Travellers have condemned the action of some officers of the Nigeria Customs Service for seizing their vehicles after an order to remove illegal checkpoints was handed down to them by the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (retd.).
Our correspondent gathered that officers from the NCS, Federal Operations Unit, Owerri, said to be on information patrol on Wednesday July 26 and Thursday July 27, impounded cars from travellers heading for the South-East along the Benin-Ore expressway.
But the Public Relations Officer of the NCS, Mr. Joseph Attah, said that whenever officers received information about smuggled goods, they had the mandate to set up temporary checkpoints and demand for import duty for those goods.
He said, “Officers on receipt of information about certain items that have been smuggled can set up temporary checkpoints in the hinterland to demand duty payment for those items.
“These are officers on information patrol; they are only there to check the goods that are suspected to be smuggled after which they will leave the area. They do not mount permanent road blocks.”
The NCS on Tuesday ordered the dismantling of illegal Customs checkpoints.
According to Attah, the CGC’s directive was in line with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council’s ease of doing business initiative.
One of the travellers, Emeka Ani, told our correspondent that two cars were seized from him on Wednesday and one other car was seized from his friend in Benin on Thursday.
He said the cars were bought in 2009, adding that Customs were not supposed to demand for import duty documents of such cars.
Attah, however, argued that any goods discovered not to have genuine import duty documents would be seized when identified.
“We cannot say, for instance, that because somebody stole something in 2009, he should not be made to pay for the crime (now) since it happened a long time ago.
“In the same vein, anybody who refuses to pay import duty to the government on any dutiable item will be made to pay the duty whenever the person is arrested,” he stated.