Armed Customs officials, in the early hours of Wednesday, invaded the Agip Market in the Agege area of Lagos State, allegedly burgled shops and looted property belonging to traders operating in the market.
The traders, while recounting their losses during a protest on Thursday, said property worth millions of naira were reportedly stolen by the officials who ransacked their shops after dislodging the security guards manning the premises.
During the protest which started around 9am, the traders, some of whom were seen weeping profusely as they lamented over the development, said the accused officials seized the mobile phones of their guards to prevent them from recording the incident or contacting traders and market leaders who were at home sleeping during the operation.
The traders were also seen carrying placards bearing inscriptions including “Asiwaju our father, please save our soul,” “Nigerian government, please intervene in our case,” and “Customs broke my shop and made me a debtor overnight,” among others.
Speaking with our correspondent, one of the aggrieved traders, Ijeoma Eze-Okoye, said the officials allegedly burgled and looted bags of rice, and money, among other goods in shops of traders operating in Akerele and Agip markets in the space of three weeks.
She said, “My shop is at Akerele Market. My shop is the first shop they broke into around 1am about two weeks ago. It was Customs officials that stole my goods. I was informed that Customs officers were at our place (shops) around 1am.
“They said somebody pointed my shop to them and the Customs officers alongside the hoodlums that they brought broke into my shop and looted my goods. They carried bags of rice valued at N6m. They broke into two shops after my own. They carried the bags of rice inside there.”
Eze-Okoye said she reported the matter at the Elere Police Station, adding that when she was asked how she knew Customs officials were responsible for looting her shop, she said the guards and a resident in the area saw them during the operation.
A trader in Agip market, Aina Irawo, whose shop was also affected, accused the Customs officials of stealing no fewer than 200 bags of rice from her shop.
Irawo said, “Have mercy on us. Customs officers came to burgle my shop. They carried 200 bags of rice yesterday (Wednesday). They also broke my safe and carted away N6m. Have mercy on us. We are only trading at Agege, we didn’t go to the border.”
Another trader in the market, Arike Olafathia, said, “We sell goods inside Agege. Customs officers do come at midnight to break our shops. When they came, they would seize the phones of our security guards.
“Around 2am on Wednesday, they came with about five Hilux vans and broke into three shops at Agip market in Agege. The security guards told us they were Customs officers. They did this after invading the Akerele market a few weeks ago and took about 250 bags of rice. This is debt! We can’t feed our children. It is too much and that is why we are protesting.”
Contacted, the spokesperson for Customs, Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Theophilus Duniya, said, “We have no record of any operation.”
The national spokesperson for the agency, Abdullahi Maiwada, when contacted, also said, “We discussed that issue with him (Duniya) today, fortunately, I am in Lagos, we were in the same location with him today and he referred to that issue. I saw the text you sent to him, it is good you relate with him.”