By Hyacinth Chinweuba
Traders at Sango Ota market in Ogun State have protested the invasion of their shops by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS.
The traders alleged that the Customs officials carted away 18000 bags rice and vegetable oil.
Protesting the seizure, the traders blocked the Ota, Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway saying that the operatives broke padlocks and doors of about 60 shops in the market to cart away their rice.
The protest caused heavy traffic build-up at the Expressway as the women were full of lamentations that the Customs operatives have made away with their means of livelihood.
The leader of the traders, Alhaja Wosilat Salako, said the traders lost N378 million which according to her was the cost of the bags of rice and vegetable oil taken away.
Salako lamented that what was painful to the traders was that many of them took loans to buy the goods.
She said that the customs operatives did not stop at taking the bags of rice but also took away their vegetable oil.
Salako said the customs with some other operatives of OP Mesa broke into the shops by destroying padlocks, burglary proofs and iron doors and removed the bags of rice and vegetable oil.
She also claimed that some of the traders who left their money in the shops could not find them again.
She appealed to the Comptroller-General of Customs, Rtd. Col Hameed Ali to intervene so that their seized bags of rice are returned.
Salako argued that it was wrong to come to the market to take rice belonging to traders, adding that the Customs operatives should go to the border routes and wage war against smugglers.
Reacting to the allegations, the Public Relations Officer of both Ogun State Command of the Customs, Usman Abubakar and his Federal Operations Unit, Ikeja, Mr. Jerome Attah told newsmen that the traders lied on the number of bags that were taken away.
They maintained the operatives took away only 1,870 bags of rice as against the claim of 18, 000 bags of rice.
They also denied breaking into shops belonging to traders, adding that the bags of rice were taken from a warehouse where contraband goods were kept.