Comptroller-General of Customs, Inde Dikko Abdullahi
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is carrying out investigations into big time importers, including multinational companies and local manufacturing firms, to ascertain if they have followed due process in the payment of appropriate duties on their imports into the country.
THISDAY checks revealed that the investigation, which has been ongoing, is aimed at ensuring that all revenue leakages, such as undervaluation of imports or outright evasion of duties on claims of waivers, among others, are blocked.
The Federal Operations Unit (FoU), Ikeja, the enforcement unit of the Customs Service, which is carrying out the investigation in Lagos, last week swooped on some vehicle dealers, including the popular Mercedes Benz Place and Weststar Associates Limited, located at Lekki, Lagos.
It was gathered that during the operation, the FoU team shut down their premises and demanded for evidence that the companies had observed due process in the importation of their cars into the country.
The officials of the companies, it was gathered, had promised to make the evidence of duty compliance to the Customs Service when the team visited their ultra-modern centre last week.
A source told THISDAY that a top official of the automobile companies had visited the Ikeja office of the FoU last Monday, when he sought to see the controller who was said to be in a meeting.
The public relations officer of the FoU, Mr. Uche Egesieme, who confirmed the visit of the investigating team from the Customs Service to Mercedes Benz Place and Weststar, said it was a routine check.
But he disclosed that that the FoU move was based on intelligence reports, adding that the Customs Command was expecting the companies to come forward with evidence that they have observed due process in their importation.
He said the command was waiting for the management of Mercedes Benz Place and Weststar to produce evidence of duties paid on the cars they import.
An official who introduced himself as the sales manager, Mr. Koffi Mensah, told our correspondent who visited the Lekki office that it was normal for the Customs Service to visit car dealers to ask for information.
When asked whether the company had addressed the request by the FOU, Mensah said he was not in a position to answer such questions.
Efforts to speak to the Managing Director of Westar, Mr Nikko Plath, failed as the Marketing and Communications Officer, Beatrice Ogunnowo, said he was holding a meeting and would not be able to talk to me.
Mercedes Benz Place is in the same premises with Weststar Associates Assembly, described as a distributor of Mercedes Benz vehicles in Nigeria.
The Customs PRO also disclosed that the investigating team had also visited other importers and agencies, but refused to give details.
He said the Customs Service was beaming its searchlight on importers to ensure that appropriate duties are paid on the goods they bring into the country.
The move to block all revenue leakages may not be unconnected with the N1 trillion revenue target given to the Customs Service this year by the Federal Government.
Since the beginning of the year, the Customs Service has made spirited moves to ensure that it generates as much revenue as possible in order to meet the target and has adopted stringent measures to go after companies suspected of evading duties.