Traders at Itam Market in Uyo metropolis have threatened to close their shops in protest over N163 million worth of goods and raw cash allegedly seized by Customs officials last weekend.
Speaking to newsmen in Uyo on Wednesday, the Chairman Board of Trustee (BOT) of Itam Market and Special Assistant to the Chairman of Itu Local Government Area Mr. Godwin Ebong said Customs officials accompanied by soldiers and Department of State Services (DSS) operatives stormed the market last Friday night carting away goods and cash from shops worth N163 million.
Ebong explained that Customs officials, along with other security agencies, invaded the market between 11pm when the traders had left ransacking shops carrying away bags of contraband rice.
“It was on Friday night about 11 pm; one of the night guards called my line that some armed robbers were in the market. He said the ‘robbers’ broke one of the gates with their guns. When the night guards approached them, they pointed their torch lights at them and said ‘we are not for you’ and invaded the market.
“They said they were on national assignment and we understood they packed goods into more than 10 vehicles. We discovered the following morning that more than 40 shops were broken into while goods including foreign rice, beans and groundnut oil were carted away.
“We have therefore written to the National Security Adviser, (NSA) and given the FG a seven-day ultimatum to refund their goods and money unless we will shut down the market and go on a peaceful protest to security agencies and the Government House of Akwa Ibom.
“Although I am against traders selling foreign rice but the question we have been asking is how does the foreign rice get into Akwa Ibom; where there no Customs officers when this rice was brought into Akwa Ibom? We should also know that these traders are interested in profit and when people make demands for such goods, they go to any extent to get it for customers,” he explained.
But Nigerian Custom officials in Uyo said that the operation at the market was carried out by the Presidency under the office of National Security Adviser in Abuja.