Another Senator, Hope Uzodinma battles to clear name in 30 rice containers seized by Customs

Senator Hope Uzodinma1

The Chairman Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Senator Hope Uzodinma, on Tuesday, denied having any link with 30 containers of rice seized by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS). 

Uzodinma said the letter he sent to the Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, which was published by an online news medium, was based on a petition by a firm, Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited, to the committee.

The senator said this in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Tuesday.

In the letter dated November 17, 2016, Uzodinma urged Ali to use his “good office” to release the seized items, which were allegedly imported rice declared at the port as yeast.

Body of the letter read, “The accompanying documents in respect of the above mentioned subject matter refers;

“We have gone through the documents as submitted and wish to suggest that you use your good office to look into the case of this company, Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited. It is instructive from the circumstances and accompanying documents that the company from the inception of this transaction disclosed the content of the 30 containers as rice.

“The owner of these containers was probably shortchanged by their clearing agent. The declaration by the agents that the content of the containers was yeast may not be with the consent of the importer of the 30 containers of rice.

“May we therefore suggest that you take a second look at this case subject to your internal mechanism because the committee is of the opinion that it would be unjust to punish the owners of the 30 containers because of the sins of the agent. We suggest that the agents should rather be sanctioned to act as a deterrent to others.”

Uzodinma, however, said with the constitutional powers of the legislature, it could also attend to concerns of Nigerians, which the committee decided to do.

He said, “Sometime around November last year, the committee received a petition from Masters Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited alleging that 30 containers of rice imported by them was seized by Nigeria Customs Service, even when they paid the necessary duties and the necessary assessments were done by the Customs; and that they needed our intervention.

He said, “As representatives of the people, the committee met and, then, sent out the petition to Customs Service, asking them to react to the petition. The Customs reacted through a letter sent to the committee on 25th November 2016, confirming that this rice was imported and that the rice was seized because it was not declared according to the right classification.

“When I got that letter, to my surprise, the tone of the response was suggesting a kind of innuendo; as if our letter was for them to release the rice. No. What we wrote was very clear; you can see the copy of the letter. It said (Customs should) make comment; react to this comment, because every Nigerian citizen is entitled to fair hearing.

“When we got their reply, we looked at the response from the Nigerian Customs Service, signed by the Comptroller-General. We immediately resolved and did a letter thanking him for his quick response to our enquiry and also reminding him that the sole intention in the matter was that justice should be done in line with their extant rules.

“The decision neither suggested that I have any link or any relationship with the importer nor did we suggest to the Nigerian Customs Service to wave any procedure or any internal mechanism by them as to the treatment of issues like this.”  

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