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Customs identifies agencies aiding Vehicle smugglers, others

By Monsurudeen Olowoopejo

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has alleged that its inability to rake in expected revenue on vehicle importation was due to activities of the Federal Government Ministries, Departments, and Agencies (MDAs) that had been aiding smugglers to evade payment of import duties across the country.

Customs said that on its books, there had been a reduction in the importation of pick-up vehicles and others Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) by the MDAs but investigations revealed that the agencies had been adding imported used vehicles to their fleets.

The NCS Assistant Comptroller-General (ACG) in charge of Information Communication Technology (ICT)/modernization, Aliyu Saidu, made the allegations during a presentation of reports before the House of Representatives Committee on Customs.

He said, “Unfortunately today the big men in Nigeria, I didn’t say National Assembly members, all their escort vehicles such as Hilux trucks are smuggled vehicles. MDAs patronize smuggled Hilux vehicles. That is why if you go to our system, the number of Hilux importation has dropped but you find hundreds of them in town. Mostly used as escorts”.

Addressing the lawmakers, Saidu, yesterday, appealed that the House should amend the public procurement Act to mandate government agencies to request evidence of duty payment on imported vehicles before they purchase them from any importer.

“If you make an amendment to the next Finance Act, also make an amendment to Procurement Act that before a vehicle is taken over, you verify the customs duty, it would go a long way. NCS buys Hilux vehicles, but they do not take delivery until when the papers are verified that duty is paid.

“Any officer involved in allowing such cars are being penalized. As I am talking to you now many officers are before the board meeting for discipline,” he disclosed.

It would be recalled that the Deputy National PRO, Timi Bomodi, had earlier said in a statement that the Nigeria Customs Service states that “except where waivers and, or concessions were sought and granted, all outstanding duties and taxes relating to such imports are expected to be paid in full. This applies even in situations where these imports were executed by agents or proxies on their behalf”

“We wish to reiterate that by law, only items imported by the President, Commander in Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is exempted from the payment of duty or taxes” it added.

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