By Francis Sardauna
Residents of Jibia Local Government Area of Katsina State have raised the alarm over alleged extortion by men and officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) while carrying out their legitimate businesses.
The residents, under the auspices of Jibia Youth Vanguard Forum, alleged that the presence of the customs officers mounting roadblocks on highways to extort money from traders and motorists has systematically killed their businesses.
THISDAY reports that Jibia is a border town between Nigeria and Niger Republic, where smugglers have resorted to the use of illegal routes to ferry in bags of foreign rice, bales of second-hand clothing and other contrabands.
The Chairman of Jibia Youth Vanguard Forum, Nasir Almustapha Danye, while addressing journalists on Sunday, accused officers of the NCS of barricading highways only to extort money from motorists and traders.
He insisted that the customs officers have laid siege to the Katsina-Jibia road where they regularly divert trucks conveying goods to their office on frivolous accusation of engaging in illicit export.
He alleged that the prevailing extortion by the customs officers and other security personnel is not only detrimental to trade and ease of doing business, but crippling the economy and impacting negatively on residents of the area.
He explained that the paramilitary personnel, instead of ensuring stricter adherence to border closure and address the wave of smuggling activities bedevilling the border town, were busy extortion money from legitimate businessmen and women.
He said: “There are more than 40 checkpoints between Jibia and Katsina being manned by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service, police, Immigration and NSCDC but they are doing nothing rather than extortion.
“If you buy a truck of maize from Katsina, you spent more than N100,000 settling security personnel on the road before you get to Jibia town. The same thing with rice, flour and cement and even drugs that are meant to treat patients.
“Because of their heinous activities, a bag of cement in Katsina is N2,600 but here in Jibia town is being sold at N3,200, while a measure of maize is N400 in Mani but in Jibia it’s N520. Life has become unbearable for us in Jibia.
“We have reported this issue to all the authorities concerned but nothing has been done rather the situation is deteriorating day by day.”
However, when contacted, the new Public Relations Officer of Katsina Customs Area Command, Mr. Isah Dababa, feigned ignorance of the allegation, saying he will investigate the matter.