Strike Force: Operation Strike And Go

By Stephen Ubanna

Worried by the negative  reports about the one year-old former Compliance team personnel   along the nation’s border routes  and the seaports seen as hindering trade facilitation, Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and  Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, appears to have bowed to pressure to disband  the   team.

He  was said to have replaced it with a” Strike Force, SF”, which Joseph Attah. a Deputy Cmptroller and Customs Image maker said has the mandate to ”check  the activities of Customs officers at the seaports and land Land  border stations.

Attah further said that the Strike Force, which is headed by one Deputy Comptroller Abubakar  has the mandate of the Comptroller General  to” enter into any Command  system on suspicion  of fraudulent activities taking place or about  to take  place  with a view to blocking  all revenue leakages from the system”.

Being a watch dog to the Commands,  it is also expected  to ensure that  all unutilised  Pre-Arrival Assessment  Report, PAAR, bill of lading, and Air way bills were accounted for.  This is in addition to  monitoring the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Trade Liberalisation Scheme,  ETLS, in order to checkmate capital flight and  PAAR Merchandise.

Hameed Ali: CG, Customs

Ali was said to have adequately mobilized a Task Force on the three months Special Assignment which covers their hotel  accommodation, feeding and logistics late last year  to the former Compliance team Zonal team Zonal offices in Lagos, Kaduna, Bauchi,  and Port Harcourt ,to ensure that they would  not be influenced by suspected agents to do their work.

Abubakar, the team was said to have operated from the Customs  Headquarters, Abuja  while four  Assistant Comptrollers sent to the Zones used the former Compliance team  offices as their operational base.

The Comptroller General Investigation team  may have had their own idea of what Comptroller Anzarema .A.A.  led disbanded Compliance  team ought to have done within the period of operation to remain relevant instead of  competing with the resident officers and the Federal Operations Unit , FOU Operatives  to erect check points  along the border routes and on the major high ways across the country.

if  the team had its way, it could have withdrawn the Compliance team  operational vehicles from the road and border routes to their  operational bases in the various regions.It was an indictment on the Comptroller Anzarema for having failed to curtail the excesses of his boys and ensure they do the right thing instead  of erecting Checkpoints at the border routes and highways for their own selfish interest. Their operational vehicles were found every now and then along the Oshodi-Apapa Express Way and land border  routes competing with FOU, personnel to intercept offensive goods.

The team  may have won the heart of the  Comptroller General was he said to have  agreed with them that the Compliance team had failed  and the need to scrap it and introduce another forceful team that could  do their job.

Indeed, Ali, the Comptroller General may have been encouraged  to disband the former Compliance team because of the embarrassments which it had caused the Service across the country with the use of fire arms in which bullets fired at a fleeing smugglers had hit at innocent Nigerians.

One of such embarrassments  caused  the Customs by the team was the recent encounter  with  smugglers around the sango Otta environ in which   straight bullet  had  allegedly hit a nine month-old pregnant woman  going to work . The intervention of Mohammed Uba Garba,  Comptroller , FOU, Zone  A, Ikeja, was said to have saved the situation from escalating as the youths were poised for action against Customs operatives on the road.

This may have encouraged him to  replaced  the Compliance team with a” Strike Force”, code named Headquarters Strike Force. The Comptroller General , according to sources did not need to start looking for tested officers who would work with the Comptroller that would head the Strike Force.

Impressed with the report of the group on the activities of the Compliance team , he was said to have given  the Deputy Comptroller who headed the  Investigation team and the Assistant Comptrollers and the officers  sent to the Zonal offices of the former Compliance team  to form  the nucleus of the strike Force. The Assistant Comptrollers headed the Zonal offices.

 

A visitor to the operational base of the Strike Force base at the Customs Training College , Ikeja, would see the branded operational vehicles  of the former Compliance team litter the environment. Also , the assorted vehicles detained by the team  were said to have been taken to the Customs Warehouse to allow the Strike Force start on a clean slate.

