The Nigeria Police Force on Sunday said it had a valid search warrant to search AFEX Commodities Exchange Limited warehouse in Zaria, Kaduna State.
The News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, recalls that the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh and his predecessor, Akinwumi Adesina, now AFdB president, accused the police of raiding the company’s warehouse, carting away N85 million worth of grains.
The Head of Public Complaints Rapid Response Unit, PCRRU, Abayomi Shogunle, told NAN in Abuja that immediately the PCRRU got wind of the allegations from the two ministers, it registered the case on July 15 and began investigation.
According to Mr. Ogbeh on his Twitter page obtained from the PCRRU, “The raid on AFEX warehouse by alleged policemen is an attack on our efforts at driving agriculture to attain food security.”
Similarly, Mr. Adesina on his Twitter page said, “Sad AFEX Nigeria ransacked by police for no reason. AFEX is a first exchange doing so well to support farmers.
“The Police in Katsina acted according to the laws of the land in protecting framers who complained that their products worth N66 million was collected from them since January and could not get their balance,” Mr. Shogunle, an assistant commissioner of police, said.
He said that following the allegation, the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, directed the Commissioner of Police, CP, in Katsina, Usman Abdullahi, to investigate the allegation.
Mr. Shogunle explained that Mr. Abdullahi sent his response and the officials of the company, led by the Managing Director, Ayodeji Balogun, were invited by the PCRRU to Abuja.
He said that after the meeting with the unit, the CP also had a meeting with them where the reason for police action was further explained.
Mr. Shogunle explained that on May 17, a group of traders and farmers petitioned the CP of Katsina, alleging that Diversified Consulting Ltd. represented by Sani Usman and Haruna Abubakar, bought grains worth N 66 million and promised to pay in two to four days in January.
“From this time up till May, they were unable to get their money after being paid N10 million by the company leaving a balance of N56 million.
“Under the Penal Code in operation in Northern Nigeria, such conduct constitutes a criminal Offence as stipulated by the Penal Code.
“There was a criminal complaint to the police in Katsina, and the police arrested the people involved and charged them to court,” he said.
He said that one of the suspects was convicted and he confessed to the police and the court accepting that they collected the grains.
Mr. Shogunle said the convict further said that they were unable to pay because the Managing Director of the company was serving a jail term in Kirikiri prison in Lagos.
He said that upon the confession of the convict that the goods were taken to Kano, Jos and Zaria, the court issued a search warrant for the police to recover the items.
“The police went to the warehouse based on the confession of the suspect in the court and the complainants identified their produce.
“Upon reporting to the court, it gave an order to release the produce on bond to the rightful owners who happened to be the complainants in the case.
“One good thing about produce is that group of cooperative societies have markings on their produce for easy identification,” he said.
He said that the cases of other set of suspects were still pending in another court in Katsina where they also confessed to the police that they collected some produce from the complainants.
“Throughout our interaction with AFEX, it has not produced any document to show that the produce belonged to them.
“AFEX is yet to produce any document to show the source of those products whether they bought them from somebody or group of persons or evidence of transfer of money to show they bought it from somebody,” he said.
He said that the police would not fold their hands and watch innocent citizens, farmers being cheated or being chased out of business by a big corporation that has refused to pay them their money.
“The Nigeria Police Force will continue to support the efforts of the Federal Government in ensuring food security and that we have just demonstrated by helping the poor in Katsina recover their produce.
“We cannot say that people should not express their opinion but they should always find out from the police before making comments like this,” he said.
The PCRRU was established by the Nigeria Police Force in November 2015, with a mandate to receiving and resolving cases of professional misconduct brought against its officers.