More than 48 hours after the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) directed banks to open foreign currency retail outlets at major airports across the country, passengers traveling out through the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, yesterday, still complained of acute scarcity of foreign exchange (forex) which remained out of reach of most people.
Although, three banks – Skyebank, First Bank and Zenith Bank currently operate at the Lagos airport – non of them was selling foreign exchange when Daily Sun visited the offices at the Lagos airport. It was observed that though several passengers had besieged the banks to buy forex, they were told by officials that the banks were yet to be supplied with dollars and pounds to enable them sell to passengers.
“We are yet to get the supplies of forex from our headquarters. Some passengers have been coming to make enquiries on when we will start but we keep telling them that we are working on how to meet the requirements,” said a manager at one of the banks’ branches who declined to give his name.
“Sometimes we refer them to our branches closest to them where forex transactions are done. But at this our airport branch, we are optimistic that before Friday we will start selling forex to air travellers in line with the new CBN directive,” he added.
One passenger who simply identified himself as Olusegun said he came around to make enquiries to know if the banks had started selling forex to passengers with valid travel documents.
“I will be travelling to Dubai next week Wednesday and I have all the documents here. But I just came to ask if and when they will start selling dollars. They told me they are not yet ready because they are still sorting out some issues,” Olusegun said.
Daily Sun also visited some of the registered Bureau de Change outlets at the airport where it was discovered that none of them had dollars to sell to customers. At both the Sulah Bureau de Change and Bossy Clean Exchange, located inside the departure halls of the MMIA, officials at the counters told Daily Sun that they had no dollars to trade with.
“Our exchange rate here is N400-$1. But we couldn’t sell dollars to anyone today because we don’t have any. We can take dollars in exchange of the naira,” said an official at Bossy Clean Exchange.
Rice sellers in Sango Market, in the Ado Odo/Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State on Wednesday blocked the Temidire end of the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway for over seven hours.
The traders were protesting against the alleged invasion of customs officials from the Federal Operation Unit (FOU) of the Nigeria Customs Service, Ikeja, who allegedly broke several shops in the market around 12am.
The operatives, who were reportedly accompanied by soldiers attached to OP MESSA, were said to have impounded about 4,550 bags of rice and 75 jerrycans of vegetable oil, estimated at millions of naira.
The traders also accused the officials of breaking their safes and taking money during the operation that lasted for about three hours.
It took the intervention of the Area Commander, Sango-Ota, ACP Fayoade Adegoke, and a member of the Ogun State House of Assembly, Akinpelu Aina, before the expressway was opened at 2.15pm
But the customs stated that 1,870 bags of rice and 43 jerrycans of vegetable oil smuggled into the country were seized, adding that its officials did not break any shop.
It was learnt that the operatives engaged carriers to load the products into about 13 trailers out of the 15 they brought.
After the invasion, traders blocked the expressway at about 7am hindering vehicular movements in the Sango area.
One of the traders, Kudirat Fasinu, who spoke in Yoruba, showed a receipt of vegetable oil worth N1.5m she bought on Saturday, saying that the item and 300 bags of rice were taken away.
“I just finished prayer around 1am when I got a call that customs men were breaking shops and removing goods. They broke my shop and took away 75 jerrycans of 25 litres vegetable oil and 300 bags of rice. I got here around 1.30am,” Fasinu said.
Another trader, who gave her name only as Mrs. Egbasite, said 50 bags of rice in front of her shop were confiscated, adding that she bought the goods on credit.
Another rice seller in the market popularly known as Iya Okiki, said she just bought 125 jerrycans of vegetable oil worth N1,510,000, adding that all were taken away.
The Iyaloja of the market, Mrs. Deborah Bankole, said, “I was informed about the incident around 1.15am, that customs men were breaking our shops. By the time I got here, they had started packing rice and vegetable oil. They came with men of the OP MESSA.
