The League of Maritime Editors and Publishers (LMEP) has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to immediately sack the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hammed Ali (rtd), and the Customs Controllers of Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Lagos and Ogun Commands for donating 920,000 bags of contaminated rice to the states in the South West as part of the palliative over the ravaging coronavirus pandemic.
The League of Maritime Editors and Publishers (LMEP) however threatened to take legal action if Ali and his controllers are not sacked by President Buhari for such atrocities against Nigerians.
This development was contained in a State of the Nation statement signed by the President, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke and Secretary General, Mr. Francis Ugwoke, of the League.
The League said that Ali and his Customs Controllers treated with total disregard the health implications of the grains to the people of the states even when they were fully aware that the food items were poisonous.
The editors recalled that Ali had himself described the grains as poisonous and had warned Nigerians from consuming them on several occasions.
According to the group, some of the grains came to the country years back and were seized by the Customs who later described them as contaminated.
The group recalled a statement credited to the Customs boss when he addressed newsmen, where he was advising Nigerians against eating foreign seized rice on the argument that they are poisonous having spent a minimum of five years in the silo before arriving the country.
Ali had actually told newsmen, “A chemical must have been added to sustain its freshness and that chemical is harmful. Also, it has been re-bagged with a new date given as the production and expiry date and that is what we consume here which causes diseases”.
The Group also recalled that the Customs under Ali’s leadership had equally donated the same poisonous rice to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North but were withdrawn later, adding that this was unbecoming of a highly placed public officer who claims to be in the forefront of the war against corruption.
Noting that Customs claimed that the grains were tested before they were given out, the League described this as simply a volte face, fallacy and demanded evidence of such test from the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC).
Part of the statement reads, “We demand the sack of Customs CG and the Controllers of the Oyo, Osun, Ondo, Lagos, Ogun Commands for betrayal of trust, negligence and attempted murder for Willy nilly giving out contaminated and expired rice that are dangerous for human consumption as palliatives to the people.
‘’Never mind that the five states, Lagos, Osun , Ekiti Ondo and Ogun have given conflicting reports on the rice, the truth of the matter is that they don’t want to speak up because of political reasons and patronage.
If the CG has said severally that foreign rice is not fit for human consumption, why must it then be distributed as palliatives, is custom not aware how long the rice must have stayed in their warehouses and what Due Diligence did it do to carry out on the rice before releasing them to the States? Were they inspected and tested by NAFDAC?
“ When did this foreign rice become okay for human consumption? Why can’t Ali’s Customs give Nigerians Nigerian rice instead of foreign rice which he knows are poisonous? Can’t the Customs afford this?
“Nigerians should ask the CG where he got his information first on the poisonous rice. Was it after it was distributed to IDPs which probably led to the stoppage? If so, why sending them to the West as COVID 19 palliatives, which could be seen as ethnic sabotage? There are other pockets of unhealthy practices by Customs officers manning checkpoints where they use their own money to purchase cheap expired rice across the borders which they present to their superiors at their commands as seizures in order to retain their “lucrative” positions”.
The group also disclosed that sources hinted of another plot to donate 10 bad containers of tomato paste in Onne Customs as palliatives to the federal government, adding that the NCDC has a report on that.
The group particularly commended the Oyo State government for speaking out on the state of the grains and not dancing to political tunes by giving what was not good for human consumption to the people of the state.
The group said it might be considering legal action if Ali is not shown the way out for such atrocities against the people of South West.
Beyond being sacked, the group equally demanded that the Customs Service must render an unreserved apology to Nigerians for their ‘show of shame’ and for toying with the life of Nigerians.