How I wish you are around in the late evenings when they share their ‘loot’. You will marvel at the large sums of money they each take home on a daily basis, a sources told BigPen Online of how men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) mounting checkpoints on the country’s major highways, particularly those stationed at Ekiadolor and Oluku end of the Benin highway in Edo State operate.
After extorting importers, they lure women in the area (married or single) with money such that in some instances they contribute to the breakup of some marriages, our source added.
The source told our undercover reporter who was on the route recently that custom officials always extort importers, entrepreneurs and others who travel through the different Customs checkpoints along the Benin axis.
They subject their victims to untold hardship, leading to loss of goods and money, even when the goods are cleared through Tincan port.
Investigation revealed that the customs men stationed at Ekiadolor and Oluku end of the highway in Benin which is the main entry that connects the South West to the South East and South South axis of the country, has become law unto themselves.
According to sources, those who have been passing through this route with some goods or consignment have terrible tale to tell of what they go through in the hands of the gun totting customs officials whose menacing looks and threats put fears into the mind of anybody who dare to question the legality of their actions/operations.
Sources disclosed that the customs men usual style of operation is to intimidate and harass anybody traveling enroute with any consignment especially choice automobiles, gas tanks, luxury goods etc.
Just recently an entrepreneur and the Managing Director/CEO of Sykes Energiprojects Limited, Olorogun Johnny Esike, had his goods that have been cleared at the Tincan Port, Lagos since 13th March, 2017 and being ferried to Delta state seized by the officials who allegedly demanded for a bribe of N500, 000 to let it go.
Olorogun Esike who confirmed this development, said that the activities of men of the Custom, particularly those stationed at Ekiadolor and Oluku end in Benin, Edo State, have becoming worrisome to genuine investors.
Given a graphic details of what transpired in his own case, Esike who owns one of the biggest gas plant at Ughelli, Delta State, stated that he imported a gas tank and the duties were fully paid and was cleared at the Tincan Port, on 13th March, 2017.
But he was shocked when his manager called him to say that the tank which was being transported to Delta was impounded at Ekiadolor by customs, for alleged undervaluation.
“We demanded to know why the tank was seized, they told us that the tank was undervalued at Lagos, they are now demanding N500,000 as bribe to release it to us.
“I refuse to part with that kind of money, and they have been holding the goods since last week.
The actions of Customs are discouraging genuine business men from coming back home to invest, and if the Buhari-led government wants to grow the economy, it must check the activities of customs.
When contacted to get their commentnat time of filling this report for publication on Tuesday, a customs officials at Ekiadolor who spoke but refuse to mention his name denied the allegation insisting that they never demanded for payment N500,000 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira) before the tank would be allowed to continue its journey.
According to him,”It’s a complete lie.How can a tank which has been duly cleared at the port and all duties paid for as you claim become a subject of argument here (in Ekiadolor) to the extent that N500,000 bribe is been demanded.
“You (the reporter) should even question such cheap blackmail.”
When asked to make the phone number of the leader of the team available, he insisted that the reporter should wait till the late hours of the day when the team leader will resume duty for the day.
“In the alternative, you can travel down to Owerri where our zonal office is located to make your enquiries. This place is just an outpost station,” he volunteered.
No explanation or proof will be accepted by these customs men when they’re on a mission to extort you, another source who craved anonymity said.