Given that the Customs Strike Force was not established to Compete  with Garba’s men in the ant-smuggling war, Ali was said to have made the Customs  Information Communication Technology, ICT,  Ruling Center at the Zonal office, Harvey road and Wharf  road Apapa,  effective . The essence of the Ruling centers   are to monitor  cargoes released  from the seaport to ensure that they comply to the government fiscal policy and pass the information to  the group about Containers that did not comply with the government fiscal policy. The Strike Force, Attah, the Customs Image maker had said will” treat the information as a closely guided secret and return to its base”.

This is because the strike Force personnel are not expected to be found on the road or on the streets of Lagos  or any state capital in the south west  chasing  importers with their agents  who had taken deliveries of their Containerized cargoes  or truck laden  goods which had contravened  the government fiscal  policy.

Given the mandate of the Headquarters Strike Force,  the Assistant Comptroller in-charge of the Lagos Zonal office and his  men were said to  had confined themselves to it by striking at targets based on credible intelligence. This is evident going by the number of Containers detained  and warehouses raided and sealed within one week of operation in  Lagos alone.

The ICT Ruling  center  at Wharf  road was said to have supplied the Strike Force with  documents  of Containerized  cargoes allegedly released from the port which  contravened the government fiscal policy.  It was the first major  assignment by the Assistant Comptroller and his men.

He was said to have closely  guided the secret and devised operational plans  on how to get the Containers. He was said to have deployed his men to go after the  released Containers and at their various locations and arrest them . The officers, armed to the teeth were said to have filed out with their operational vehicles , guided by the address  given to them to where  some of the suspected Containers were stored.  On Thursday, February 8, 2018, one of the groups were said to have reported to the Commandant of the arrest of  six , out of the eight of the  alleged Containers allegedly released from the seaport.

A source told the Magazine that the Commandant who was not satisfied  that the team sent out could not get the remaining two Containers was said to have ordered them to ensure they get the two remaining Containers  because they have the support document to guide them. The name of the officer that was said to have been suggested to the Commandant  to be used to track the two other Containers that had developed wings  was already the one on the trail of the allegedly released Containers. The south west Customs Strike Force boss was said to had insisted that the officers must get the remaining  two  other Containers to the Training College for 100 physical examination. He was said to have assured the agents whose clients Containers  have been detained in the Command not to worry as it would be released  if it had complied to the  fiscal policy. Also it was learnt had made hundreds of seizure of bags of rice from Lagos and Ogun states.

The good news is that the Assistant Comptroller in-charge of  the  Strike Force in the south west has powers to release detained cargoes after examination  and found to have complied with the government extant fiscal policies without  waiting to get approval from the Headquarters. Some  importers to do so. It also has the power to seize the Container allegedly found wanting.

The activities of the Headquarters  Strike Force may have forced the FOU, Zone  A, Roving  team,  headed by Jack Okpabi,  a Chief Superintendent of Customs,  to review  the team operational modalities to ensure  that it sustain its tempo of interception of Containers allegedly released from the port  which had contravened the government fiscal policies.

The Jack led Roving Team observers said,  may still have an edge over  the Headquarters Strike Force, no matter the support from the  Wharf road ICT  Ruling center because  the Command has informants  both within and outside the seaports in Lagos.

Garba, the Comptroller of the Command  was said  also said to be using his contacts to pass  credible intelligence  on cargoes released from the port which had contravened the  country’s fiscal policies to one Yahaya, the Deputy Comptroller, Enforcement , who in turn  passes the information to  Jack  to work on. The result had been marvelous , as the team had continued to intercept and transfer suspected Containers to the Command on alleged wrong classification, false declaration, transfer of value, and  under payment  of duty.

Not satisfied being in the office to issue orders to his boys, Jack was said to have been involved in some of the operations where suspected Containers released from the port  had been  intercepted   along the Osodi-Apapa Express way  and transferred to the Command  and proper profiling. for 100 percent Examination and proper profiling.

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