By Esther Onyegbula
LAGOS—MOTORISTS and residents in the Badagry-Seme Expressway axis are groaning over the illegal activities of Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, officers, who operate multiple checkpoints along the route.
Vanguard observed that multiple checkpoints are mounted by Customs officials at Agbara, Elijah, Mowo, Gbaji, Atinporomeh, Ibereko, Badagry and Sultan Beach, where personnel are seen openly harassing private and commercial drivers.
At each checkpoint between Seme and Badagry they collects a toll ranging from N100 to N1,000 from each commercial vehicle, while anyone found with a bag of rice is made to part with between N500 and N1,000.
Vanguard reliably gathered that same officers usually turn a blind eye when, between 3a.m. and 5a.m., hundreds of trailers convey contraband goods from Seme to Lagos on the same route.
Meanwhile, women, with children strapped to their backs, weeping and pleading with the officers, who have seized their half bags of rice, are a common sight at same checkpoints.
Lamenting, a trader, Mrs Kehinde, who sells at Iyana Ira Bus Stop, said: “I usually go to buy some of the items I sell in my shop at Agbara. But you won’t believe that Customs officers have seized my goods that I bought from Agbara several times.
“Often, they raid shops, claiming the goods on sale are contraband. Government should come to our aid as it is frustrating plying this route.”
A motorist told Vanguard that Customs personnel stop private vehicles, requesting for vehicle licences when it is not their duty.
The motorist said: “Worse still, they go ahead to check the handbags of women, all in the name of checking for contraband items.”
Also, one of the motorists, Mr. Dapo, who spoke with Vanguard, called on the appropriate authorities to check the activities of these officers before it gets out of hand.
We’ve only 2 approved checkpoints—NCS
In a swift reaction, the Public Relations Officer, Federal Operating Unity, Ikeja, Jerry Attah, said: “I am surprised when you said multiple checkpoints from Agbara to Badagry.
“I can tell you for sure that there are only two approved checkpoints on that route— Agbara and Gbaji.”
When Vanguard challenged him on the presence of multiple checkpoints on the axis, Attah insisted that aside the two approved checkpoints, others are illegal.
He said: “All these areas you mentioned are not known to me. Like I said, we have two checkpoints on that road, which is Gbaji and Agbara. Any other checkpoint you see on that road is illegal.”