The Nigeria Customs Service has urged owners of rice seized recently from some shops in the Oja Oba market in Ibadan to come forward with receipt and proof that the rice were locally sourced and take their goods.
This came following the directive by the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges to Customs to return the seized bags of rice and money found in the shops to the affected traders within two weeks.
Officials of the NCS, had penultimate week invaded the market and carted away eight truck loads of rice and money found in the shops of the traders. This came barely a month after the NCS officials raided the Bodija market, where they also carted numerous bags of rice.
The Senate Committee had expressed reservations that the action of the NCS was a breach of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) and the Executive Order signed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007, which empowers the agency to only impound smuggled goods within a 40-kilometre radius to the border.
But speaking with MARITIME TODAY ONLINE, Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Joseph Attah, said the NCS is ready to release the goods as long as the traders have proof to show that they are not smuggled rice.
Attah made reference to a similar situation in Ilorin where goods were evacuated by operatives but were later released when it was proved by the owners that they were not smuggled rice.
Attah insisted that the Senate Committee did not mandate the NCS to release smuggled goods.
He said, “They should come and proof that the rice is not smuggled rice. We are open to that. Our Assistant Comptroller General even cited the example of Ilorin where in the process of such operation, a particular lady that has some hundreds of bags which were all evacuated came forward with proof and immediately her goods were returned to her. Our respected Senators cannot give orders that something criminally acquired should be returned.
“It was not an order that we should release smuggled goods. We made it very clear and it was well understood that whoever is claiming that his or hers is a local rice should come with receipt and proof and once it is proven, it will be released immediately”
“Even the money that was found in the shops is well documented. Customs did not deny that and when the owner shows up, he will take his money. The officers couldn’t have known there was money in the bag if not for their due diligence.”