‘Gov.Sanwo-Olu should stop custom operatives from raiding tax-paying Igbo traders doing business in Lagos’

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Chief Solomon Ogbonna is the Ohaneze Ndigbo of Lagos State. He is passionate about the leadership that flows from top to bottom, impacting on the socio-economic life of the people as well as creating a conducive atmosphere for all. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, he talks about the potential in Lagos, recent seizure of goods from Igbo traders and other issues.

WHAT are your expectations for your members in the New Year?

It is a brand new year and a new decade. We are very positive and hopeful. The task ahead for me is ful to make sure that my people are well represented and their interestly taken care of in the State. We are really proud of the governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, for the relationship he has with our people. Last year, he promised us that our interest will be taken care of and we look forward to a wonderful experience this year.

What is your take on the recent raid on Igbo traders?

Sanwo-Olu is the chief security officer of the state, but cannot interfere with the operations of the customs service. Furthermore, Customs Service is under federal regulation with the comptroller general as the ultimate authority. So, every complaint against customs operatives must be directed to the comptroller-general of customs and his lieutenants. Nonetheless, I think that the governor can put in some words in favour of the traders, if the actions of the customs operatives are going contrary to established norms and rules of engagement. But if the customs operatives are acting within the limits of the law establishing the body, all complaints should be directed to the customs leadership. So, I would say that the affected traders should channel their grievances to the appropriate authority of the Nigerian Customs Service.

How did you get the information and what was your initial reaction?

The traders did not make a written or formal complaint to Ohanaeze secretariat. However, some traders made verbal complaint to me, while some others called me on phone and lamented the customs raid.

What did you do about the complaints from the traders?

I was on Christmas holiday at the time of the raid, but had to cut short my holiday and return to Lagos to assess the situation. I mobilised some members of my executive and we met with the customs Comptroller of Task Force, Lagos/Ogun zone. The Task Force comptroller, a disciplined officer, explained many things about customs operations, including targeted raids. My findings indicate that the customs raid was prompted by unhealthy rivalry between some traders in the markets. In the process, I learnt that some traders had branded some of their colleagues as smugglers and dealers in contraband. They snitched on those traders, prompting customs to raid the shops. Though, there might be some contraband in the market places, but customs operatives in such raids went beyond the call of duty and invaded even the innocent.

In advanced countries of the west, operations of the customs officers are restricted to the ports and boarder entries. In those countries, custom operatives could raid companies and offices on strong intelligent reports of illegal businesses and contraband. It will be great, if Nigeria Customs Services restrict their operations to the ports, entry boarders and roads. In most cases, customs raid on markets are prompted by unhealthy rivalry between traders.

What can be done to change the trend?

I strongly believe that traders should learn to be ethical in their conducts and avoid unhealthy rivalry. You don’t grow by pulling down others; instead, you earn enmity and hatred. So, I call on Igbo business people to avoid acts inimical to the conduct of their businesses. We should all strive to make the market places conducive for business.

Some Igbo people have started installing Eze Ahia (king of market) in markets around Lagos. What do you think about this?

I am no party to any plan for installation of Eze Ahia (King of the market) in any market in Lagos State. As you said, such arrangement will be an affront to Iya Oloja and Baba Oja. The plan for installation of Eze Ahia is part of the ignoble acts of some Igbo people in proliferating and commercialising of the Igbo chieftaincy institution. The proliferation of Igbo chieftaincy title is heading towards enthroning Eze Igbo at all streets in Lagos. I am against the proliferation and debasing of the Igbo chieftaincy.

There is a lot of insecurity in the land? What advice do you have for government and the people?

I think that the Lagos State government is really trying. I think that they should not relent on the efforts they have put in and do more this year. For the people, we all have to be our brothers’ keepers and be very careful as we go about doing our various businesses.

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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