By Kemi Olaitan
Angry youths in their hundreds, comprising members of the Oyo State Traders Association and members of the public, took to the streets of Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, to protest the midnight invasion of Bodija, Ibadan market and seizure of hundreds of bags of rice.
The angry protesters accused the Customs officers of storming the market and taking away cash worth millions of naira in the midnight invasion.
There was traffic snarl along the Secretariat-Bodija-UI Road as motorists and other roads users were stranded for several hours.
THISDAY learnt that officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), who carried out the operations, were from the Federal Operations Unit in Lagos. The controversial midnight operation, it was gathered, was done without the knowledge of the Oyo/Osun Customs Command.
Protesters had attempted to break into the headquarters of the Oyo/Osun Customs Command, but were prevented from entry as the officers locked the massive gate.
After the botched attempt, the angry protesters were said to have proceeded to the Oyo State Government Secretariat in Ibadan where they called on the state Governor, Seyi Makinde, to wade into the alleged illegal invasion and stealing of cash by FOU Customs officers.
It was further learnt that the Customs officers allegedly invaded the complex opposite Arisekola Shopping Complex at Bodija market, and carted away many bags of rice between 12 midnight and 3a.m. yesterday during the raid.
The Public Relations Officer of FOU Zone A, Mr. Theophilus Duniya, in his reaction, described the operation as a successful one, adding that the operation was carried out in order to reduce casualties during confrontation with smugglers.
He maintained that the NCS was empowered by law to seize or intercept smuggled items anywhere in the country, including in warehouses or stores.
According to him, “I have confirmed from the office. It was a successful one. It was a successful operation. You know that there is ban on importation of foreign rice. This was done to empower local farmers.
“It was done to avoid casualties during confrontation with smugglers. That will serve as a deterrent to others. Such operation is backed by the law. NCS is empowered by law to seize smuggled items anywhere whether it is warehouse or shop.”