By Dipo Olowookere
Officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have been accused of subjecting Igbo travellers to hardship by seizing rice meant for household consumption at its numerous checkpoints in the region.
This allegation was made by former Governor of Anambra State, Mr Peter Obi, at the end-of-the-year meeting of Diamond Brothers Club held yesterday at Oriental Hotel, Lagos.
Mr Obi noted that some people visited him at his Onitsha home to complain about the hardship on people because of countless Customs checkpoints on roads, especially in the South-East.
He stated that to have first-hand information about the complaint, he travelled by road from Lagos to Onitsha and described the situation as worrisome and counter-productive.
Speaking further, Mr Obi wondered if the roads in Nigeria have become wharfs or borders to warrant many Customs checkpoints.
“We know that Customs police our borders to, among other things, guard against smuggling of banned goods, but, if they do this effectively at the borders, as obtainable in other countries, there would not be need for Customs checkpoints all over the place,” he said.
Mr Obi said he observed over 10 checkpoints from Ore to Onitsha and added that, in this time of recession, what was more worrisome was that they stopped travellers and demanded Customs papers, clearance papers for vehicles, including those bought several years ago.
“Even families going home for Christmas were stopped and the rice they were given as gifts in their offices or bought in the open market were confiscated under the presence that they were foreign rice.”
Mr Obi appealed to the Customs Comptroller General, Mr Hameed Ali, “to look with interest” at what is happening and “to completely overhaul their mode of operations by targeting those importing banned goods at the borders and not innocent Nigerians trying painfully to eke a living.”
He commended Customs for their contributions to the growth and development of the country, but argued that, “taking their checkpoints to places that have or have no need of them is subjecting the people to underserved hardship.
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