There are strong indications that the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.), may appear before the Senate soon over the refusal of his men to return bags of rice and cash they allegedly carted away from some shops in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
The Senate had in April, following a motion from the Senator representing Oyo South, Kola Balogun, directed its Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petition, to probe the development.
According to THE PUNCH NEWSPAPER, the panel led by Senator Ayo Akinyelure held an investigative public hearing on the issue with the representatives of the NCS and the rice sellers in attendance on May 4.
The panel directed the NCS to return the bags of rice and money which its officials allegedly carted away from the traders.
Akinyelure recalled that a similar sting operation carried out by the NCS in Katsina State resulted in the dismissal of the officer who led the operations.
He also said the confiscated goods were returned to the traders on the order of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The panel, therefore, asked the Comptroller General of Customs to do the same thing for the traders in Oyo State.
Investigations by our correspondent, however, revealed that about a month after the Senate resolution, the NCS had yet to return the bags of rice and the money they allegedly took away from the traders’ shops.
When contacted on Sunday, the Babaloja General of Oyo State, who is also one of the affected traders, Mr Jimoh Aderemi, said the bags of rice and the money were still with the Customs officers.
Aderemi said, “We have been waiting patiently for the NCS to return our bags of rice, garri and money they took following the intervention of the Senate. However, up till now, nothing has been heard from them,” he said.
The Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs and Excise, Senator Francis Fadahunsi, told our correspondent on Sunday that the authorities of the NCS might appear before the Senate if they refused to return the products and the money to the traders.
Fadahunsi, who retired as the Deputy Comptroller General of the NCS, wondered why the agency was going after the traders when they could have stopped the products from coming in.
He, however, alleged that uniformed men and those who could bribe their ways were smuggling in rice into the country.
He said, “How does the NCS determine foreign rice from locally produced ones. They don’t have the mechanism to determine it . The rice being produced in Kebbi and Kano are as good as foreign rice.”