By ANDREW OJIEZEL
As everyone is preparing for the celebration of 2015 Christmas across the world, come December 25, some market men and women are counting their loss and had been thrown into mournful mood following the raid of their wares to uniform men.
The market men and women who sell rice at the Mile 2 Oke/under-bridge Market, in Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, accused officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, of invading their stores at about 1am on Saturday to cart away hundreds of bags of rice.
The women, who wept uncontrollably during a protest at the market, complained that the armed Customs men and soldiers, who drove in two trucks, carted away about 1,200 bags of rice.
Speaking through one Mrs Suwebatu Akorede, the women lamented that the Customs operatives and soldiers broke into their stores without indicating what their offences were.
“The armed security operatives met our workers who slept in the market, when they drove in at about 1am. During their operation, they beat our workers and even injured two of them with gun butts. They drove away with two-trailer load of bags of parboiled rice, as well as cartons of juice drinks, that we had in our stores.”
Semiu Akeem, one of the workers who alleged that he was beaten by the armed security operatives during the raid stated that “I was sleeping when the Customs officials and soldiers woke me at about 1am. After identifying myself as a worker in the market, one of the soldiers started ransacking my pockets. When I asked what the problem was, what I saw was that he used his gun’s butt to hit me on my knee. At that moment, the soldier took from me the N150, 000 that I had on me, as well as my two phones.
“After the armed security operatives finished loading their two trucks with the bags of parboiled rice, they drove me and three of my co-workers to the Customs office at Ikeja.”
Another trader, Mrs Chi Okeke said, “We pay Customs duty to bring in our rice through the Seme border. So, we are surprised that the same Customs officials who had collected duty from us will still come to invade our stores and cart away our products.”
Chairman of the market, Idowu Akanbi, said, “We have gone to Customs office at Ikeja to bail our workers that were arrested, and they asked us to come back on Monday, to secure their release, stating that it was already weekend.”
When contacted, the spokesperson, NCS, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, Uche Ejesieme confirmed the market raid.
He said, “Sequel to an intelligence information, that large quantity of smuggled goods were kept in an open location at Mile 2, the headquarters monitoring team led by Assistant Comptroller Jatau Micah swooped on the location in an operation that lasted between 1.30am to 3.30am of Saturday.
“The team evacuated 580 bags of suspected smuggled 50kg parboiled rice and 151 pieces of used tyres. The seized items and the suspects have been brought down to our facility in Ikeja for further investigation.
“On the joint operation with the Army, it is in line the policy of inter-agency synergy and there is nothing untoward about that.”