The Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges has directed the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) 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, the Oyo State capital.
Officials of the Nigeria Customs Service had last week stormed the Oja Oba market and carted away eight truckloads of rice and money found in the shops of the affected traders.
This clandestine operation came barely a month after they raided the Bodija International Market, where they also carted away numerous bags of rice.
The development forced the Senators Teslim Folarin of Oyo Central Senatorial District and Senator Kola Balogun to protest nocturnal operation of the Nigeria Customs Service.
The President of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Lawan, referred the petition to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions to investigate the allegation of invasion and looting against the NCS.
The Senate Committee at its sitting, on Tuesday, condemned the act and described it as totally unacceptable.
The panel then asked the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, represented by his Assistant Comptroller General, Garba Mohammed, to ensure that the seized goods were returned to the affected traders within two weeks.
It also directed that their shops should be unlocked while money taken from the shops must be equally returned.
Members of the panel were unanimous in their condemnation of the NCS, insisting that its action was a breach of the Customs Act and the Executive Order signed by former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2007.
The legislation empowers the agency to only impound smuggled goods, 40 kilometers radius to the border.
The Chairman of the panel, Senator Ayo Akinyelure, recalled that a similar string operation carried out by the NCS in Katsina state led to the dismissal of the officer, who led the operations.
It could be recalled that Senator Folarin, on Saturday, said that he has been discussing the matter with the leadership of the Senate.
He, however, advised customs to arrest smugglers at the borders and not within the town.
According to him, “I was not happy and because the Customs is a federal agency, what I intends to do this week is to raise it.
“I am going to speak with the leadership, we are not happy. It calls for a motion. We are going to invite the Customs CG to come and explain their action.
“They cannot do that, if you are going to arrest people, you should go and stay at the borders. Do not come to the town.
“So, if I have rice that I want to share with people and you will come and intercept it. Or if I have Okada and you come and burst it the way they did to my house the last time. It is not done, it is very uncivilised.”
Senator Kola Balogun has also written petition earlier after the invasion of Bodija International market before the Customs also carried this dastard action in Oja Oba market.