The Ogun Area 1 command of the Nigeria Customs Service said it has auctioned seized tomatoes suspected to have been smuggled into Nigeria through Benin Republic and intercepted by the joint military security operatives.
Public Relations Officer of the command, Abdulahi Maiwada disclosed this in a statement weekend while reacting to an allegation of payment of N200,000 by a driver to retrieve the seized tomato and vehicles.
Maiwade, who described the allegation as false, said the tomatoes and pepper were auctioned in line with the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA).
“The attention of NCS, Ogun 1 Command has been drawn to a malicious allegation made against its personnel.
“It is pertinent to put the record straight that a team comprising of resident officers of the Command and joint officers of other sister security agencies operating under the border drill code named, ‘Ex-Swift Response’ intercepted five buses suspected to contain fresh tomato and pepper at Ilara/Imeko and Ijoun axis of Ogun State on Monday 26/08/2019. The items were suspected to have been smuggled into Nigeria from Benin Republic.
“Further investigation revealed that the items were smuggled into Nigeria. Therefore, considering the perishable nature of the items, the goods were presented to public auction in line with Customs and Excise Management Act CAP 45, LFN (2004) as amended”.
“Significant quantity of the seized items was successfully auctioned openly to the public in the presence of relevant agencies. As at August 27, 2019, N209,475 with five percent Value Added Tax (VAT) of N11,025, making a gross total of N220, 000.
“Attached, is evidence of payment into the Federation Account as ‘fees’. The remaining three vehicles fully loaded, which are yet to be auctioned, are presently stationed at Quarry Road, Abeokuta Customs office.”
Meanwhile, the Controller of the Command, Comptroller Michael Agbara, has convened a meeting with tomato farmers at Idiroko, with a view to identifying locally and smuggled tomatoes.
The deliberation, Maiwada said, yielded a positive outcome leading to unanimous agreement that the association will produce the list of all farms and their addresses for onward inspection by a joint sub-committee constituted by the Controller comprising Plant Quarantine, Customs Intelligence Unit, and Department of State Security Service among others.
“The association further promised to produce invoices for all their members, so as to distinguish between smuggled and locally produced tomato and their allies. The implementations of the deliberations have been fully enforced, as smooth passage of locally produced products is being expedited within Ogun State.
“The ultimate objective of suppression of smuggling by NCS Ogun State is to protect local production and not to thwart the effort of government in boosting agriculture development,” he said.