From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
The Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of Nigeria Customs Serrvice, on Thursday, raided Akala Shopping Complex at the popular Bodija Market in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, around 1:00a.m and took away thousands of suspected smuggled bags of rice.
The operatives reportedly stormed the market with trucks, with which they took the bags of rice, and other suspected smuggled items away. The operation was said to have lasted for about five hours.
But many of the affected traders took to the street of Ibadan on Thursday and protested against the raid, describing the operation as a coordinated attack on their businesses. . They alleged that at least 88 shops were broken into with each shops containing bags of rice ranging from 400 to 900 bags.
The protesters took off from Bodija and walked to the state government secretariat, at Agodi, where the Executive Assistant on Security to Governor Seyi Makinde, Mr. Sunday Odukoya, received them. Before getting to the secretariat, they had converged on the headquarters of the Oyo/Osun Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, in Agodi, which is a stone throw to the state secretariat, to show their grievances in a peaceful manner. But they were purportedly scared away when officers of NCS allegedly shot sporadically into the air. Some of the protesters were said to have been injured when they scampered for safety.
One of the leaders of the protest, Mrs. Mariam Isiaka, appealed to the state governor, Seyi Makinde, to assist them, adding that they operate under loan to sustain a living, saying: “At about 1:00a,m., Customs invaded Bodija Market and packed away all the bags of rice in our shops. Some of us had 900 bags, while others had 400 bags in their shops.
“They came in with trucks to pack bags our rice. We have been robbed by Customs. They raided no fewer than 88 shops. They came with Hilux vehicles. Nigerian rice is expensive. Cotonou rice goes for N21,000 while Nigerian rice goes for N24,000. We are not against selling Nigerian rice, but it is more expensive than the one got from Cotonou.
“We do not get profit from selling Nigerian rice and this rice comes through Hausa states. We want government to save us. We all got loans to get rice; with this raid, we are now in debt. One of our people was shot and is in the hospital. They also carted away money from our shops. They tied down the guards and shot one person.”
Speaking on the development, a trader, who introduced herself as Mrs R. O. Mosope, alleged that the men of the Customs took away bags of rice as well as bags of garri and cartons of noodles (Indomie).
While addressing the aggrieved traders on behalf of the governor, the Executive Assistant to the Governor Makinde on security matters, Sunday Odukoya, assured the aggrieved market men and women to remain calm as thorough investigation would be carried out on the development.
Reacting to the development, the Public Relations Officer, Oyo/Osun Command of NCS, Mr. Kayode Wey, said that the officers and men who raided Bodija Market are not their men, but are from the Federal Taskforce in Abuja.
“The officers and men from the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), who have the statutory right to do what they did came to Bodija Market and raided the market. They only took away rice and not other items. The FOU has the statutory right. They operate anywhere within the country, once they have the intelligence. It is a process by which they are trying to stop smuggling; if they have the information that some goods have been smuggled in, they can raid.
“I wasn’t there and can’t answer on whether bags of local rice were carted away alongside imported rice. Nobody shot anybody. The traders should understand that we are just trying to enforce a law that has been put down by the Federal Government. It is a critical policy that smuggling must not be done; rice must not be brought in. The traders should source for local rice and sell because Federal Government has put a law that foreign rice should not be allowed in the country.”