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Friday, 24 February 2017

Sango Traders Storm Amosun's Office Over Customs' Raid

Scores of the Sango-Ota rice sellers, whose shops were allegedly raided by men of the Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operation Unit, Ikeja, Lagos on Wednesday, stormed the Governor’s Office, Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta, yesterday, to continue their protest over the invasion of their market.

The rice sellers led by their coordinator, Alhaja Wakilat Salako, took their protest to the Governor’s Office, chanting songs and carrying placards bearing inscriptions like ‘Customs bring back our rice,’  ‘Our rights are being trampled upon by Customs officers of FOU, Ikeja’ among others.

The traders had on Wednesday barricaded the Sango-Ota axis of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway for more than 12 hours, to protest what they termed high-handedness by the Customs operatives.

The protesters stormed the office around 8.00am and began another round of protest. They said, the FOU team, led by one Jude, stormed the rice market in the midnight of Tuesday and broke over 60 shops to cart away hundreds of bags of rice and kegs of vegetable oil in 15 trucks.

However, the traders recanted that the number of bags of rice taken away  were 4,200 as against 18,000 bags they claimed on Wednesday, while 478 kegs of vegetable oil were taken.

Salako said: “After the Area Commander, and the Divisional Police Officer calmed us down Wednesday, they told us to go back to the market and take proper inventory of our goods confiscated by the Customs operatives, and we later discovered that it was not 18,000 bags but 4, 200.

“But we are here this morning to tell the governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun, to help us retrieve the 4,200 bags of rice and 478 kegs of vegetable oil from the Federal Operation Unit, Ikeja, Lagos.”

Attempt by the Chief of Staff to the governor, Tolu Odebiyi to placate the angry traders failed as his one-hour address to the protesters did not yield fruitful results. Odebiyi had described the development as sad and urged the traders to be calm. He added that the state government will look into the matter to determine what actually happened.

The protesters, not satisfied with the submission of the Chief of Staff, blocked the main gate to the Office of the Governor and demanded to see him in person. They also stripped half-naked and disrupted traffic flow for over two hours, after which the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, came to address them. The government however, gave them  an option to present six representatives to hold a closed-door meeting with the governor which they agreed to.

The governor, who held a closed-meeting with  the traders representatives said he had started the intervention process since the day of the incident. The Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Otunba Bimbo Ashiru, emerged from the meeting at exactly 3.02pm and related the governor’s message to the traders who had laid siege to the entrance to his office. According to Ashiru, Governor Ibikunle Amosun had since the incidence on Wednesday, approached the Customs headquarters in Abuja. He urged the protesters to exercise patience assuring them that government would investigate the matter thoroughly.

Vanguard