A video showing Customs Officers manhandling a Lawyer invited by his client regarding impounded goods has gone viral on social media.
Reacting to the video, the Nigeria Customs Service explained that Legal Practitioners are held in high regard. However, the unruly behaviour of the Lawyer at the Investigation Unit at Customs Headquarters called for him to be restrained and removed as shown in the viral video.
The National Public Relations Officer of Customs, DC Timi Bomodi, explained in a press statement on Wednesday.
The statement reads: ‘’The attention of the Nigeria Customs Service has been drawn to a video that has gone viral on social media. This incident occurred at Customs Headquarters Abuja on the 9th of September 2021. The individual being restrained in this video is a lawyer who came to represent a client whose car a 2013 Lexus ES350 was seized by our operatives in one of our sting operations.
On the day in question, the lawyer was admitted into Customs Headquarters in the company of two other lawyers, one of whom was his client. On being ushered into the Investigation Unit, they were requested to produce either the detention or seizure notice for the vehicle in question. This is a document issued to owners of goods seized or detained by Customs. It shows among other things, who made the seizure or detention, the item itself, where and from whom it was detained or seized. It is required as part of the Standard Operating Procedure for purposes of investigation to ascertain the real owner of goods detained or seized to avoid misrepresentations sequel to documentation and the taking of statements.
The request of the investigating officer was met with a negative response by the lawyers who insisted that the investigating officer took his statement regardless of this fundamental breach in the procedure.
All attempts to explain the position of the Service in this regard was met with vehemence and contempt. This left the investigating officer with no option but to demand their exit from his office as their continued presence constituted obstruction of duty contravening section 11, subsection (a) & (b) of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) especially when he had other persons to attend to.
It was the unruly behaviour of this Lawyer at the Investigation Unit that called for him to be restrained and removed as clearly evidenced in the video. In restraining this lawyer, absolute care was taken to ensure that he came to no personal harm. Indeed, his attitude was clearly at variance with that of his two other colleagues as he failed to comfort himself in the manner befitting of his noble profession.
The Nigeria Customs Service holds legal practitioners and indeed all Nigerians in high regard. Our Legal Department is managed by a crop of distinguished lawyers whose invaluable contributions continue to stand the NCS in good stead. At no time did we contemplate disrespect for the institution of Justice or those who represent it. As a law enforcement agency, our procedures and processes are designed to ensure administrative and operational efficiency and effectiveness. We enjoin members of the public to respectfully abide by them anytime bye they have businesses to conduct with us. We thank all Nigerians for their understanding.’’ The statement concluded.