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Low morale hit Customs as contrabands floods South West 

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Abiola Seun   |

 

Smugglers in Ogun and Lagos have flooded the various markets in the states with smuggled foreign parboiled rice, poultry products, groundnut oil and foreign used vehicles, investigation has shown.

 

This is as a result of the #EndSARS protest that was embarked upon by Nigerians campaigning against police brutality but was later hijacked by hoodlums who were destroying government properties and vandalising government warehouses.

 

However, in Ogun and Lagos, hoodlums took the opportunity of the protest to attack Customs checkpoints,killing a Customs officer, Solomon Alagye and injured several others in the states

 

In a statement by the Ogun Command’s Public Relations Officer, Hammed Oloyede, he said, “On Tuesday, October 20, 2020 at about 9am, some hoodlums in their large numbers armed with guns, machetes, axes, charms and other dangerous weapons, attacked a Customs patrol base at Oke Ore, Yewa South Local Government Area of Ogun State”

 

Oloyede said the hoodlums shot at the Customs personnel, leading to the death of an Assistant Inspector of Customs, Solomon Alagye on the spot, while another officer who he said sustained gunshot injuries was responding to treatment at the 192 Brigade Military Hospital Owode.

 

But, weeks after the attack, officers are yet to return to their respective checkpoints both in Lagos and Ogun ,making smugglers move smuggled goods around un-hindered.

 

The joint border drill operatives also stationed at Convenant university, along Sango- Idiroko road, Ota are yet to return weeks after hoodlums attack officers stationed at that point.

 

Also, checkpoints from Owode inward Idiroko has reduced from what it used to be before the protest,making the Ogun State border porus for smugglers to penetrate.

 

For instance, smugglers are seen moving smuggled poultry, rice and vegetable oil heading to various markets in Ogun state and its environs. Our correspondent counted seven vehicles fully loaded with smuggled poultry products along Idiroko road at about 8:00am on Friday, 30th October 2020.

 

The same products were smuggled on Saturday, 31st October, 2020 at about 10:00am with no resistance from the joint border operatives, Ogun Customs operatives or Strike Force unit, Zone A.

 

However, visits to markets by our correspondent had shown that prices of foreign parboiled rice, poultry products and vegetable oil has reduced drastically in Lagos and Ogun.

 

At Owode market, along Idiroko border road, foreign rice that hiterto sells for N26,000/ bag now sells between N14,000 – N16,000 while Atan market sells for N18,000.

 

At Sango, a bag of rice sells for 20,000 while at Iyana ipaja market, the price has gone down from N32,000 from N22,000.

 

Also, carton of poultry product (chicken Orobo) have gone down drastically. A carton which use to sell for N14,000 now sells for N12000 at Owode. At Sango, it sells for N13,000 before the protest and it now sells for N10,000.

 

At Iyana Ipaja market, a carton of frozen poultry product that goes for N16,000 now goes for N14,000 while at popular Ile-Epo market, Oko Oba, Agege, frozen chicken that use to sell for N17,000 now sells for N15,000.

 

However, the crash in price was as a result in massive smuggling through the unmanned Lagos and Ogun borders after the #EndSARS protest especially at checkpoints where Customs officers were attacked.

 

Speaking, a customs source at the idiroko border command of the Nigeria Customs Service said the morale of officers is presently on the low due to the attack on their checkpoints and formations in Ogun and Lagos states by hoodlums campaigning against police brutality.

 

According to him, if not for the steadfastness of the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone A, Ikeja, smugglers would have overrun the South West,especially Ogun and Lagos with contraband.

 

The officer who craved for anonymity because he’s not authorised to speak to the press said, ” after the attack, the morale of Customs officers manning the borders came down especially that of Ogun and Lagos commands.”

 

He continued, “You can see the paltry seizure made by the Seme border command last week. That is not what Seme command is known for in terms of anti-smuggling but need for face saving was reason why they made that seizure available.”

 

“You can imagine the command celebrating seizure of seven units of Tokunbo vehicles, six unit of Vegetable oil. We need morale boosters for field officers to keep up the anti-smuggling fight in the Lagos and Ogun Command because that is the two busiest borders in Nigeria.”

 

He however suggested, “There should be consequences for any smugglers that kill Customs officer(s) .The rate at which smugglers attack Customs officers without any consequence is another concern for us. What happened to those who kill one of our officers At Abeokuta? What happened to those who attacked and killed our officers during the #EndSARS protest at Oke-Ore? If unresolved killings of our officers continue, who will run after smugglers?,” he asked rhetorically.

 

Recall that the Seme Command of the service said it intercepted a paltry seven fairly-used vehicles, 396 bags of imported rice and 152 jerry cans of petrol during the #EndSARS protest.

 

The Command’s Spokesman, Abdullahi Hussaini in a statement said the seizures were made within two weeks of the protest.

 

When contacted, the National Public Relations Officer of the service, Joseph Attah sad the patrol base was merged for officers to repel hoodlums attacks

 

He however said the Comptroller General of the service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd) have assured officers of utmost support the more they are on legitimate duty.

 

His words, “We have to merge patrol base together ho have good numbers and a lot is being done to motivate our officers. The CG has equally sent messages out to all officers telling them he is behind them as far as they are on legitimate duty. Also motivation of officers is everyone’s responsibility. CGC has assured them of his full support in discharging their duty, opinion moulders, religious leaders, media, traditional rulers should support and preach to Nigerians to stop destruction of government and private properties”

 

Attah continued, “Destruction of properties of security agencies, government infrastructure is not the way to go because the money for developmental projects will be used to repair destroyed properties”

 

“Attack on security agencies shouldn’t be encouraged if we haven’t made peace with criminals but, Customs are on duty discharging their functions,” he said.

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