The Nigerian Senate in Session

Smuggling: NCS, RIPAN tackle Nigerian Senate over directive to release seized foreign rice

*The Nigeria Customs Service and Rice Processors Association of Nigeria have condemned the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges’ two-week ultimatum for the return of confiscated bags of foreign rice suspected to have been smuggled into the country to traders in Ibadan, Oyo State

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

Accusing the Federal lawmakers of ‘insensitivity’ to the plight of both Nigerian investors and consumers of smuggled products into the country, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has urged the Senate to focus on lawmaking and not usurp the powers of other arms of government.

It was learnt that the regulatory agency has frowned on a two-week ultimatum the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges issued for the return of confiscated bags of rice at Oja Oba and Bodija markets in Ibadan, Oyo State capital weeks back.

Bags of rice

Joseph Attah, Public Relations Officer of NCS, was quoted to have said the agency is   backed by law to storm anywhere once there is enough intelligence on contraband in Nigeria.

Customs has been raiding markets for years and wondered why the Senate was furious about the Ibadan episode, stated Attah.

He asked: “When Customs raided markets in Mubi in Adamawa State and another notorious market in Kano, why wasn’t there any outrage?”

The spokesman cited Section 147 of the CEMA law as the legislation that backs Customs raids.

In respect of comparison of the raid in Ibadan with the Katsina operation, Attah explained they were two different scenarios.

According to him, what happened in Ibadan can only be compared to a raid that happened in Ilorin where a lady insisted her rice was locally made.

The Service image-maker recalled:  “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 why the Customs officers took money away, Attah confirmed that a particular bag containing N522,350 was found during the operation.

He, however, assured that the money is intact and urged the owner to come forward with proof of ownership.

Meanwhile, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN), reacting to the Senate’s directive to return seized bags of foreign rice to their owners, described the move as a reversal of the gains made in combating smuggling in the country.

Andy Ekwelem, RIPAN Director-General, had stated this in a chat with reports.

Ekwelem said: “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.”

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