By Isaac Anumihe
An intensive anti-smuggling operation by the Federal Operations Unit (FOU) of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has led to the interception of 37 assorted vehicles at various locations in Lagos with a duty paid value of N1,374,122,679.
They include eight Lexus Jeeps LX 570 (2017 model), 12 Land Cruiser Jeeps (2017), 17 Toyota Hilux vans (2016, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009 models).
The brand new vehicles from China were smuggled into the country in connivance with some Customs officials who have since been arrested and may face prosecution after investigation.
Comptroller General Customs (CGC), Colonel Hameed Ali, who disclosed this to newsmen in Lagos, yesterday, also said that apart from the seizure of the vehicles and rice, the anti-smuggling operations yielded another 156 assorted seizures including bales of used clothing, Indian hemp and used tyres.
He said the owner of the vehicles claimed he refurbished them and if he can prove it, his vehicles will be returned to him, but if he cannot, he will be prosecuted.
“The owner or the claimer said he refurbished them but the vehicles do not look to me as refurbished. But we have asked him to go and bring proof of evidence. If he does and he can convince us, he takes his vehicles because we want to be fair. But if he cannot, they are outright seizures and he himself will be prosecuted for possession of smuggled items. We have 37 assorted vehicles and the entire component has a duty value of N1,374,122,679.
“He is going to sell them at the price he determines and yet he does not want to pay anything back to the Nigerian people. It is not government because government acts on behalf of 180 million Nigerians. It is not Customs because if we collect, we don’t even see the money. But this deprivation is to the entire 180 million Nigerians,” he said.
Also, a total number of 12,081 bags of smuggled parboiled rice with a duty paid value of N149,007,658 were seized.
He used the occasion to remind that the Federal Government’s ban on the importation of rice and vehicles through the land borders is still in force.
“Nigeria Customs Service remains resolute in its determination to enforce these policies. NCS will continue to work towards crippling smuggling and getting them out of the illegitimate business.
In the face of security and economic challenges, no responsible government will fold its hands while unpatriotic elements continue to engage in illegal activities that will further compromise national economic and security well-being of her people. NCS as one of the enforcement agencies of government will continue to work towards ensuring compliance with all extant laws of government imports and exports in Nigeria. For those who use violence as instrument of intimidation, let it be known that going forward, NCS operatives will not hesitate to use appropriate force to deal with any threat intended to obstruct performance of statutory function,” he said.