Anxiety has gripped scores of vehicle dealers in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), states in the Southwest and Northwest, as operatives of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) have renewed massive operations to rid car stands of vehicles suspected not to have made Duty payment.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that the raid of the car stands by Customs did not begin recently. The Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd), formally ordered the raids since early 2017 in Abuja.
The Service began the operations after it gave a six-week window period to dealers nationwide to clear all vehicles deemed to have been smuggled in.
NCS also reduced the rate for clearing vehicles and for remedying incomplete vehicle import documents. At least, 646 vehicles which were seized, generated over N272m to the Federal Government in early 2018 after Customs launched its E-Auction portal.
… Seizes worth N13bn in 2 yrs
Customs in late 2017 said it seized 3,665 vehicles between 2015 and 2017 with Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N13.164bn.
In year 2015, 1,917 vehicles were seized with DPV of N3.856bn; another 1,483 valued at 2.683bn were seized in 2016. By 2017, 265 vehicles were seized with DPV of N6.625bn.
In October 2017, it intercepted 27 Toyota Hilux trucks suspected to have been smuggled and estimated at N432m along Kubwa Expressway in Abuja. It had earlier made similar seizures of 18 assorted vehicles, out of which 13 were bulletproof, from Kefiano Motors in Abuja. Several other seizures were made in Lagos after extensive raids.
The Public Relations Officer of Customs, Deputy Comptroller Joseph Attah, said the operation is a continuous one. It also noted that importation of vehicles through the land border remains banned in its ongoing joint border patrol.
How latest Lagos operation began
The Comptroller General’s Strike Force and officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’ in Ikeja, Lagos, on Monday, stormed car shops around the Apapa-Oshodi Highway in search of smuggled vehicles. Popular motor dealers were said to be affected.
According to the latest report by our correspondent, the car dealers in Lagos are currently at loggerheads with Customs officers over the persistent raid of their shops.
Checks show that the raid began last week on the Lagos Island and extended to as far as Ojodu-Berger axis this week.
Mr. Wale, a dealer in the Ikeja area, said his shop was raided on Saturday without any prior notice.
“I was in the shop when they just came without asking for anything. They only told me the order was from above,” he said.
Another dealer, Mr. Femi Olawale, decried the development, saying the action of the Customs is too punitive.
He said, “Yes, this is the issue we are facing. One of my friends whose shop was raided on Saturday went to the FOU zone with all the documents of his vehicles but they said the Controller was not around. Up till now, he has not been able to see the Controller.”
Customs storms Abuja hotel to seize vehicles
NCS on Thursday said its operatives have removed four vehicles from Fraser Suites in Abuja based on intelligence. The vehicles, without Duty Payment, were taken there from a car dealer’s stand.
There is apprehension around Abuja and the neighbouring states. Malam Aminu Yusuf, a dealer at the Nyanya vehicle hub in Abuja and a member of the Association of Motor Dealers of Nigeria (AMDON), said they heard the crackdown in Lagos noting that most of the AMDON members are in partnership with NCS to ensure all the vehicle they sell have duty papers.
At the Mararaba hub in the nearby Nasarawa State, some of the dealers said most of the vehicles they sell are used ones within the country and that imported vehicles are often cleared at the ports.
“Our fear is that some of the ones we have sold before this action might be affected and the buyers could come to us if those vehicles are seized,” Richard Bako, a dealer noted.
In the Suleja area of Niger State, Alhaji Aminu Suva said: “We want Customs to also stop their men who give fake Customs papers to people because most times you don’t know how they do that.”
Customers besiege dealers over vehicle papers
In Sokoto, vehicle owners are now besieging dealers to get the duty papers before buying old vehicles.
Customs operatives had stormed some car dealers’ stands in Sokoto, shut down some and took the chassis number of every vehicle to confirm whether their Duty was paid or not.
“They came to our place, took chassis numbers of all our vehicles before sealing up the premises,” one of the car dealers, Shafi’u Bankanu, said.
He added that the same operation was taking place in Kebbi and Zamfara states as gathered from their colleagues.
“They told us they would take away our vehicles which duty are not paid,” he stated.
Raids spread to Katsina, Kaduna, Kebbi
About 20 car marts were shut by Customs during their raid on car dealers’ marts in Katsina State this week.
Witnesses say Customs operatives stormed the stands on Monday night between 10pm – 3am and counted cars at each of the visited marts before sealing them up.
The state chairman of the car dealers, Sabo Musa, said over 20 car marts have been sealed and the union is presently working to find a solution to the imbroglio.
A car dealer, Sani Bako, said, “I can’t say it’s bad because we all want our nation to prosper; it’s a problem on the sides of both the dealers and government officials.”
Alhaji Umar Mutunci of Mutunci Motors said “The timing of the operation was very wrong. For someone to storm your business place in the night and seal it up without any notice is what we felt was very wrong and uncalled for.”
