On November 30, 2017, Ibrahim Oyeniyi, a businessman, was on his way from Lagos to Ilorin in Kwara state, when he was stopped along a bushy part of Ibadan, Oyo state capital, by some men in mufti. They demanded to see his car papers.
At first, Oyeniyi was reluctant, but later agreed the moment he found they were men of the Nigeria Customs Service. He handed them the particulars, and shocking to him, the customs duty paper of his Mercedes-Benz turned out to be fake.
Immediately, he picked his phone and called the dealer who sold him the car. The dealer asked that he finds his way out of the customs’ nest and then when he gets to Ilorin, things would be sorted.
“I approached them and they said I should give them N300,000 bribe,” Oyeniyi told TheCable.
He pleaded with them that he only had N22,000, and he was willing to give N20,000. This perhaps got the customs men angry, and he said one of them threatened to shoot him.
“He cocked the gun and pointed it at me, collected the car key from me and left without giving any means of identification and contact address. These people loaded themselves inside my car and zoomed to an unknown destination, and I could only copy the number plate of their Hilux van (CS 212 A 0/1). I was left on the dangerous road, I trekked down to the nearest police station which was the Toll-Gate police station.
“I made a complaint to the Nigeria police force at the Toll-Gate office and stated those items that were made away with my car. The items include the sum of N1.6 million cash, a wrist watch, ATM cards of Stanbic IBTC and Access Bank, payment tellers among others.”
With the assistance of the police, officers were later discovered to be from the zonal office of customs in Ibadan.
Oyeniyi found his car at their premises, and after consultation, Moses Adewole, the officer in charge of enforcement, asked him to go prepare a genuine duty paper before he would be allowed access to his car.
Without dragging a minute, Oyeniyi said he made the payment but his car wouldn’t be released yet.
He said when he was allowed to check the car, his money and other valuables had gone missing.
“One PA to the area comptroller gave other legal implications of the continuous detention of my properties after due compliance. After deliberation with some staff in their legal department, I was asked to wait outside,” he said.
“Later, Mr. Adewole instructed some officers to escort me to where the car was packed to search inside the car if my assets are intact, but unfortunately N1.6million was missing. Further to this when they discovered that some of my properties were missing in the car, they swiftly and fraudulently served me a postdated form C60 (notice of detention / seizure) by their head of legal department, claiming that I was intercepted on Thursday 8th February 2018, not knowing that an official complaint had been made few hours to the incident.”
Oyeniyi was subsequently asked to pay N250,000 “bribe” and when he protested this, the officers sent him out of their office. He was told that he would be detained if he ever returned.
On the instructions of Adewole, Oyeniyi explained that two officers came to him to collect the money. He alleged that Adewole told him the bribe was not only for him, but also their area commander and other top officers.
“One of the officers is named Ibrahim from legal department, and the second officer is named Lateef Abdul Kareem Ajao, he is one of the officers that drives/escort the area controller.
“They collected the sum of N187, 000 from me in cash through Mr. Muhammad Olanrewaju Salaty, popularly known as Mukadam Soliheen.”
After collecting the money, Oyeniyi was told his car won’t be released until he presented the balance.
The next day, when he returned, he was shocked when Ajao asked him for his account details so he could refund the money. Out of N180, 000, Ajao, however, returned N70, 000 in a bank transfer to Oyeniyi.
‘BUSINESS DOWN, CUSTOMS AFTER MY LIFE’
This is almost two years, neither Oyeniyi’s car nor his money and valuables have been released to him.
“I have written several petitions to the zonal office and even to the CG of customs which was acknowledged July 10, 2018 and no response up till now,” a depressed Oyeniyi said over the telephone.
“My business is totally down and I was unable to secure my business contracts with our partners abroad due to the stolen funds in my car.”
Oyeniyi said he has lost at least N77 million as he has been unable to continue his business.
He also alleged that, sometime in September, 2018, he was attacked around Apalara/Adeta road Ilorin, Kwara, by men he suspected to be running errands for some customs officers.
“I can’t move freely as they are after my life,” he said, adding that he is now being trailed.
When contacted, Adewole denied being at the Oyo command of customs in 2017 when Oyeniyi’s car was seized and money stolen.
“Let him come to the station and confirm it,” he told TheCable.
“I am not the comptroller, and in 2017, I was not in Oyo command. Let him come and bring the document.”
Joseph Attah, customs spokesperson, was not available to comment on the matter.
Hameed Ali, comptroller-general of customs had in October directed that owners of vehicles seized or detained will pay the complete duty with 25% penalty levy.
It is not clear yet why Oyeniyi’s car is still being held.