Africa: NGO decries seizure of coconut by Customs in Badagry
An NGO, African Coconut Heritage Initiative (ACHI), on Wednesday said the seizure of 1, 450 bags of coconut from Badagry by officials of the Nigeria Customs Service was an embarrassment to the country.
Its President, Prince Doheto Mesi, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Badagry that seizing the product was ridiculous as the town was the headquarters of coconut production in Nigeria.
“We have more than 20,000 coconut farming families in Lagos and 70 per cent of these people are in Badagry.
“In Nigeria, coconut is known with Badagry, as we know that beans come from the North.
“Why should custom officials seize our own means of livelihood or has coconut suddenly become a contraband.
“So, seizing a locally sourced coconut by customs men along Agbara checking point is an error and this needs to stop now.
“We have local producers, different farmers that produce and take their products to Agbalata International Market to sell.
“In Badagry Division, we have close to 120 communities that grow coconut, some are even within the boundary of Nigeria and Benin Republic border.
“Our people in Badagry have been known for coconut production since 1873, and I wonder with all these plantations, one will still risk his life to import coconuts from Ghana when the border has been closed for the past two months.
“Men of customs should seize any coconut coming into the country and not the one locally sourced within our different communities,’’ he said.
Mesi said the seizure had created fear among the buyers of the product in Badagry, adding that they had abandoned the market and coconut was rotten away.
He said that the harassment of traders has adverse effect on the planting of coconut seeds in the area.
The president urged the government and Customs boss, Retired Col. Hammed Alli, to stop his men from frustrating the farmers’ efforts in producing more coconuts for the country.
“Our NGO, in collaboration with Lagos State, had managed to increase coconut production in Lagos since 2009.
“We started Coconut Festival in Badagry to encourage more planting of the product and to increase its utilisation, but this present exercise will discourage our motive,’’ he said.
Mesi appealed to the Federal Government to consider the plights of people living in the coastal town and call customs officials to order to stop intimidating them.
NAN reports that on Nov. 4, coconut traders in Badagry had staged a peaceful protest against the seizure of 1, 450 bags of locally sourced Coconuts on Oct. 27 by customs officials on Agbara Road, Lagos.
The traders, under the auspices of Lagos State Coconut Sellers and Traders Association (LASCOSTRAS), registered their protest at the Palace of Akran of Badagry and Badagry Local Government Secretariat in Ajara.
The General Secretary and Spokesman of the traders, Mr Tunde Hunpatin, said that the protest was to express their displeasure over the seizure and incessant harassment by customs officials.
By Raji Rasak