…As NCS Fails to Heed Directive to Return Seized Items
The Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (retired) is expected to be summoned before the Nigerian Senate soon due to the refusal of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to return the items they seized from Ibadan markets earlier this year.
In April, the Senate directed its Committee on Ethics, Privilege and Public Petition to probe the raids and seizures following a petition from the Senator representing Oyo South, Kola Balogun.
The Panel was convened, led by Senator Ayo Akinyelure, and an investigative public hearing commenced as the panel questioned NCS and Ibadan Rice Sellers Association representatives.
After the investigation was concluded, the panel concluded that the raid and seizures were illegal and directed the NCS to return the food and money the officials seized during the market raids.
The Panel head, Senator Akinyelure mentioned a similar illegal sting operation carried out by the NCS in Katsina State that eventually resulted in the dismissal of the officer who led the operation and the return of the seized goods to the traders after President Muhammadu Buhari gave the order.
For this reason, the panel established that there was precedent for dealing with the issue, and ordered the Comptroller General of the NCS to ensure that the seized items were returned to the Ibadan traders. A month after the Senate resolution the NCS is yet to return the items to the traders, however.
The Babaloja General of Oyo State, Mr Jimoh Aderemi has since confirmed that the NCS has refused to heed the Senate directive, saying the bags of rice and money seized are still in possession of the Nigerian Customs Service.
The Babaloja said, “We have been waiting patiently for the NCS to return our bags of rice, garri and money they took following the intervention of the Senate. However, up till now, nothing has been heard from them.”
The Senate Committee on Customs and Excise Vice-Chairman, Senator Francis Fadahunsi, a retired Deputy Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service told the press that the NCS bosses could be summoned to face the senate if they refused to return the seized items to the traders.
He also openly wondered why the NCS was going after the traders instead of doing their job and stopping the supply at the source instead of going after vulnerable traders.
He also wondered how the NCS knew which bags to seize as they could not differentiate foreign rice from the locally-produced one, saying; “How does the NCS determine foreign rice from locally produced ones. They don’t have the mechanism to determine it. The rice being produced in Kebbi and Kano are as good as foreign rice.”