Miffed by recent raid of some shops in Yaba Market by men of Nigeria Customs where some traders lost goods worth billions, President, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Lagos state, Chief Solomon Ogbonna, said as obtainable in developed countries, seizure of prohibited goods should be carried out at border post and not in the hinterlands. Ogbonna speaks on this and other issues of national interest.
Sanwo-Olu is the Chief Security officer of the state, but cannot interfere with the operations of the customs service. Furthermore, Customs Service is under federal regulation with the Comptroller General as the ultimate authority. So, every complaint against customs operatives must be directed to the comptroller general of customs and his lieutenants. Nonetheless, the governor can put in some words in favour of the traders, if the actions of the customs operatives are contrary to established norms and rules of engagement. But if the Customs operatives are acting within the limits of the law establishing the body, all complaints should be directed to the Customs leadership. So, the affected traders should channel their grievances to the appropriate authority-leadership of the Nigerian Customs Service.
The traders did not make a written or formal complaint to Ohanaeze secretariat. However, some traders made verbal complaint to me, while some others called me on phone and lamented the Customs raid.
I was on Christmas holiday at the time of the raid, but had to cut short my holiday and returned to Lagos to assess the situation. I mobilised some members of my executive and we met with the Customs comptroller of Task Force, Lagos/Ogun zone. The Task Force comptroller, a disciplined officer explained many things about Customs operations including targeted raids. My findings indicate that the customs raid was prompted by unhealthy rivalry between some traders in the markets. I learned some traders branded their colleagues as smugglers and dealers in contraband. They snitched on those traders, prompting Customs to raid the shops. Though, there might be some contraband in the market places, but Customs operatives in such raids could go beyond the call of duty and invade even the innocent. In advanced countries of the west, operations of the Customs officers are restricted to the ports and boarder entries. In those countries, Custom operatives could raid companies and offices on strong intelligent reports of illegal businesses and contraband. It will be great, if Nigeria Customs services restrict their operations at the ports, entry boarders and roads. In most cases, Customs raid on markets are prompted by unhealthy rivalry between traders. Traders should learn to be ethical in their conducts and avoid unhealthy rivalry. You don’t grow by pulling down others; instead, you earn enmity and hatred. So, I call on Igbo business people to avoid acts inimical to the conduct of their businesses. We should all strive to make the market places conducive for business.
We heard some Igbo people have started installing Eze Ahia (King of Market) in markets around Lagos. Don’t you think is an affront to Iya Oloja and Baba Oja?
I am no party to any plan for installation of Eze Ahia (King of the market) in any market in Lagos state. As you said, such arrangement will be an affront to Iya Oloja and Baba Oja. The plan for installation of Eze Ahia is part of the ignoble acts of some Igbo people in proliferating and commercialising of the Igbo chieftaincy institution. The proliferation of Igbo chieftaincy title is heading towards enthroning Eze Igbo at all streets in Lagos. I am against the proliferation and debasing of the Igbo chieftaincy institution. I condemn any plan that will put Igbo traders on collision course with indigenes of our host state. In every market in Lagos, there are union leaders controlling the affairs at the various sections of the market, while Iya Oloja and Baba Oja are the established caretakers at the markets. The various leaders at the markets including Iya Oloja and Baba Oja have defined responsibilities to ensure security and peaceful environment for business. Igbo dominate commercial activities in Lagos and automatically the markets in Lagos, but remain loyal to the authorities of Iya Oloja and Baba Oja who are usually Yoruba. Iya Oloja and Baba Oja are elected from the ranks of Yoruba, courtesy of the fact that the land belongs to them. The influence of these market leaders ensure cordial and harmonious relationship between indigenes of Lagos and traders. Though some Omonile and area boys foment troubles at some markets, but the Iya Oloja and Baba Oja through their foot soldiers intervene to quell and prevent such problems from escalating. So, I vehemently oppose anything that would create friction between traders at the various markets and indigenes of Lagos state. Our Lord Jesus Christ said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” So, I call on all those involved in the installation of Eze Ahia in Lagos state to stop. We should not politicise everything.
The year 2020 will be a great one for all Lagosians including Ndigbo. Our relationship with the Lagos state administration under Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu will grow from strength to strength. Ndigbo will continue to benefit from the dividends of democracy. Sanwo-Olu is a God-sent leader, a true born-again Christian and will continue running an inclusive government to benefit all Lagosians including Ndigbo. I urge Ndigbo to remain loyal to the Lagos state administration and continue to pray for Governor Sanwo-Olu as he strives to deliver dividends of democracy to all Lagosians.