“They also broke safes of some traders and went away with their money. We bought these goods in Sango. Most of us are widows; government should come to our aid. We bought these goods on credit.”
The Babaloja, Alhaji Shakirudeen Olasege, described the operation as contraband, adding that if goods were illegal, the shops were supposed to be sealed and their owners invited for questioning.
He said, “We are going to Abeokuta tomorrow (Thursday) to meet with Governor Ibikunle Amosun and the state House of Assembly. Goods and cash worth about N700m were seized during the raid by customs. I learnt that the men entered the market around 12am. They came with 15 trailers and went with 13 trailer-load of rice. Each trailer contained 350 bags. Some of the officers wore masks.
“This is burglary. Two customs officials, identified as Jude and Alawo Ekun, led the illegal operation.”
One of the drivers that transported bags of rice to the market, Semiu White, said he was disturbed that the officials could embark on such an operation after allegedly collecting money at the borders.
He said, “If we load a car with bags of rice from Idiroko to Sango, we pay N1,000 at every customs checkpoint. There are more than 18 checkpoints between Idiroko and Ajilete. At times, some officials would insist on collecting extra before passing the vehicle.”
The Ado Odo/Ota LGA Chairman, Oladele Adeniji, told one of our correspondents that he had contacted the state controller of NCS and the state governor
He said, “I have appealed to the rice sellers to remain calm. The matter will be resolved.”
The spokesperson for the customs FOU, Ikeja, Jerry Attah, said some smugglers had been trailed to the market. He explained that the officials swung into action the moment the items were offloaded and debunked the claims that the shops were broken.
He said, “Our men, with the assistance of other security agencies, went to the scene around 4am with seven trucks and packed some bags of rice in front of a warehouse and they were brought to the office around 6am. After physical examination, it was discovered that the trucks contained 1,870 bags of rice of 50kg each and of different brands. Forty three jerrycans of vegetable oil were also seized. The value of the rice is N12,425,022.
“They were supposed to go back to the premises to pack the remaining quantity. But considering the volatility of the area, going back there would cause an attack and may lead to a shootout. No single shop was broken.
“The essence of this action is not to deter people from doing their businesses. But we are against economic saboteurs who have devised a means of sabotaging the economy by indulging in smuggling. People take advantage of our porous borders to perpetrate nefarious activities like this.”
|One of the victim|
Five persons were yesterday killed when armed robbers attacked a branch of Zenith Bank located along the popular Wetheral Road, Owerri, Imo State capital.
Sources said the armed robbers trailed someone who wanted to deposit large sum of money to bank premises and instantly shot him dead. The robbers also shot three security guards, but lost one gang members, who was shot dead by policemen guarding the bank.
On a visit to the scene yesterday, armed policemen had cordoned off the bank premises and refused everybody entry, except bank staff.
A witness said that the robbers, who came in three cars, had opened fire on their target, as soon as he alighted from the car that brought him to the bank. The target was hit as well as three other victims.
“The robbers, who were about 12 in number, had trailed the man who wanted to deposit large sums of money.
They came in three cars, but it was one of the cars that followed him into the bank premises. As soon as he came out of his car, the robbers shot him dead and took the money. They also shot dead three of the security guards and one bank customer. But one of the policemen guarding the bank killed one of the robbers.”
Another witness said the police arrived the scene after the robbers had left.
Spokesman of the Imo State Police Command, DSP Andrew Enwerem, confirmed the incident.
Arik Air, which was recently taken over by the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON) following huge indebtedness, has been suspended from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Billing and Settlement System (BSP).
However, IATA said the airline is still a member of the global body which is the clearing house for over 250 airlines.
IATA Area Manager, South West Africa, Dr, Samson Fatokun, said yesterday that the organisation is working with the new management of Arik to resolve the development.
BSP was designed to facilitate the selling, reporting and remitting procedures of IATA Accredited Passenger Sales Agents, as well as improve financial control and cash flow for BSP airlines.
