What a nation: “News Agency of Nigeria gathered that operatives of Nigeria Customs Service raided Bodija market around 1.00 a.m. on Thursday and broke into shops, warehouses and carted away bags of rice in six trailers.” And it was done outside the knowledge of Oyo/Osun Customs Area Command which noted that its officers did not do the job. Rather, Nigeria used the Federal Operation Unit (FOU) to steal rice from the Ibadan traders.
Traders at the Bodija market in Ibadan Thursday protested the seizure of bags of rice “worth millions of naira” by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Hundreds of traders took to the streets of Ibadan to protest against what they called invasion of their shops by men of the customs service who they alleged broke into shops at midnight to seize the bags of rice.
The rice traders; men and women, who were seen carrying placards with various inscriptions, called on the customs authority to return all the rice and money carted away from their shops.
The protesters, who marched from the market to the state secretariat, also claimed that large sums of money left in some stores were missing after the operation of the customs personnel.
Look carefully: the government will argue that the rice might have been smuggled and that what it did was the right thing. Of course, during collateral damage when federal agents were breaking shops at 1am, even Nkalagu rice would not have been exempted.
Get me right: I do not support smuggling. But this pattern of government agents raiding shops and car depots on the pretense of enforcement will not advance Nigeria. A better playbook would have been to tighten the border and if it is necessary to go to the shops, go in the day, ask for the necessary papers. Sure, the fear is that the impact would be limited since others will move the rice once agents enter the first shop.
I am not sure if the rice traders have an association. If they do, they would have seen a pattern which played out last year: “President Muhammadu Buhari on Monday ordered the distribution of 150 trucks of rice seized by Nigeria Customs Service to the 36 states of the federation in a bid to cushion the effect of the coronavirus”. Bye bye rice from Bodija…your new home welcomes you.---
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