Group accuses Customs of culpability in rice duty evasion

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Barely 24 hours after Dikko Abdulahi resigned as Comptroller-General of Customs, a group known as the International Freight Forwarding Association (IFFA), has asked President Muhammadu Buhari to probe the activities of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over duty evasion by some rice importers.

Recall that the NCS recently sealed the warehouses and business premises of four major rice importing firms over N23.6 billion unpaid rice duty and levies.

The companies are Olam; Stallion/Popular Foods/Masco Agro; Ebony Agro and Conti Agro.

The four companies had imported a combined excess of 750,253,03 tonnes of rice, for which the service expected payment of extant duty and levies.

But, the President of the association, Sam Onyemelukwe while speaking with Journalists on Monday said, “On the rouse raised about duty concessions to some importers especially rice importers, we firmly state that the NCS cannot wash it’s hand off the shady deals that resulted in huge losses to the federation account.

“Going by how the system works, it will not be possible for any shipper to so defraud the government without connivance of authorities of the Customs.

“We hence state that for the system to be purged and sanity restored. The importers should not be single out and punished, but the NCS collaborators must be fished out and brought to book.”

Meanwhile, the agents have bemoaned the continued weakening of the naira against the dollar.

The group said the continued weakening of the naira had affected international trade.

“IFFA believes that directing energy to build local content and economic activities will shore up the value of the naira.

“This can be done by harnessing various natural resources for export to stabilize our balance of trade and increase Nigeria denominated transactions.

“The establishment of a national liner of ocean going vessels is also imperative to boost Nigeria’s maritime capacity, reduce capital flight, create employment and freight huge cargo generated to and from Nigeria.”