On Tuesday, the House of Senate demanded that its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, investigate the recent night invasion of rice traders’ shops at Bodija Market, Ibadan, Oyo State, by men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS).
This follows a petition the Senate received from the Ibadan Foodstuff Sellers Association addressed to the Senate President, through Senator Kola Balogun, for Oyo South Senatorial District.
The midnight forceful invasion stirred an uproar and protest in the Oyo State capital by the affected traders, an invasion that carted away goods estimated at N85 million naira by the men of the NCS.
The invasion has prevented traders from carrying out their legitimate trading activities in the market since the night of 31 March 2021 when the raid occurred as their shops and five others have remained under special white padlock, allegedly used to lock the doors by the Customs officers.
According to Senator Balogun, 3,046 bags of rice worth N79,196,000; 25kg vegetable oil numbering 14; the cash of N4,862,000; and 15kg bags of garri were seized by men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) during the raid.
The Ibadan Foodstuff Sellers Association, in the petition to the Senate President, stated: “The above-named association write to report the unfortunate night invasion of the Bodija International Market, Ibadan and the forceful breakage of the rice traders’ shops by men of the Nigerian Customs, Ikeja Unit, Lagos on 31 March through 1 April 2021.
“Our shops and warehouses were forcefully opened in our absence and the following items were carted away: 3,046 bags of Rice at N26,000 per bag – N79,196,000; 14 (Nos) 25kg Vegetable Oil; Cash of N4,862,000.00; and One (Nos) 15kg Bag of gaari.
“It is pertinent to report to you, Sir, that five (5 nos) shops remain under special white padlock, the same that was put on the forcefully broken ones.
“The Ibadan Customs Unit has advised us not to unlock the locked shops for reasons unknown to us and owners of the shops have been rendered helpless. They cannot access their shops and neither can they trade in anything. Their families have been suffering.
“We seek the intervention of your highly esteemed office for the immediate return of all the items and cash carted away from our shops and warehouses.
“We also seek for the Red Chamber’s investigation into the reasons behind the forceful raid on our shops. We demand that such raid should stop henceforth and this one should be the last of such action on the innocent peaceful traders in our market.
“We demand that tight security arrangements be put in place in the market by the government to protect our products after closure from business activities of the day to avoid looting of our shops by hoodlums who might want to follow the illegal footsteps of the men of the Nigerian Customs Service.
“We demand that the Nigeria Customs Service should be warned against the use of the crude and cruel method of infringing on traders’ properties and products.
“That the action of the Nigeria Customs Service is seriously infringing on our rights to trade in legitimate items within the country as the midnight invasion violates all democratic principles.”
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, cited the petition to the Senator Ayo Akinyelure-led Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition for investigation.