The Senate, on Tuesday, mandated the Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate the alleged invasion of rice traders’ shops by men of the Nigerian Customs that resulted in the carting away of goods to the tune of N85 million.
A statement on Tuesday by Ezrel Tabiowo, Special Assistant, Press, to the President of the Senate, said this followed receipt of a petition from the Ibadan Foodstuff Sellers Association addressed to the Senate President through Senator Kola Balogun representing Oyo South Senatorial District.
According to the lawmaker, 3,046 bags of rice worth N79,196,000; 25kg vegetable oil numbering 14; cash of N4,862,000; and 15kg bags of Gari were carted away by men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) during a forceful invasion of shops in the absence of traders.
The Ibadan Foodstuff Sellers Association, in the petition to the Senate President, said, “the above named association writes 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 31st March through 1st 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 Gari.
“It is pertinent to report to you, Sir, that five (5 nos) shops still remain under special white padlock, the same that were 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 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 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 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, referred the petition to the Senator Ayo Akinyelure-led Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition for investigation.