Hundreds of people turned out to protest against the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the popular Oja-Tuntun Market in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital on Thursday over the seizure of 700 bags of rice from a warehouse.
The warehouse belongs to a rice merchant, Mount Olive Nigeria limited.
The protesters accused men of the NCS of carrying out unlawful arrest, detention and seizure of rice, said to have been produced in Nigeria, from a warehouse in Ilorin.
The protest was led by the Chairman of Mount Olive Nigeria Ltd and his staff at the Oja-Tuntun office of the company.
Speaking reporters during the protest the company’s chairman, Ademola Julius said he has in the last four years has been supporting the cause of Nigeria rice to grow the economy but unfortunately men of the Nigerian Customs have been threatening his business.
He said, “Men of the Nigeria Customs Services came to my warehouse around 2am in the night, broke my door, tied my security man down and carted away my rice – 704 bags of Nigerian rice.
“I have over ten trailers of the rice inside my warehouse that are purely Nigerian rice.
“Ask any producer of rice in Nigeria, Mount Olive Nigeria Ltd have been supporting them because I am the distributor of Nigerian rice in the whole South West and Nigeria Customs just came to frustrate me.
“I have 480 staff under me. I don’t know what they want from me. I pay my tax regularly. If they are saying I’m not doing my business in the orderly way, what is the orderly way they want me to follow?
“I have reported to the police. Customs men attacked my company unlawfully and that is why I’m protesting with all my staff for Nigerian government to come to my aid.
“They said I should come and see the ACG today and when I got to their office they said he was not around. Three of my staff were locked up and they collected N50,000 from me before they were released. One of my friends who also came was locked up.”
While calling on the Federal Government to intervene on the matter, Ademola demanded the unconditional release of his 704 bags of rice.
“Nigerian Customs Service Kwara State command should release all my bags of rice unconditionally. Presidency should look into the matter.
“I have branches all over the country. My company is in 23 locations across the country; they should come and investigate. We are ready to cooperate with whoever wants to come and investigate us.
“When I got to Olam farm in Nasarawa State in 2014, I was surprised with what I saw there and I resolved in my mind to support Nigerian rice because it will assist in tackling the issue of unemployment in the country.
“But here I am being frustrated by the men of Nigeria Customs. They should stop frustrating legitimate business owner like me,” he said.
Another protester, Akeem Ayedun, said the “men of the Nigerian Customs did not carry out their investigation to ascertain the rice Mount Olive had in his warehouse.
“If they are claiming to act on intelligent information, I want to say that they had wrong information about the rice,” he said.
Customs spokesperson in Kwara State, S.S Okpo, confirmed that some bags of rice were seized.
She added that the matter was still being investigated.
She promised that the service would soon make public its investigation and the quantity of rice seized.