Customs detains Ken Saro-Wiwa ‘memorial vehicle’

The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Public Petitions has summoned the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, over continued detention of a sculpted Ken Saro-Wiwa memorial vehicle by the Apapa Command of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).

The summon was announced by committee chairman, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta on Thursday, at an investigative public hearing on the matter in Abuja. 

The non-motorised bus was donated to the petitioner, Nigeria Civil Society for the Ogoni Struggle, by an unnamed foundation in the United Kingdom.

According to a document signed by an Assistant Comptroller in charge of Customs valuation unit, Moyo Aina, which was submitted to the committee, the NCS said the imported bus-like object is a caricature of a Black-Maria truck made of aluminum sheets and with four tyres covered with aluminum sheet and mounted on a trailer chassis.

Aina added that the clearing agent approached her unit for local assessment but this could not be done due to lack of formal application for the valuation. 

She also said that the importation was not covered by the list of locally valuable goods within her scope and that she felt the object required the attention and approval of the Customs Comptroller-General because of its “uniqueness”.

She said, “The said import is still in the trader’s zone. It has not been officially presented to the Nigeria Customs Service through a declaration.”

But a letter written to the Customs Comptroller-General dated November 11, 2015 by the Area Controller of PTML Command stated that the vehicle in question has an inscription which reads: “I Accuse The Oil Companies of Practising Genocide Against Ogoni”, which Customs considered it “inciting”.   

Ken Saro Wiwa was a Nigerian writer, television producer, environmental activist, and winner of the Right Livelihood Award and the Goldman Environmental Prize. 

As President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Saro-Wiwa led a campaign against environmental degradation of the land and waters of Ogoniland by the operations of the multinational oil companies, especially the Royal Dutch Shell.

He was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government, which he viewed as reluctant to enforce environmental regulations on the foreign petroleum companies operating in the area.

At the peak of his non-violent campaign, he was tried by a special military tribunal for allegedly masterminding the gruesome murder of Ogoni chiefs at a pro-government meeting.

He was consequently hanged in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. His execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years.  

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