By Stephen Ubanna
Those who think that Nigerian is a net importer of Coco Nut from the West African country of Ghana must have to do a rethink. This is because Nigerian grows Coco Nut in Commercial quantities in Badagry local government Area of Lagos state.
This may have informed the formation of the Lagos state Coco Nut Sellers and Traders Association popular, LASCTRAS, based in Marine base, Badagry in 1992. With over 500 members, the market have never known peace over the years because of the continuous harassment of buyers from the market by Customs personnel mounting road blocks at Aradagun, Elijah, Church Gate and Agbara Check Points on the allegations that they were smuggled into the country from Ghana.
The situation was so bad that many dealers from different parts of the country had lost their goods to the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, and he intervention ad-hoc Teams: Comptroller General of Customs , CGC, Strike Force or the Border Drill, sector 1, personnel, between Aradagun and Agbara checkpoints.
The Value News witnessed the interception of the Coco Nut bought by a female trader from one of the the south east states from the market which fell into the waiting hand hand of the CGC Strike Force, on the ground that it was smuggled from Ghana through the waterways into the country. It took the intervention of Hon. Tunde Hunpatin, the General Secretary of the Association and the Public Relations Officer, for the items to be released after much pleas.
Investigations by The Magazine shows that many Coco Nut dealers from Oyo, Osun, Ekiti, Ondo and other parts of the country, including dealers from the north had abandoned the market in the last three years for fear of losing their market to Customs personnel at the checks check points in Lagos.
Perhaps to avoid destroying the International Coco Nut that had had been developed at Badagry which is a major source of revenue for the Lagos state government, the Representatives of the Badagry Local government and the House of Representatives including the Chairman of the Local government were said to have intervened to restore peace to the market.
In spite of the fact that sanity has returned to the Badagry Coco Nut market, Hunpatin, the General Secretary of the Association, would want the Customs Authorities to change their perception of the Coco Nut being sold at the Badagry market as being smuggled from Ghana , stressing that they are all grown in Nigeria.
He noted that there is a major difference between the Coco Nut grown and sold in Nigeria and any other country in the West African sub-region. He cited the Ghana farmers grown Coco Nut and sold in thir own market which has small size , compared to the Nigerian specie which is very big.
It is not surprising why the market has started bubbling again as most of the run awy Customers from the different parts of the country, particular, the south west and souh east have started patronizing the market again without fear of Customs harassment.
Elected officials overseeing the affairs of the market were said to have developed working document which are given out to dealers whenever they make any purchase from the market. The Magazine cited a Copy of the working document which was said to have been addressed to the FOU, Zone A, CGC, Strike Force and Border Drill , SECTOR 1, officers in-charge of Aradagun, Mowo, Elijah, Church gate and Agbara check points.
The letter reads in part: I humbly write to respectfully certify that the bearer, depending on the person, is conveying so ,so, number of bags of Badagry Cocoa Nuts purchased at the Badagry Cocoa Nut market, Lagos state. The product is free of Concealment at the time of purchase and loading at the market premises. However, the goods could be subjected to examination where foul play is suspected.
The LASCOSTRAS, officials were said to have attached the purchase receipt, way bill and the Certificate of origin to the letters sent out to the Customs officials at the checkpoints. Insiders told The Magazine that Hunpatin, the Association General Secretary had told the Customs Officers in-charge at the checkpoints not to hesitate to reach out to him if they suspect any foul play for further Clarification.
He was said to include his official MTN line to the letter to show that the business they were into was genuine. But sources told The Magazine that he has never been contacted by the Customs officials at any of the check points as they try to make things difficult for the traders. He is happy that sanity has gradually retuned to the market with the intervention of the well –meaning people from the local government and the state government as well.
A dealer who spoke to The Magazine on Thursday, July 23, 2020, disclosed that despite the Customs personnel troubles at the various e Check points in Lagos, another major problem they face on the road while conveying their goods to their shops in their respective locations is the extortion of police men. She pointed out that the prices of Coco Nut are going up on a daily basis because of these extortions. This is where Mohammed Adamu, the no nonsense, Inspector General of Police, IGP, may have to intervene to protect the interest of the traders who are struggling to make a living the present harsh economic situation caused by the Wuhan town in Hebei Province of the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19.