While the Lagos State Governor, Sanwo-Olu may be encouraging economic developments through Coconut, unfolding indication shows that some Customs operatives see the item as contraband and have impounded a significant quantity.
Consequently, Coconut traders in Badagry on Monday took to the streets, in a peaceful protest against the seizure of 1,450 bags of locally sourced coconut on Oct. 27 by operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service along Agbara road, Lagos.
The traders under the auspices of Lagos State Coconut Sellers and Traders Association (LASCOSTRAS) in their hundreds took the protest to the Palace of Akran of Badagry and Badagry Local Government Secretariat in Ajara, displaying placards with various inscriptions including: “Coconut is not contraband”, “Customs release our coconut”.
“Badagry is a coconut town, we are doing legal business”, “Coconut is not rice. Release our coconut now”.
“Many traders of coconut are in debt because customers do not come to buy coconut at Agbalata market again.
Mr Tunde Hunpatin, the General Secretary and spokesman, LASCOSTRAS, said the protest was to express the traders’ displeasure over the seizure of the coconut and harassment of the traders by Customs officials.
“In the evening of Oct. 27, two trucks and a pickup car load of 1,450 bags of locally sourced coconut on transit to our industrial coconut processors customers was seized by Customs at Agbara checking point.
“The coconut just left Agbalata Central Coconut Market in Badagry when it was seized.
“Before we knew what was going on, the two trucks and the pickup car were escorted to Ikeja Zone ‘A’ Zonal Office of the customs, as seized item.
“Surprisingly, on getting to Ikeja, the consignment which was on credit supply had already been slated for auctioning without examination,” he said.
At the Akran palace, Mrs Sabaina Hunpatin, the Iya-Egbe of LASCOSTRAS, appealed to Aholu Meno Toyi I, to save the traders from constant harassment and secure the items from customs officials.
“We have more than 100 communities within Badagry axis that produce coconut and many people are coming from different states in Nigeria to buy from us.
“These customers no longer come because of the fear of harassment and seizure.
“We don’t want our coconut market to perish just because of border closure. We have been in this business 100 years back.
“Our coconut is not from Ghana, security agents should check properly, we are not frustrating government efforts, so customs should not kill us,” he said.
Receiving the letter, Akran promised the aggrieved traders that he would wade in and ensure that normalcy returns to the matter.
He assured them that the coconut market in the land would not perish, adding that they should await the outcome of the letter sent to Lagos by their Secretary, Mr. Tunde Hunpatin.
At the Secretariat of Badagry Local Government, Mr Segun Onilude, the Chairman, said his administration was committed to the progress of coconut trading in Badagry.
Onilude, who was represented by the Secretary to the council, Mr Kamarudeen Ajape, commended the traders for conducting the protest in peaceful manner, assuring them that he would get to the root of the matter.
The chairman said that he would meet with the secretary of the association to know the way forward after his return from Lagos where he had gone to submit report on the incident.
When the Maritime First however contacted, the image-maker explained that the spokesman of the Federal Operation Unit Ikeja, Jerry Attah when contacted explained that the notion that the coconuts were auctioned was untrue, adding that they were still in good custody.
Jerry Attah however noted too that it was not the FOU that intercepted the coconuts, but the Border drill, the Swift Operation body presently manning the nation’s borders.