Rice sellers in Sango Market, in Ado Odo/Ota area of Ogun State yesterday blocked the Temidire end of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway for over seven hours.
The traders were protesting against the alleged invasion of customs officials from the Federal Operation Unit (FOU) of the Nigeria Customs Service, Ikeja, who allegedly broke several shops in the market around 12am, in the dead of the night.
The officers, accompanied by soldiers attached to OP MESSA, were said to have impounded about 4,550 bags of rice and 75 jerrycans of vegetable oil, estimated at millions of naira.
The traders also accused the officials of breaking their safes and taking money during the operation that lasted for about three hours.
It took the intervention of the Area Commander, Sango-Ota, ACP Fayoade Adegoke, and a member of the Ogun House of Assembly, Akinpelu Aina, before the expressway was opened at 2.15pm
But the customs stated that 1,870 bags of rice and 43 jerrycans of vegetable oil smuggled into the country were seized, adding that its officials did not break any shop.
According to Punch's findings, the operatives engaged carriers to load the products into about 13 trailers out of the 15 they brought.
After the invasion, traders blocked the expressway at about 7am hindering vehicular movements in the Sango area.
One of the traders, Kudirat Fasinu, who spoke in Yoruba, showed a receipt of vegetable oil worth N1.5m she bought on Saturday, saying that the item and 300 bags of rice were taken away.
“I just finished prayer around 1am when I got a call that customs men were breaking shops and removing goods. They broke my shop and took away 75 jerrycans of 25 litres vegetable oil and 300 bags of rice. I got here around 1.30am,” Fasinu said.
Another trader, who gave her name only as Mrs. Egbasite, said 50 bags of rice in front of her shop were confiscated, adding that she bought the goods on credit.
Another rice seller in the market popularly known as Iya Okiki, said she just bought 125 jerrycans of vegetable oil worth N1,510,000, adding that all were taken away.
The Iyaloja of the market, Mrs. Deborah Bankole, said, “I was informed about the incident around 1.15am, that customs men were breaking our shops. By the time I got here, they had started packing rice and vegetable oil. They came with men of the OP MESSA.
“They also broke safes of some traders and went away with their money. We bought these goods in Sango on credit. Most of us are widows; government should come to our aid.”
The Babaloja, Alhaji Shakirudeen Olasege, described the operation as contraband, adding that if goods were illegal, the shops were supposed to be sealed and their owners invited for questioning.
He said, “We are going to Abeokuta tomorrow (Thursday) to meet with Governor Ibikunle Amosun and the state House of Assembly. Goods and cash worth about N700m were seized during the raid by customs. I learnt that the men entered the market around 12am. They came with 15 trailers and went with 13 trailer-load of rice. Each trailer contained 350 bags. Some of the officers wore masks.
"This is burglary. 2 customs officials identified as Jude and Alawo Ekun led the illegal operation."