The Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC) has raised the alarm over the worsening cases of extortion of Igbo traders by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on highways in the country.
Addressing journalists in Owerri, the Imo State capital, Wednesday, the president of the OYC, Comrade Igboayaka O. Igboayaka said the series of extortion of Igbo traders and businessmen in the country, especially in Lagos State, by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service had reached an alarming stage.
According to him, the officials no longer hide “their inclination and pleasure in extorting money from Igbo traders doing legitimate business in Nigeria”.
He said, “Verified complaints reaching the OYC has confirmed that customs officials have continued to request undue and illegal ‘customs duties and levies’ from Igbo importers as a condition to clear their goods. They also stop Igbo traders on the roads to extort from them. They employ the use of coercion, threats, closure of shops and seizure of goods worth billions of naira to unlawfully obtain money from their victims.
“Recently, some of the officials from the custom office in Ikeja, without court order, stormed Igbo shops at Maryland, Coscharis, Ikorodu and other areas in Lagos and carted away their goods and locked their shops over products that have already been cleared by the same custom officials when it entered Nigerian borders.”
Reacting to the allegations, the NCS spokesman, Joseph Attah, a deputy controller of Customs, admitted that there was an ongoing clampdown on smuggled goods especially vehicles, but denied that the action was targeted on any ethnic group in the country.
“My brother, why are you bringing in ethnic sentiment to an official action? There is nothing tribal about it because whatever is going on in Lagos is going on in Kaduna, Kano, even Port Harcourt and other parts of the country.
As I’m talking to you, I’m in Kaduna to sensitise the people on the ongoing partial border closure and some of the people there were asking this same question. They are not Igbos. So, there is nothing tribal about it. Those people telling you this have to know that Igbos are not the only ones selling cars,” Attah told The Nation on the telephone.
Reminded of the allegation that appropriate duties have been paid on some of the seized vehicles, Attah said, appropriate actions would be taken after investigations.