Some market women who sell rice at the Mile 2 Oke/Under-bridge Market, in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State have accused officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, of invading their stores at about 1am on Saturday to cart away hundreds of bags of rice.
The women said the Customs officials were accompanied by soldiers.
The women, who wept uncontrollably during a protest at the market on Saturday, complained that the armed Customs men and soldiers, who drove in two trucks, carted away about 1,200 bags of rice.
Speaking through one Mrs Suwebatu Akorede, the women lamented that the Customs operatives and soldiers broke into their stores without indicating what their offences were.
Akorede said: “The armed security operatives met our workers who slept in the market, when they drove in at about 1am. During their operation, they beat our workers and even injured two of them with gun butts. They drove away with two-trailer load of bags of parboiled rice, as well as cartons of juice drinks, that we had in our stores.”
Semiu Akeem, one of the workers who alleged that he was beaten by the armed security operatives, said: “I was sleeping when the Customs officials and soldiers woke me at about 1am. After identifying myself as a worker in the market, one of the soldiers started ransacking my pockets. When I asked what the problem was, what I saw was that he used his gun’s butt to hit me on my knee. At that moment, the soldier took from me the N150, 000 that I had on me, as well as my two phones.
“After the armed security operatives finished loading their two trucks with the bags of parboiled rice, they drove me and three of my co-workers to the Customs office at Ikeja.”
Another trader, Mrs Chi Okeke said: “We pay Customs duty to bring in our rice through the Seme border. So, we are surprised that the same Customs officials who had collected duty from us will still come to invade our stores and cart away our products.”
Chairman of the market, Idowu Akanbi, said they had gone to Customs office at Ikeja to bail their workers that were arrested, and they asked them to come back.
When contacted, the spokesperson, NCS, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Uche Ejesieme confirmed the market raid. He said: “Sequel to an intelligence information, that large quantity of smuggled goods were kept in an open location at Mile 2, the headquarters monitoring team led by Assistant Comptroller Jatau Micah swooped on the location in an operation that lasted between 1.30am to 3.30am of Saturday.The team evacuated 580 bags of suspected smuggled 50kg parboiled rice and 151 pieces of used tyres. The seized items and the suspects have been brought down to our facility in Ikeja for further investigation.”
He said the joint operation with the Army, is in line the policy of inter-agency synergy and there was nothing untoward about that.
By Pita Ochai