A haulage driver named Ojo Aloba has
stated that he was hauling the Range Rover imported for use by Senate
President Bukola Saraki before officers of the Nigeria Customs Service
(NCS) intercepted and seized the vehicle. In addition to seizing the
Range Rover, reportedly for irregularities related to the use of fake
documents to significantly reduce the import duty for the car, the
customs officers also impounded Mr. Aloba’s haulage truck.
Mr. Aloba, who owned up that he was the
designated driver transporting the controversial armored Range Rover
car, told a correspondent of SaharaReporters that he picked up the car
from Mr. Saraki’s residence in Ikoyi and commenced its haulage to
According to him, it was in the process
of conveying the vehicle to Abuja that customs officers seized the Range
Rover at Ore, Ogun State. The officers noted that the car used fake
documents to clear the car. And the same documents reduced the amount of
import duty assessed on the expensive car.
Mr. Aloba disclosed that the movement of
the vehicle to Mr. Saraki hit a snag when some customs officials
intercepted him along Ore Road and insisted on taking the car to their
office. He said the officers disregarded a letter he had from the
National Assembly Liaison Office explaining that the car was intended to
be part of Senator Saraki’s convoy.
In an interview with our correspondent,
Mr. Aloba said it was not the first time he hauled an expensive car from
Lagos to Abuja for the Senate President. He added that part of what
sparked the suspicion of the customs officers was an incomplete phone
number written on the cover note that accompanied the car. Were it not
for that discrepancy, the car would have sailed through customs checks
despite its incomplete documents, said the driver.
The driver added that he tried his best
to reason with the Customs officers, but on seeing that they were
growing impatient, he decided to let them do their bidding.
“When I called the person who gave me
the job, he said I should not move from where I was, that Senator
Saraki’s people [were] coming,” said Mr. Aloba. He added: “I could not
wait because they were already cocking guns. I went with them, but
before we got to Berger, there were already MOPOL [mobile police]
waiting, but the customs officers leading me said they [could not] wait
on the road.”
He claimed that the car was purchased
from Lanre Shittu, a popular automobile dealer in Nigeria. The auto
dealer’s brother, Richard "Richie" Shittu, is tied to Senator Saraki.
One source said Mr. Shittu often served as a middleman for Mr. Saraki,
purchasing expensive automobiles for him and running other financial
transactions for the senator as well.
The driver’s confession to operating the
impounded vehicle contradicts claims by one Tokunbo Akindele, who in an
affidavit said he was the dealer who contracted the car. In the
affidavit, Mr. Akindele also claimed that Mr. Saraki was not involved in
the auto deal at all.
Mr. Aloba disclosed that he had moved
cars for many influential Nigerians. He lamented that, whenever he ran
into the customs’ net due to stamp duty evasion or other irregularities,
the car owners always left him to sort out the trouble, adding that his
haulage truck was often impounded by the customs.
He recalled a case where customs
officers seized his truck as he transported a vehicle for Olu Obasanjo.
According to him, the customs still kept his truck after Mr. Obasanjo
resolved the duty evasion problem. He regretted that a similar fate
might befall him in the current controversy over Mr. Saraki’s Range
Rover, explaining that customs officers were not willing to listen to
his story that he was a mere haulage contractor transporting a car from
one location to another.
“One [customs] officer who wanted to
help me bring my truck out is now scared because of the issue. My truck
is there [seized by customs]. I don’t have any means to feed my family.
They are now asking me to bring N350, 000. But where will I find the
money? As I am, I don’t even have 350 kobo,” said Mr. Aloba.
He said he wanted to use our medium to
appeal to customs officials to release his truck, adding that all the
papers for the truck were up to date.