The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has advised the Senate to focus on lawmaking and not usurp the powers of other arms of government.
The agency reacted angrily to a two-week ultimatum the Senate Committee on Ethics and Privileges issued for the return of bags of rice seized at Oja Oba and Bodija markets in Ibadan, Oyo.
NCS Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah said the NCS is backed by law to storm anywhere once there is enough intelligence on contraband.
Attah stated that Customs has been raiding markets for years and wondered why the Senate was furious about the Ibadan episode.
“When Customs raided markets in Mubi in Adamawa State and another notorious market in Kano, why wasn’t there any outrage”, he quipped.
The spokesman cited Section 147 of the CEMA law as the legislation that backs Customs raids.
On the comparison of Ibadan action to the Katsina operation, Attah explained they were two different scenarios.
He said what happened in Ibadan can only be compared to a raid that happened in Ilorin where a lady insisted her rice was locally made.
“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 allegations that Customs officers took money away, Attah confirmed that a particular bag containing N522,350 was found.
He assured that the money is intact and urged the owner to come forward with proof of ownership.
In their reaction to the Senate directive, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria (RIPAN) described it as a reversal of the gains made in combating smuggling.
“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”, RIPAN Director-General, Andy Ekwelem told reporters.
Customs intercept 3,311 bags of foreign rice, 487 litres of PMS in Oyo/ Osun states