Customs duty  as many of them had gone underground.

The Ikoyi and the Ikeja Country Clubs where high profile business deals were struck by members    are witnessing low activities . This  is because  most of the Lagos  socialites are keeping away from the clubs for fear that  Jack and his men are trailing them. The situation is so bad that most of them were said to have  put their homes under lock and key  and relocated abroad  to avoid  running into Jack’s trouble.

While  Jack and his boys are giving the Logos  Socialites  a  cause to worry, terminal operators, importers with their agents at the seaports, airport and Land border stations are also feeling the heat of the Garba trained officers. The team had turned the Customs warehouse and the Mechanical Workshop turned Warehouse into ”FOU Containers  terminals”. Some of the block stacked”20” Containers, loaded  with offensive  goods including woods  deposited in the warehouse had been overgrown by weeds. There is no sign that the importers are likely to get the Containers back as the goods  loaded in the Containers might have spoilt.

In spite of the fact that there were many unclaimed Containers at the Command warehouses  where  the Jack-led Roving team had deposited the intercepted Containers both ”20” and ”40”,  the team had continued to make more interceptions giving Assistant Comptroller much job to do  in keeping the records.

A source confirmed that there was hardly a week that the Jack-led team could not  deposit  five to 10 intercepted Containers exited from the seaports or any of the terminals in Lagos at the road leading to the  training School, waiting for the final directive from the Comptroller whether should be taken into the Warehouse for examination.  The activities of the team, the source said had kept Garba, the Area Comptroller  busier  than ever as aggrieved  Lagos Socialites or agents whose clients’ Containers had fallen into the waiting hand of the team  had turned  the Command to their office to find a way of reaching out to the Comptroller.

Agents who do not clout to stand before the Comptroller to argue their case were said to have engaged the services of some influential agents  and terminal Operators  to present their case before the Comptroller to facilitate the release of their intercepted goods. The worry of many of them was that the Comptroller had made it clear to those that care to listen that he does not ”need any gratification from any person” and Jack had queued into it.

Perhaps, to give a bite  to operations of the Lagos Roving team, Garba, it was gathered had collapsed other anti-smuggling patrol teams operating in the Lagos  and Ogun axis into the Jack led team for better Coordination and results.

Many believe that the Comptroller  may have restructured the operational network of the Command  and placed it under Jack, who had excelled as an enforcement officer that could be entrusted with greater responsibility  and still deliver.  The Comptroller had described the seizures made  by the team as the ”gains of the  Command anti-smuggling war”.

Jack, a source said  may have carved a niche for himself  at  Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C, Owerri, Imo  state, where he led various patrol teams to make spectacular  seizures of offensive smuggled goods and suspected Containers exited from the ports.

His Colleagues at Owerri who knew his stuff in anti-smuggling operations had expected Garba, who was  his former Comptroller at the  at the Zone C, to allow him Head his operational team if he wants results. But  he ended being made the Officer In-charge of Examination at the Command. He supervised the examination of the suspected intercepted Containers  deposited in Customs Warehouse.  It was a good experience for him as suspected Containers were opened and examined in the full glare of officers from other Units and recommendation made to the Management. It was gathered that he was instrumental to the seizure of many Containers  despite overtures by  the agents of the  import to force act against their Conscience and recommend for the release of their cargoes.

He got his second call for service in the Command to Head the patrol team at Lusada, a notorious  border Community in Ogun State between Nigeria and Republic of Benin used by smugglers in smuggling offensive goods into the country.  Not many expected him to perform having lost touch in running after smugglers for months as he was kept in the office to oversee  the examination of intercepted Containers deposited at the Customs warehouse.

He proved bookmaker wrong by mobilizing his team to give  the smugglers in the area a battle of their lives  forcing many of them  to go underground.   The team was said to have made spectacular seizures of bags of parboiled  foreign rice, vegetable oil , second hand clothing and vehicles.  The situation was so bad for the Lusada  based smugglers that no one dare coming into confrontation with his me because of his no nonsense looks.

Given his outstanding performance at the Lusada border Community, Garba, the Comptroller was said to have made him  the Officer In-charge of  Ijebu Ode Checkpoint     He may have proved his worth by covering up the lapses of the patrol and Lagos Roving teams as  offensive smuggled goods or suspected  Containers which escaped their eagle eyes were intercepted  at his Check point and taken quickly to the Command Warehouse to avoid giving room to the suspects to ask for lenience and release of their cargoes.

The Comptroller may have taken note  of his superlative performance at the Ijebu- Ode Check that he waited for an opportunity to come to draft him to Head the  Lagos Roving team

The opportunity came with the deployment of Kerewa Abdullahi, an Assistant Comptroller,  to FOU, Zone B, Kaduna. He sent a signal to the fraudulent importers that  it is no longer going to business as usual as all  suspected  intercepted on the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway , or offensive goods  were taken to the Command as all pleas by agents who cleared it were turned down. intercepted at the airport including Truck ladden goods from the land border areas were taken to the Command .

He was said to have avoided coming into close contacts with agents or terminal operators to avoid  being Compromised. Ashghi, the then Deputy Comptroller  in-charge of Enforcement  at the Command may have taken advantage of his frosty relationship with agents  to have  a good working relationship with them as his office  was always very busy  as agents, terminal Operators troop in  and out to perfect their documents to facilitate the release of their cargos.

In September alone,  the Jack led team was said to have  intercepted  14 Containers. The various Container interceptions and impounded vehicles by the Jack led team may have given the Comptroller the  great joy  to always address the media for much of last  year over the Command’s  Customised seizures. He will  always begin his briefing :  He had  disclosed  to  the Media  at the October briefing  that  the   fourteen Container intercepted by the Command operational personnel for False Declaration and Customs breech of Law were  promptly seized. the  DPV of the 14 Containers loaded with various items  was put at about N105 million. It was an inception and seizure too many.

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