The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has condemned Senate over the order to return seizes foreign rice at Oja Oba and Bodija markets in Ibadan, Oyo.
The agency advised the Senate to focus on lawmaking and not usurp the powers of other arms of government.
Customs while reacting on Sunday, to a two-week ultimatum the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges issued for the return of bags of rice that was seized.
Recall that Osun Defender had earlier reported that the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges directed the Nigeria Customs Service to return the bags of rice and money which its officials allegedly seized recently from some shops in the Oja Oba and Bodija markets in Ibadan.
Nigeria Customs expressed it’s grievances through Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, who said the NCS is backed by law to storm anywhere once there is enough intelligence on contraband.
He said Customs has been raiding markets for years and wondered why the Senate was furious about the Ibadan episode.
According to him, “When Customs raided markets in Mubi in Adamawa State and another notorious market in Kano, why wasn’t there any outrage”, he quipped.
The spokesman cited Section 147 of the CEMA law as the legislation that backs Customs raids.
On the comparison of Ibadan action to the Katsina operation, Attah explained they were two different scenarios.
He said what happened in Ibadan can only be compared to a raid that happened in Ilorin where a lady insisted her rice was locally made.
“After a careful examination and the discovery that the rice was not foreign rice, her bags were returned to her.
“If the traders in Ibadan say theirs are not bags of foreign rice, let them come forward with proof. If their claims are genuine, their bags of rice will be returned to them.”
On allegations that Customs officers took money away, Attah confirmed that a particular bag containing N522,350 was found.
He assured that the money is intact and urged the owner to come forward with proof of ownership.
In their reaction to the Senate directive, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) described it as a reversal of the gains made in combating smuggling.
“This instruction is nothing but tacit support of smuggling and it leaves much to be desired. It also to a very large extent paints a picture of insensitivity to the plight of Nigerian investors”, RIPAN Director-General, Andy Ekwelem told reporters.