Customs reverses self; releases seized multi-billion naira textiles to importers

It is a season of gaffes for the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), which has again reversed its public action by releasing multibillion naira textile materials earlier suspected to be contraband found in the custody of four Chinese nationals in Kano metropolis.

The textiles materials, which were tagged contraband and seized by the NCS four weeks ago, were supposedly released based on an agreement reached between the leadership of Kantin Kwari textile market and officials of the NCS.

The Customs reportedly requested the owners of the suspected contraband textile materials to pay 25 percent duty, which was later, cut down and agreed at five percent.

Some of the textiles were allegedly handed back to their owners on the agreement that they come back to pay the duties, when they succeed in disposing the materials.

The Publicity Secretary, Kantin Kwari Textile Market Association, Nura Idris Maliya, who described the sealing of the warehouses by officers and men of the Nigeria Customs as embarrassing, said it was impossible to have imported such large cache of textiles into the country without paying the accrued royalties into government coffers.

Nura said the unsealing of the sealed warehouses and the circulation of the textiles at Kantin Kwari and its bordering markets would bring down the inflated prices of textile materials in Kano, neighbouring states and West Africa.

The Nigeria Customs Service had on May 7 claimed it impounded the offendinf textile materials hidden in 75 warehouses spread across Kano metropolis, allegedly smuggled into the country by four Chinese nationals.

Customs Comptroller General, Dikko Abdullahi had gone ahead to order the sealing of the 75 warehouses where the so-called contraband textile materials said to be worth about N319.9 billion were stored.

Also, the Nigeria Immigration Service threatened to deport the Chinese businessmen said to be behind the textiles importation.

After a joint inspection of the warehouses with the Comptroller-General of Immigration, David Parradang; the NCS boss said, “I initiated the raid of the warehouses from my office in Abuja based on information in order to salvage our economy. Only one of the warehouses worth is N4.2bn and if you multiply it by 75, you will get the worth of the seizure we have made.”

He said the confiscated goods would be thoroughly screened to determine contraband items adding that owners of genuine goods would be made to pay appropriate taxes.

“If you recall during the Obasanjo administration, over 200 trailers of contrabands were burnt here in Kano and over 400 others were burnt in Lagos. So I will report the situation to the federal government for them to take a decision on it,” he said.

He added that the seized materials would be distributed to internally displaced persons in the North East.

“We are doing our best and they are doing their worst. Even if all the 170 million Nigerians are deployed to our borders, they cannot stop smuggling,” he added.

Paradang pointed out that investigations by his service had revealed that three out of the five Chinese did not possess valid travel documents to reside and engage in any business in Nigeria beyond the scope of their admission.

Just last week, the Customs Comptroller-General also reversed himself after making a public comment criticizing the proposed payment of N5,000 monthly stipend to the poor and unemployed youths in the country by the Buhari administration.

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