BY YUSUF BABALOLA, Lagos
Smugglers have flooded markets in Ogun and Lagos States with smuggled foreign parboiled rice, poultry products, groundnut oil and foreign used vehicles, LEADERSHIP investigation has revealed.
This is not unconnected to #EndSARS protest that was embarked upon by Nigerians youths campaigning against police brutality but was later hijacked by hoodlums who destroyed government properties and vandalised government warehouse across the country.
However, in Ogun and Lagos, hoodlums used the opportunity of the protest to attack Customs checkpoints killing a Custom officer, Solomon Alagye and injured several others, a development that was officially confirmed by the Ogun Command’s public relations officer, Hammed Oloyede,
But, weeks after the attack, officers are yet to return to their respective checkpoints both in Lagos and Ogun States, for fear that they might be attacked, even, as they currently suffering low morale as a result of the incident in the last two weeks.
To this end, smugglers move smuggled goods around un-hindered.
LEADERSHIP checks revealed that the joint border drill operatives also stationed at Covenant 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 have 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 7 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 showed that prices of foreign parboiled rice, poultry products and vegetable oil have reduced drastically in Lagos and Ogun States as a result of the smuggled activities in the last two weeks.
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 N20,000 while at Iyana ipaja market, the price has gone down from N32,000 to N22,000.
Also, carton of poultry product (chicken Orobo) have gone down drastically. A carton which used 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 of the 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 formation 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 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 7 units Tokunbo vehicles, 6 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 that, “there should be consequences for any smugglers that kill Customs officer (s). The rate at which smugglers attack Customs officer 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 attack 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 to LEADERSHIP 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.
“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 then 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.
“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 told LEADERSHIP.