Traders at Itam market in Uyo metropolis have threatened to close their shops in protest for N163m worth of goods and money allegedly seized by custom officials last weekend.
Speaking to newsmen in Uyo on Wednesday, the Chairman Board of Trustees( BOT) of Itam market and Special Assistant to the Chairman of Itu LGA Mr. Godwin Ebong said custom officials accompanied by Soldiers and DSS operatives stormed the market last Friday carting away goods and cash from shops worth N163m.
” It was on Friday night about 11 pm , one of the Night Guards called my line that some armed robbers were in the market. They said “robbers ” broke one of the gates with their guns . When the night guards approached them , they pointed torch light on them and said ” we are not for you” and invaded the market.
“They said they were on national assignment and we understood they packed goods into more than 10 vehicles.We discovered the following morning that more than 40 shops were broken into while goods including foreign rice, beans, groundnut oil and other things were missing from those shops
“We have therefore written to the National Security Adviser, NSA, and given the FG a seven days ultimatum to refund their goods and money unless we will shut down the market and go on a peaceful protest to security agencies and the government house of Akwa Ibom.
“Although I am against traders selling foreign rice but the question we have been asking is how does the foreign rice get into Akwa Ibom, were there no customs when this rice was brought into Akwa Ibom.? We should also know that these traders are interested in profit and when people make demands for such goods, they go to any extent to get it for customers.” He explained.
On why traders keep cash in the market, Ebong explained that, “most of our traders do not have bank account because they collect goods on credit and pay back the following morning. So it is difficult for them to be carrying cash about when they know they will settle their creditors the next day.”
But Nigeria Custom officials in Uyo have said that the operations at the market was carried out by the Presidency under the the office of National Security Adviser.
The Operations Comptroller of Customs in Uyo, Tunku Lokoja said any explanation on the operations would be done by their office in Calabar.
” That operation was carried out at the instance of National Security Adviser and we are not under them .And I just heard it the way I am hearing from you . So whatever they took from the operations , you have to contact Calabar because I don’t have any information on that.
” The team comprises of Nigeria Customs , Army, Immigration, DSS and the Police. I don’t know whatever they took from there . As I said, you have to contact Calabar for information on it.” Lokoja said .
Reacting to the raid, the Special Assistant to Governor Udom Emmanuel on Matket, Trade and Investment, Mr Idorenyin Rapheal condemned the approach adopted by the security operatives, which he said created a questionable impression of the exercise.
Raphael who decried the unwarranted destruction of market stalls and gates also queried the extension of the raid to provision stores, vandalization of beans, groundnut oil and cash, while owners of such shops were in their homes sleeping.
“They came in around 11.30pm and left at 4.30am. they carted away cash, rice, beans, provisions, groundnut oil. Everything amounted to N163m. They left with 10 truck load of food items”. he said
The Special Adviser to Governor Udom Emmanuel, Capt Iniobong Ekong (Rtd) when contacted said the team, identified as border control from office of the National Security Adviser to the President, has confirmed to have been responsible for the raid. He however condemned the timing and vandalization.