The Nigeria Customs Service, Federal Operations Unit(FOU) and the Compliance Team of the Comptroller General of Customs(CGC), on Tuesday in Lagos paraded 37 seized choice vehicles and 12,000 bags of rice smuggled into the country, as the Service further strengthens the ban on vehicle and rice importation through the land borders.
Displaying the seized goods before newsmen at the FOU Zone ‘A’ Ikeja Lagos, the Customs Boss, Retired Col. Hameed Ali, put the Duty Paid Value of the vehicles at N1, 374,122,679.00, while the rice was valued at N149, 007,658.
The seized vehicles include 8 Lexus Jeep LX 570, 2017 model, 12 Land Cruiser Jeep 2017 model, 17 Toyota Hilux 2016, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 model respectively.
The team also made another 156 assorted seizures comprising bales of used clothing, Indian hemp and used tyres.
Ali expressed concerned that Nigeria remains the only dumping ground for used items such as clothing, tyres, vehicles among others.
He said that some of the seized containers originated from China through the seaport and were intercepted for false declaration, while the vehicles emanated from the borders.
Ali blamed clearing agents and some officers of the service who connive to cheat the government in duty payable. He said: “I have seen so many importers cheated, they would be given the correct duty, when they give the money, our own clearing agents would go and change the paper and give it another name and another consignment in connivance with our own officers.”
He stated the resolve of the customs service to continue to implement government policies banning the importation of rice and vehicles through the land borders, saying: “Nigeria Customs will continue to work towards crippling smugglers and getting them out of the illegitimate business.
“The vehicles certainly did not come from the port, they came through the borders and that is why you see all these dusts on them. The smugglers are working in connivance with our officers.
“We have 4, 70 kilometers of land at the borders, there is no way we can line up customs officers from the beginning to the end to cover it, so the smugglers take unapproved routes to bring in the vehicles.
“They know they would pass through dusty roads, so they paint the vehicles with oil, but as soon as they come, they would wash up the engine oil and you would see a brand new vehicle.
“They have already perfected a way of bringing in these things and that is why we are saying that we need all information. A patriotic Nigerian gave us the information we needed and this was how we ate able to intercept the vehicles,” he said
Ali said that the vehicles are absolute and outright seizures, even as he vowed that customs would go after the importers and prosecute them.
He also said that some customs officers are being investigated and would be summarily punished for their involvement and connivance with smugglers.