On Wednesday raided car stands in Birnin Kebbi, kebbi State capital were raided by Custom officials. During the raid some shops suspected of contrabands at the Birnin Kebbi Central Market were raided by men of the service.
Six car stands, Gamzaki motors, Ijaba motors, Sauki motors, Ajala motors Jihab motors and Aboki motors were raided and sealed during the raid operation by men of the service in Birnin Kebbi metropolis.
The financial secretary, Motor Dealers Association of Nigeria, Kebbi State chapter and Managing Director, Ajala Motors Ltd, Alhaji Faruku Ajala told our correspondent that officials of customs service during the raid descended on their cars and sealed off their business premises.
He said “The raid by customs officials on our imported cars caused commotion and panic among our members because of the way they were shooting at the tyres of the vehicles.”
He stated that on hearing that the customs officials were sealing car stands, his staff got scared and tried to drive some of the cars out of the premises but the customs officers shot at the tyres of two of his vehicles.
“Although what my staff did was wrong by trying to run away from the customs with the vehicles, but the customs were also wrong to shoot at the vehicles. “The vehicles they shot at fortunately have valid original custom duties. 90% of my vehicles have custom duties”, he said.
He called for the understanding between the Nigerian customs and car dealers association because they are partners contributing immensely to the economic development of the country through revenue generation.
He said “Our members are ready to resolve the issue of duty payment amicably as long as the government reduces the amount paid on duties.”
Ajala appealed to government to intervene in the matter so that their business premises would be reopened considering the job opportunities they are providing to the youths in the society.
“I have over 40 youth in my company that are receiving salaries. Imagine what would happen to them if this place remain sealed”, he said.
When our correspondent contacted the Customs Zonal Public Relations Officer Kaduna, Superintendent Ado Abdulkarim who spoke via phone said the raid was in line with ‘Operation Border Drill’ by the service and other security agencies.
He said the raid on car stands was done by customs across the country to ensure that cars that are imported into Nigeria are properly documented and duties are paid into government coffers.
In Kaduna, car marts are still deserted
Some of the car marts sealed in Kaduna include KB LAMAH Motors, Royalarms International Motors Limited opposite NEPA roundabout, and 2020 Motors.
Others are MD Parking Space, Urgent Motors Nigeria Limited among others, around Isa Kaita Road within the metropolis.
At Abass Motors in Kaduna, Malam Sikiru lamented the action of the Customs operatives.
“They came here looking for vehicles without Customs Duty licence or papers. They are supposed to make enquiry from us first, only for them to shut down our offices.”
He said business has closed for them temporarily. “As you can see, we’ve not been doing any business here since they took that action. Cars are not coming in so we are waiting to see what happens next,” he said.
Chairman of Kaduna chapter of the Association of Motor Dealers of Nigeria (AMDON), Alhaji Ahmad Na Brazil, said the association is in touch with Customs authority over the matter.
“For now, we are waiting to hear from the Customs authorities because we were told that they are going to make an official announcement, although they assured us that their decision will be beneficial to all of us,” he said.
Kano: Detained vehicles to pay 25% Duty
Vehicle dealers in Kano said they have received a circular informing them that they will pay 25 percent for all detained vehicles which Duty has not been paid.
Chairman of the vehicle sellers association, Zone 1, Kano, Alhaji Hassan Abubakar, said one stand – Bichi Motors, was sealed in his zone, but he had received a circular that the situation has been reviewed and henceforth they would be allowed to pay duties by 25 percent levy on detained vehicles.
However, a dealer, Alh. Salisu Muhammad, said they were surprised to see some of their stands sealed, claiming that majority of their cars were imported and cleared through the ports.
Another dealer, Alhaji Nasiru Gumel, said he imports his cars from the United States and they come through the ports, but unfortunately, sometimes, they are accused of underpaying.
“Unfortunately, some of us who clear our vehicles from the ports still face problems on our way from Lagos as Customs officers often stop us and tell us that our Duties were fake or we made under-payment,” he lamented.
The Zone 2 Chairman, Alhaji Abdullahi Idris Fagge, explained that the raid started on Wednesday. “When we came in the morning, we discovered that our stands were sealed after closing them the previous evening.
“We have received the circular that we can now go and clear our cars, even those that were seized and we are very happy for that,” he noted.
The Customs PRO, Mr. Attah, who was in Kano told stakeholders that the dealers could go ahead and pay duties on the cars that are already in their possession or those that are detained.
He explained that this does not include the ones that have already been seized or those taken to court and judgment was passed on them.
“Vehicle dealers have been requesting for the opportunity to pay customs duties on the cars in their possession, but the management had been reluctant to grant that approval because we suspected that once that approval is given, many people will take undue advantage of the porous border to bring in smuggled goods or smuggled vehicles to pay duty,” Mr. Attah said.
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