Senate asks Customs to return rice, cash seized in Ibadan markets

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Ahmad LawanThe Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges on Tuesday, directed the Nigeria Customs Service to return the bags of rice and money which its officials took from some shops in the Oja Oba Market in Ibadan, Oyo State.

Officials of the NCS had invaded the market and carted away eight truckloads of rice and money found in the shops of the affected traders.

The NCS carried out the operation, barely a month after they raided the Bodija International Market.

The development forced the Senator representing Oyo South Senatorial District, Kola Balogun, to petition the upper chamber on behalf of the beleaguered traders last week.

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan, referred the petition to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions.

The Senate Committee at its sitting on Tuesday described the act as unacceptable.

The panel then asked the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, represented by his Assitant Comptroller General, Garba Mohammmed, to ensure that the seized goods were returned to the affected traders within two weeks.

It also directed that their shops should be unlocked while money taken from the shops must be equally returned.

Members of the panel were unanimous in their condemnation of the NCS insisting that its action was a breach of the Customs Act and the Executive Order signed by former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007.

The legislation empowers the agency to only impound smuggled goods, 40 kilometers radius to the border.

 

The Chairman of the panel, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, said, “Why do you allow the goods to come in through the borders and they find their way to the market of innocent citizens?

“These people are retailers; they don’t have the capacity to import. There are no reasonable grounds for your people to go to the market in the thick of the night.  The market isn’t within 40km radius of the border.

“We are appealing to the CG Customs to return the goods taken in Bodija and Oja Oba markets.

“They should return those goods within 15 days. Tell the CG to unlock their shops so that they can continue to do their business.

The Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, Garba Mohammmed, however, defended the action of his officers.

He said, “Section 147 of the Customs Act has empowered us, for the purpose of carrying out the powers given to police officers, to search premises where there is ground to suspect that contraband were concealed, whether day or night.

“The seizure was based on intelligence gathering. We don’t intend to put people out of business.”


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