99 percent importers evade duty, says Customs boss

Hameed Ali

The Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Hameed Ali Thursday said that 99 per cent of the nation’s importers are non-compliant with the customs duty and charges.

According to him, the importers are unpatriotic to Nigeria even when they pay duty to other countries they deny theirs its dues.

Ali, who was speaking as the Chief Host at the public presentation of the book “Appraisal of Crime of Smuggling in Nigeria,” in Abuja, pointed out that the belief of a typical Nigerian, is that he does not owe his country any obligation.

Narrating his encounter with an importer, who settled all the charges for two cars  in Benin Republic and Niger Republic and evaded Nigeria’s, he said that  “somebody picked up two cars from Benin Republic, when he landed in Benin he paid every charges, he moved them to Niger, and paid every charges he is supposed to pay.

“But those cars are destined for Nigeria. When he now comes to Nigeria, he decided to take an un-customed route and brought those cars to Nigeria. And when we did apprehend those vehicles the question I asked him is why are you so unpatriotic?

“You could pay to Benin Republic, you could pay to Niger, and then coming to your own home, you don’t want to pay. He said the duty is too high.

“And I said then why did you buy the two cars in the first place?  This is the mentality of the Nigerian; he does not believe that he owes anything to his own country.”

The country, he said, cannot make progress in a situation, where people are not complying with the law and unfortunately, all that Nigerians think is how to circumvent the law.

He commended the author of the book, Musa Omale for not allowing his knowledge, experience and writing skills to die.

The Customs boss noted that the book has made the job of the NCS easier and enjoined all the stakeholders to buy and read it.

He assured the author that the Nigeria Customs Service will deploy copies of the books to its libraries and commands.

Speaking with journalists, immediate past president of Association of Nigerian License Customs Agents, Chief Ernest Elochukwu noted that book is an exposure of the dimension of smuggling and the laws that are in place to tackle it.

He said that the fight against smuggling can also be viewed from other angles like the creation of an enabling environment that does not promote smuggling.

This, he said, government can achieve that by making sensible policies in terms of what it bans and does not ban.

He submitted that “when there is so much of ban in the list of items that could be imported into the country, especially if they are essential items, the issue of smuggling becomes inevitable.”

Meanwhile, the author said that what motivated him is that he has been in the Customs for past 26 years and as an experience officer about the level of damage of smuggling to the economy and decided to turn his research for PhD on smuggling into a book.

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