The Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigeria Police have disagreed over the ownership of a Hilux van used in smuggling rice in Ogun State.
While the NCS said the van belonged to the police, the Ogun State Police Command said the Customs could have done better.
Apart from denying owning the vehicle, the police in a statement castigated the Customs for not following the appropriate channel for resolving such issues instead of going public with the information.
The Customs, which spoke through the Controller of the Ogun Area Command 1, Bamidele Makinde, said operatives intercepted a police van loaded with contraband after it escaped from the Idi-Iroko border in Ipokia Local Government Area of the state.
Makinde, who briefed newsmen on Tuesday, said 142 seizures were made by the command within the 33 days he assumed office in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital.
He said the Hillux patrol van, with police number plate PF 10889 SPY, was intercepted with 27 bags of 50kg foreign parboiled rice.
He explained that the driver of the vehicle, who was in mufti, escaped from the Idi-Iroko border, but was intercepted along the Alamala Baracks Road, near Imala, Abeokuta.
Makinde said the driver, after sighting his men, abandoned the van and fled.
The controller said though he could not authoritatively say the vehicle belonged to the police, he posited that the number plate on the van with siren confirmed the claim.
Asked if the van would be released to the police, Makinde said the decision would be taken by the Customs headquarters in Abuja.
He said: “As it is, it will be communicated to Abuja.
“The NCS headquarters has the final say on what happens to it.
“If it is found to be a police vehicle, it is only Abuja that can release it to the police authorities.
“It is supposed to be a security vehicle, but it was used to smuggle 27 bags of rice.
“The driver suddenly parked and ran away, abandoning the van.”
The state NCS boss also disclosed that the command impounded 5,420 bags of rice between February 9 and March 21.
According to Makinde, the total duty paid value of all seized goods is N143,905,508.
Reacting to the position of the NCS, the spokesman of the Ogun State Police Command, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said “The command wouldn’t have like to join issues with a sister agency, but in order to set the record straight, there is need to make the following clarifications.
“To start with, the number plate on the vehicle which is PF 10889 SPY is not a police number plate, as no police vehicle will be numbered in such manner.
“The Nigeria Custom Services which have unfettered access to the top echelon of the Police command would have contacted the command for details information about the vehicle before labelling it as Police vehicle in their press briefing, more so that nobody was arrested with the said vehicle to give credence to their claim.
“The command hereby wishes to inform members of the public that the said vehicle is not a Police vehicle and the number plate on it is fake and the police has nothing to do with it.”