There are BSP operations in some 181 countries and territories. The system currently serves approximately 400 participating airlines with an on-time settlement rate of 99.99 per cent. In 2015, IATA’s BSP processed $230.3 billion.
Fatoki said, “IATA is currently working with the new management of Arik Air to resolve the airline’s suspension from the IATA Billing and Settlement Plan (BSP) and Cargo Account Settlement System (CASS).
“The airline’s suspension from the IATA financial systems does not affect its IATA membership or IOSA registered status. Arik Air remains a member of IATA and a fully IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) registered airline.”
The Presidency on Wednesday described the bribery allegation against President Muhammadu Buhari as malicious, utterly ridiculous, and revolting.
A statement by the Special Adviser on media and publicity, Femi Adesina, disclosed that a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Kola Awodein, has reacted to news making the rounds that he gave Justice Niyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, currently standing trial for alleged corruption, the sum of N500, 000.00 at the behest of President Muhammadu Buhari, during the contrived certificate issue affecting the then presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
He said “Mr Awodein (SAN) describes the allegation as ‘malicious, utterly ridiculous, and revolting,’ in a statement released Wednesday.
He recalled that President Buhari challenged the elections of 2003, 2007, and 2011, up to the Supreme Court, and not once was he named as trying to compromise any Judge, even though some of them were his schoolmates, or contemporary, at one time or the other.
In keeping with the President’s time-tested reputation as a man of truth and integrity, he said that any attempt to sully that reputation is bound to fail, inexorably.
According to him, the President was in no way linked with Justice Ademola.
Awodein’s statement reads: “I am constrained to make in absolute good faith , in good conscience and in the interest of justice and fair play the following very short statement on account of the distorted news story currently being peddled as affecting the person of Mr. President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and my good and very noble self.
“The very simple and plain facts are as follows:
“I have known as a friend and for well over 35 years Mr. Justice Niyi Ademola, a notorious fact known to majority of lawyers who have practiced especially in Lagos for over that same period more or less and also to so many other professionals of other disciplines and other prominent and not so prominent Nigerians.
“It is a fact that the sum of money mentioned was personally paid by me as a friend to Mr. Justice Ademola as a personal gift, as our custom well recognizes and demands, on the occasion of his daughter’s High Society wedding solemnized at the Cathedral Church of Christ, Marina, Lagos, on the 9th of May 2015, which I attended in person.
“I was fully convinced then, as I remain today, that I could do no less as a friend of longstanding to fairly reasonably support him on that memorable occasion of his daughter’s wedding.
“Anyone and everyone who knows me would readily and unquestionably testify that I am and have always been a man of impeccable integrity on and off the Courts and that such a record speaks always loudly for itself.
National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, said yesterday that the party’s national secretariat, popularly known as Wadata Plaza, would be re-opened not later than today.
He also said those against his chairmanship should wait till after the party’s national convention, though he did mention when it would be held.
The Wadata Plaza was sealed by the police in 2016 as a result of the sharp division in the party.
Addressing a delegation of South-West PDP at his Maitama office in Abuja, Sheriff said he had transmitted all the documents necessary for the re-opening of the party’s headquarters, saying his ultimate goal was to rebuild the party.
He said he came to the party through a process and that he would cease to be chairman after the convention.
Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, stated that he would not join issues with those against him, and called on the party’s chieftains not to divide it.
”We have no argument with anybody. The law is certain; Nigerians have spoken. Some of the people you see, they actually don’t know where their villages are. They sit in Abuja and decide to make unnecessary statements.
“In the name of God, let’s re-build this party. Don’t divide the party. Let everybody unite in order to rebuild the party. I beg Fayose to respect PDP and the people of Nigeria. I beg him. Whatever you say today, posterity will judge you, so I beg him. Let’s tell Nigerians that our party is for all.
“I am not going to be chairman forever. I will leave office after the convention; we will do a credible convention. Whoever is against me should wait until after the convention,” Sheriff said.