Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
There was a stampede at the popular Eke -Ukwu Owerri market at the weekend when some officials of the Nigeria Custom service from Federal Operations Unit (FOU) zone C, Owerri allegedly invaded the market in search of contraband rice.
A trader who do not want his name mentioned told our correspondent that the traders in the market were wary of the invasion of their stalls , because according to the source, some victims from other markets in the state had reliably informed them.
“When we had they were coming, everybody started running helter skelter, we ran in different directions, we don’t know where they were coming from, some us were wounded as a result of the fear of the custom carrying our goods away.
The source continued “before they came we have been told by some of our friends from other markets that they came to their shops and carried their rice away”
However, when our correspondent accosted the state chairman of Grains Association of Nigeria, who declined mentioning his name, he confirmed invasion of the custom at various markets in the state.
According to him, the custom officials had earlier swooped on the traders at Relief , Stadium lane, Naze, Alaba and some major streets in the state where rice is sold.
He alleged that the officials while carting away their rice had claimed that the order to impound them came from the Presidency.
So far, he claimed that over 400 rice tagged contraband were impounded from the traders in Owerri market.
When our correspondent went round the market to verify if the contraband rice are still in stock , unfortunately, the traders had perfected plans of selling them in secrets.
“If you want Thailand and Cap rice, there price are different, we sell for N27, 000 per bag but we don’t display it for everybody to see because of the custom officials” The source said.
However, when contacted, the FOU zone C Public Relation Officer, Chioma Onuoha said she is not competent to speak on the matter.