By Timothy Paul Okorocha
One appointment, very crucial, made by the Comptroller-/general of the Customs, Col Hameed Ali (OFR (rtd) is the redeployment of Kayode Rasheed Kolade, a Deputy Comptroller as the latest Sheriff in anti-smuggling operation. A man of little words, but a crack officer who knows his onions and has assisted greatly towards giving the Service a sparkling Image. He has been around, on sensitive functions and he tacitly has delivered on all scores in line with the mandate of the Service.
The Federal Operations Unit in the East, otherwise known as Zone ‘C’ has paraded very disciplined, and resourceful gentlemen who have lifted the anti-smuggling activities of the Service to a climax, that they have helped to curb the illegal importation of uncustomed or illegal cargoes around the Eastern corridor, it is not a Unit given to lily-livered officers, but those that can work, using intelligence to smoke out Economic Saboteurs that are abound in the country. They are many in the Eastern plank neither are they less up the Niger Delta region.
To be able to superintend over almost 12 States in this regard, you must be able to ascertain some of the flashpoints and the geography of the zone, having worked in one or two States within. It is generally believed that most of the imports to Nigeria end up in the East due to the concentration of a myriad of businesses there, and the desire to make illegal profits has also been fingered as one of the factors that promote smuggling anywhere in the world, and Nigeria is not left out.
It is this penchant that drives the flourishing illegal trade and the Customs determination to wage war against it. In this war, most people –officers and other Nigerians unfortunately have lost their lives, while considerable feats have been achieved through remarkable seizures and generation of revenue heading for a loss.
To give the dare-devil saboteurs a bloody nose, the Service would always put out their best foot for the zone. Since his assumption of office two months ago, Kolade has hit the ground running with mouth-watering seizures. And he has sent out a signal that it will not be business as usual for non-compliant Importers in the zone. He is taking the enforcement functions to areas which were hitherto dreaded; the riverine arrears, inside the jungle and forest areas where smuggling has been thriving before now.
The new Sheriff has given his men marching orders to intercept imports which came into the country contrary to the extant laws, and deposit same in any of the nearby Customs warehouses. From his warnings, any contraband which has been deposited at the warehouses cannot be pleaded for, indicating that the Unit can only facilitate genuine trade across the zone. Kolade can be said to have the benefit of the old and new stock of Customs personnel having worked with most senior Enforcement Officers decades ago. He cut his teeth within the period those vibrant Enforcement Officers held sway and he has upped the ante in this dispensation leading the Comptroller General to discover him a second time.
Lest we forget in a hurry, this Officer was equally appointed by Col Hameed Ali as the Co-ordinator of the Comptroller General’s Strike force for the Eastern zone four years ago within which periods thousands of bags of foreign parboiled rice were seized. Then, there wasn’t this border closure, so vehicle import was still highly patronised by smugglers, he also made a huge breakthrough in such seizures. His tentacles were so extensive that I ran into him at the Enugu State Customs headquarters then when he was on inspection of huge seizures warehoused outside the Command with rain beating the trailer loads of rice while he ensured make-shift tarpaulin was procured to safeguard the cargoes.
Kolade is a mobile anti-smuggling Czar; he is not given to sitting in a cozy office and enjoying the air conditioner. A true replica of Ejibunu, Yahaya, Dimka, Mohammed and the Kangiwas. He has already disclosed that he will comb the Calabar routes, Oron, Aba and those of the Niger Delta corridors, all in a bid to flush out smugglers from their hide-outs.
The new helmsman can only replicate the feats he achieved as the Co-ordinator of the CG Strike force few years ago for which he received several awards from the Corporate world as well as commendation from the Customs Management. He has started announcing his arrival at the Zone ‘C’ with striking seizures; Pangolin, foreign parboiled rice and several bales of second hand clothing worth several millions of naira, dot the warehouses in the East at present.
Kayode Rasheed Kolade is in a hurry to change the ugly story of anti-smuggling in the South/East and South-South to barest minimum with heavy seizures he has made.
In his first day in office, Kolade, while being welcomed by officers and men of the Unit deposed that he would not sit down in the office to fight the war against smuggling. He stated that he will be heading to the jungle to flush out the activities of the smugglers in the zone.
‘I am a man of the jungle, so I will go all out to rout them out from the zone’. He assured the officers that ‘we will work together to improve on what we have met on ground’.