Customs Intercepts 31 Containers of Rice Declared as Yeast

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John Iwori

No fewer than 31 containers laden with imported rice were yesterday intercepted by men and officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at Tin Can Island Port, Apapa, Lagos.

The containers were laden with 14, 000 bags of rice which was falsely declared by the consignee in collaboration with his licensed customs agent as yeast.

The value of the cargo which is a staple commodity in Nigeria was put at over N71 million.

The seizure described as “spectacular” by NCS in Tin Can Island Port (TCIP), Apapa, Lagos, notorious for “machine out” (MO) exports and imports. MO is an euphemism for under hand release of goods in the ports.

The interception of the containers is coming barely one week after a fraud syndicate in TCIP was dismantled by a crack team of security operatives.

Deputy Comptroller-General of Customs in charge of Enforcement at NCS Headquarters, Abuja, DCG Dan Ugo who disclosed this yesterday while conducting newsmen round the 31 containers stated that a company named Destiny Limited made false declaration.

Ugo revealed that his men seized the consignment when the false declaration was uncovered during routine checks.

His words: “Rice importation through sea ports is not prohibited but the agent claimed in the manifest that he imported 31 containers of yeast. Our duties to government is to ensure compliance and any defaulting agent will bear the consequences which is already stated in the laws guiding Nigeria Customs Service operations in the nation’s seaports, land borders and airports”.

The DCG stated that the yeast claimed to be imported by the licensed customs agent attracted only five per cent duty. He pointed out that the consignee and the licensed customs agent were trying to cut corners since the duty payable on rice is high in line with the present government desire to diversify the economy through agriculture.

Also speaking, the DCG, Administration and Discipline, Alhaji Iya Abubakar, said that the era of importers engaging in false declarations and hoping to escape NCS clearance was over as the present management of the service under the Comptroller General of Customs (CGC), Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retired) was poised to block all revenue leakages in the cargo clearance chain.

He enjoined all port users, especially importers and agents to stop the criminal act of short-changing the government in revenue generation.

Abubakar gave an instance in the past when NCS once intercepted a container having arms and ammunitions but was falsely declared as toys by the consignee.

The Zonal Coordinator, Zone `A’ of NCS, Assistant Comptroller-General Eporwei Edike, urged importers to feel free to bring rice through the nation’s seaports only.

He argued that with honest declarations, fast track cargo clearance will be enhanced in the cargo clearance chain.

According to Edike, honest declarations would not give room for containers to accumulate demurrage.

In his remarks, the Customs Area Controller, TCIP Command, Comptroller Yusuf Bashar, disclosed that the importer was not on customs fast track category, even as he pointed out that investigation was on-going to arrest those connected to the seizure of the 32 containers.

Bashar urged the public, particularly the media as stakeholders in the maritime industry to endeavour to assist NCS on intelligence information to improve on the discharge of its statutory roles and responsibilities.

Meanwhile, NCS has seized smuggled goods worth N4.9 billion from January to June this year, its Public Relations Officer, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, said.

He said this was against the N3.1 billion seizure made in the same period in 2015. Adeniyi said that Cost, Insurance Freight (CIF) was valued at N4.0 billion while duty was N932. 5 million just as he pointed out it made 252 arrests within the period as against 240 in the same period in 2015.

According to him, the service seized goods worth a duty paid value of N4. 975 billion in six months as the total number of seizure made from January to June this year was 3,066 as against 5,485 in same period in 2015.

He said that the increase of N1.8 billion in the duty paid value of seizure was due to fiscal policy implementation.

“We have renewed commitment to fiscal policy implementation. Rice seizures account for over 70 per cent of our seizures as we still have intelligence about thousands of metric tonnes landed in Benin Republic. We are raising the stakes to create huge disincentives to smuggling of rice and other prohibited products”, he said.