By Demola Akinyemi
Ilorin—No fewer than 1000 workers and sympathizers of a major distributor of local rice in Nigeria, Mount Olive Nigeria limited based in “Oja tuntun”(new market) Kwara State, yesterday trooped into the major streets of Ilorin to protest perceived illegal seizure of 704 bags of rice from the company by officials of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS.
Chairman of the company, Ademola Julius, who was moved to tears while addressing journalists during the protest, also accused Kwara State command of NCS of unlawful arrest and detention of his workers.
He recalled that two years ago over 200 bags of rice were also illegally seized, but later released to him after they had been damaged by rain because they were kept inside a leaking warehouse..
According to him,,” In the last four years I have been supporting the cause of Nigeria rice to grow the economy but unfortunately men of the Nigerian Customs have been threatening my business. Men of the Nigerian Customs Services came to my warehouse around 2am and broke my door, tied my security man down and carted away 704 bags of Nigerian rice. I have over 10 trailers of purely local rice inside my warehouse.
“Ask producers of local rice in Nigeria, Mount Olive Nigeria Ltd has been supporting them because I am the distributor of Nigerian rice in the whole South West. Nigeria customs just came to frustrate me. I have 480 staff working for me. I don’t know what they want from me. I pay my tax regularly. If they are saying I’m not doing my business in the proper way, what is the proper way they want me to follow?”
“I have reported to the police that Customs men attacked my company unlawfully. That is why I’m protesting with my staff for Nigeria government to come to my aid. They said I should come and see the AGC today and when I got to their office they said he was not around. Three of my staff were locked up and they collected N50, 000 from me before they were released. One of my friends who also came was locked up.”
“Nigerian Customs Service, Kwara State command should release all my rice unconditionally. Presidency should look into the matter, I have branches all over the country. My company is in 23 locations across the country. They should come and investigate. We are ready to cooperate with whoever want to come and investigate us.
Contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the Nigerian Customs Services, Kwara State Command, S.S. Okpo, confirmed that some rice were seized, but added that investigation was still on going on the matter.
She said members of the press would be addressed at the end of the investigation.