In the early hours of Wednesday, armed Customs officers allegedly burgled stores and looted items belonging to traders operating in the Agip Market in the Agege region of Lagos State.
Traders recounted their losses during a protest on Thursday, saying officials destroyed their businesses after dislodging the security officers on the premises and stole property worth millions of naira.
At the protest which began around 9 a.m, traders, some of whom were seen crying bitterly as they lamented the development, alleged that the accused officials confiscated their guards’ mobile phones to stop them from recording the incident or reaching out to traders and market leaders who were sleeping at home during the operation.
The traders were seen wielding placards with 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.
Ijeoma Eze-Okoye, one of the aggrieved traders told newsmen that the officers burgled and looted bags of rice, money, and other products from traders’ businesses in Akerele and Agip markets over three weeks.
She said, “My shop is at Akerele Market. My shop is the first shop they broke into around 1 am about two weeks ago. It was Customs officials that stole my goods. I was informed that Customs officers were at our place (shops) around 1 am.
“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” she added.
Eze-Okoye stated that she reported the incident to the Elere Police Station, and when asked how she knew Customs agents were involved in robbing her shop, she stated that the guards and a neighbor in the area witnessed the operation.
Aina Irawo, a store owner in Agip market whose shop was similarly looted, accused Customs agents of stealing 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 2 am 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”.
However, the spokesperson for Customs, Federal Operations Unit, Zone A, Theophilus Duniya, refuted the allegations saying We have no record of any operation”.
The national spokesperson for the agency, Abdullahi Maiwada, when contacted on the issue, 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”.