From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha , George Onyejiuwa, Owerri and Petrus Obi, Enugu
South East Revival Group (SERG) has backed call by former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi, urging the Federal Government to end impunity by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Operatives of the NCS are reportedly subjecting Igbo travellers to hardship by seizing rice meant for household consumption at its numerous checkpoints in the region.
SERG, in a statement by its national coordinator, Chief Willy Ezugwu alleged that the Customs also seize cars already cleared at Lagos ports by its men on allegation that they under paid the duties.
“We are solidly behind the call by our leader, former governor Peter Obi, who was courageous enough to urge the Federal Government to stop the harassment of Ndigbo travelling for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
“At a time there is hunger in the land, we wonder why Customs will inflict economic losses on already impoverished families in the South East.
“Wharfs and borders should be where importation of any banned commodity should be stopped. You do not harass and dispossess hungry people of their food when you failed to do your job at the borders,” SERG said.
Meanwhile, President of Ohanaeze in Imo State, Ambassador Azuka Akpelu said it was not surprising that Customs officials have been extorting Ndigbo coming home for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
He noted that it was not only the Customs but the police were also involved.
He pointed out that it was only in the South East that the Customs would impound goods especially textile materials which were bought in Kano and Kaduna and label it contraband.
“I am not the least surprise about reports that the officials of the Customs have been harassing Igbo whose only offence is coming home to celebrate the Christmas with their people.
“It is only here that goods that are bought in Kano or Kaduna states especially textile materials are impounded at Onitsha by the Customs as contraband and you ask yourself, is it when it gets to the South East that it becomes a contraband?”
He equally alleged that policemen even bribe their ways just to serve in the South East states where they have free reign to extort the hapless people.
Also, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Uchenna Madu has said the extortion and harassment of Igbo on our highways would continue unless the state of Biafra is created.
Speaking in a telephone interview with Daily Sun, yesterdday, Madu commended Obi for speaking out and for taking the pains to travel by road from East to Lagos.
“It shows he is a good leader. We also condemn the ugly experiences our people undergo in the hands of security agencies.
“It still boils down to the same thing MASSOB has been fighting; because Nigeria security agencies not just Customs, always see Igboland and its people as a fertile platform to enrich themselves through dubious means.
“What Peter Obi saw is what has been happening to our people for a long time; there has been daily harassment of Igbo’s along these roads and it has become part of us.
“The only solution is Biafra because no amount of crying or complaints can stop the harassment it will continue all over the South-East.
“Our people should therefore support MASSOB and other pro Biafra group in the struggle for Biafra.”
Also speaking, President of the Igbo Youth Movement (IYM) Comrade Elliot Ukoh condemned the Customs raid.
“What I heard is that people went to Lagos to buy some bags of rice and once they get to Asaba, it is seized. It is wrong and so painful.
“That is why these boys agitating for Biafra are winning converts everyday.
“You see people joining the struggle because of such things.
“ Customs should be at the country’s borders and not on the roads.
“I don’t know that rice could be seized along the road especially when there is intelligence that such goods were contraband or appropriate duties not paid.”
Also, president of South-East Amalgamated Market Traders Association (SEAMTA), Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo condemned harassment of travellers and seizure of bags of rice by Customs.
He, however, called on Comptroller of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd) to withdraw and dismantle all the Customs’ checkpoints along the highways and relocate them to the borders, sea ports and airports.