Residents Of Isasi Community Groan In Pains Over FOU Officers Surprise Invasion

By Stephen Ubanna

Residents of  Isasi Community located within the Iyana Isasi axis, along the Lagos  Badagry Expressway, appears to be living  in fear that  themember of the Operations and Lagos Roving team  of the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja  headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, may  invade the area at  any time because of the rumour making the rounds that waterways rice smugglers are living in their midst .

The fear became more pronounced  late last May when information leaked out that much of the foreign parboiled rice sold  in the Lagos market  and its environs  were smuggled through Isasi Community waterside  by smugglers  using locally made boats .

Sources confirmed that there is hardly a week one or two local boats loaded with foreign parboiled rice from Republic of Benin could  not berth to  discharge its load at at the Isasi waterside   and evacuated with smaller vehicles to a warehouse within the Community.

Investigation by the Magazine shows  that  Commercial bus  drivers plying the Mile 2 and Iyana Oba route who may have  discovered the big rice market in the area deliberately maneuver  their way to pass  through the Community and burst out tat the Iyana Isasi bus stop along the Lagos -Badagry Expressway to continue their journey to Mile2, the last bus stop.

The Magazine boarded one of the buses   from Iyana Oba which passed through the area recently and found  scores of wheel barrow  pushers carrying  50 kg bags of foreign parboiled rice to designated  shops  Customer within the area or or the bus stop and loaded neatly  into buses going to different parts of Lagos. A passenger  remarked that there is no dull moment in the Community as there are always businesses to do ranging from being informansts to smugglers about the movement of Customs personnel in the area , internal security,  carrying of bags of rice in wheel barrows  to evacuating smuggled rice loaded  in berthed boats from the waterside.

Many believe that the  waterways smugglers may have resorted to the use of the Isasi waterside and other  less busy ones because Yekeme Creek,  Choki Creek, Ijofins Creek, Aseke Creek market waterside, Badagry waterside, Alaba market waterside, Zamare waterfront, Ere waterways,Wekan axis to Idiroko waterfront which  spread across the south west geo-political region were well known to Sarki-Kebbi, the Comptroller Western Marine Command, WMC, and his patrol team officers.

The inability of the Customs Amphibious  Command   to effectively police the Lagos and Ogun waterways in  particular , and the southwest in general,  may have provided ammunition  for   Muhammed Uba Garba led FOU, Zone A, Operations and Lagos Roving  team to fully step in to checkmate the activities of the  smugglers in Lagos and Ogun states in the recent time. The  Customs Command Operations and Lagos Roving team which may have effectively taken full control of the land border areas and the major roads , including the major bush paths used by  thesmugglers in the region may have forced  rice smugglers in the region to abandon moving their smuggled goods from the French speaking country of Republic of Benin  through the road or bush paths but to the Creek market watersides spread across the region.

As a prelude to the recent  Isasi waterside  operation in Lagos, Riks and his team members were said to have laid  ambush in the area for  about eight days. He was said to have entered Isasi Community waterside on the zero hour on Monday, June 25, 2018 when he got signal from the informants that the coast was clear to strike. He may have led the team on the operation, because of the notoriety of the youths of the area who were said to be on the pay roll of the smugglers in order to give them protection from intruders.

Maritime observers who had been following FOU, Zone A, operations in the recent time disclosed  that the Isasi operation was not much different from the previous Ere waterside market operation in Ado Od Otta local government Area of Ogun state where  thesmugglers were dispossessed of thousands of ”50” kg bags of foreign parboiled  rice by the  Ricks led  team when he was in the state as the FOU, Zone A, officer in-charge of  the Idiroko axis.

An eye witness account disclosed  that the Customs operation team had arrived at the nick of time  at the Isasi Community  waterside where the five locally paddled  boats  carrying a total of 815  bags of  50kg Thailand  parboiled rice and other Contrabandgoods  had discharged, in readiness to pushed it into the Nigeria market.


Customs Seized Boats Loaded With Rice

John Chukwu, a trader and resident of the Community  who witnessed the Customs operation told the Magazine that it was a good thing that the youths of the area did  not block the road against the  Customs team from leaving with their impounded rice as it could have been very bloody.  Chukwu  confirmed that the fierce looking officers  who were armed to the teeth were waiting for orders from Riks , their leader, to clear the  road if there is any blockade or resistance from the smugglers. But the  team leader was operating with caution. This is because of the standing order from the Comptroller to avoid shedding of blood no matter the provocation from the people.

The Isasi resident confirmed that the Customs team had evacuated the smuggled rice from the   Community waterside  site, and took over control of the  five alleged boats  carrying the foreign parboiled smuggled rice without any exchange of bullets with the smugglers. A visibly shaken Chukwu said he lost control when he heard the sound of an AK 47  gun shot into the air by the Customs personnel to scare away people  who might want to foment trouble  from the area.

Advising other Customs patrol teams  across the country to take a cue from  Riks, who led the team that made the rice seizures at Isasi Community and successfully transferred the items to the Command warehouse at  Ikeja without resistance, noting  that it  is the only way that Customs personnel could earn their respect from the public.

It would be recalled  that between Thursday, June 7,  and Saturday, June 9, 2018, Riks  on the instructions of Muhammed, the Area Comptroller  had also led a team which impounded two barges loaded with about 800 bags of  50kg Thailand parboiled rice from Republic of Benin  at Oyigbo waterside, Lagos Mainland Local government Area.

The smugglers were said to be heading to a Creek in Ondo state to discharge the items where scores of customers from different parts of the state and Edo, were said to be anxiously waiting  for  them.

The Oyigbo operation may have convinced  Muhammed, the Comptroller of the FOU, Zone A, Command to be on the look -out for  more of such cases of discharging of smuggled rice at  a waterside market  within Lagos and Ogun states.

Maritime analysts believe that the Sarki-Kebbi led Western Marine Command may  not have   cliped the wings of smugglers using the waterways within its area of jurisdiction  because of  lack of functional Crafts to patrol the Creeks. A visitor to the Command  would be surprised at the number of broken down Crafts  at the premises waterside, begging to be repaired.

It was learnt that Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, had made several promises of re-equipping the Command and the Port Harcourt based Eastern marine Command with functional crafts but that  was how far he could go. There are fears in Customs circles that Ali may not  be able to fulfill his promises to the two Amphibious Commands  before his removal  from office  because of his involvement in President Muhammadu Buhari Campaign Organisation.

He was said to have  been appointed a Director in the Buhari Campaign Organisation which may give him little or no time to attend to Customs official matters. This may have left  the officials of the FOU, Zone A, with much job to do to assist the Western Marine Command in policing the watersides in Lagos and other parts of the south west geo-political region, which had yielded results in the recent time with the seizures made by the Command.

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