Meat traders lament alleged extortion, harassment by officials of Fed Agric Ministry

ONITSHA — TRADERS dealing on dry meat in Nigeria have cried out over what they called “high-level intimidation and harassment” by officials of Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine department of the Federal Ministry
of Agriculture.

The traders who operate under the umbrella name of Dried Meat Preservers Traders Association of Nigeria, DMPTAN, lamented that the activities of these people have almost crippled their business.

Specifically, they accused them of invading their donkey skin processing camps across the states of Nigeria, with security agents, confiscate their goods and extort various amounts of money from them.

The traders have, therefore, cried out to Federal Government to intervene and monitor the activities, saying that they were in doubt if the money they collect goes to Government coffers.

Briefing journalists in Onitsha, Wednesday, the leadership of the traders union, also lamented that in addition to activities of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services, their members also face massive extortions on the roads by security agencies “including the Police, Army, NSCDC, “from Sokoto to Onitsha and Abuja; Edo State to Onitsha”.

According to the Onitsha branch chairman of the association, Mr. Ikechukwu Aniude, who was flanked by his Sokoto State counterparts from Sokoto, Hamza Ahmed; Sani Ahmed of Gombe State; Kadiri Abubakar of Borunu State and Alhaja Yawa Idi, the Oyo State chairman, many of their members have left the business because of series of loss they have been recording due to the activities of the officials.

Aniude alleged that over 1600 pieces of donkey skin worth over N50 million they processed for sale, was on June 26, 2020, seized from their processing camp in Yauri Kebbi State, by some men who claimed to be officials of Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services.

He claimed that they usually procured the services of policemen to intimidate, harass and seize their goods.

“Our members suffer a lot of harassment and intimidations on the road from Zora Mawa, Sokoto State to Chakwama District Kagaruko Council Area in Kaduna State down to Ibadan in Oyo State and other places across the country.

“Our worry is that these people who come to extort money from us here, and seize our goods, donkey skin, refuse to properly identify themselves, they refuse to tell us where their office is located and where they are taking our goods, they only tell us their headquarters is in Enugu and we have not been able to locate them anywhere in Enugu State.

“Apart from seizing our goods, they have been extorting between N200,000 to N800,000 from us on the allegation that we are illegal exporters; with threats to jail us if we refuse to cooperate with them. But we are not into exporting business; our business is registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission, CAC, we process
donkey skin and sell within the country, we want the Federal Government to intervene to tell us what we are doing wrong.

“We have over one million people doing the business across the states in Nigeria and for the past three weeks now, we shot our camps and shops to avoid further seizing of our goods and extortion of differed amounts of money, until we get explanation of what we are doing wrong from the Federal Government”, the traders said.

In his contribution, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the association, Mr. Ogbonna Nwabueze explained that the business has been in existence even before the Nigerian Civil War and some of them inherited it from their forefathers and fathers and wondered why suddenly in 2018, they started being harassed, intimidated and extorted different sums of money by people who have refused to give their proper identity.

“We, therefore, demand from the Federal Government what is the offence we are committing, release of our seized goods, we also demand the location of the Nigerian Agricultural Quarantine Services so we can know the state of our seized goods.”