STATEMENT BY THE NIGERIA CUSTOMS SERVICE ON SEALING UP OF WAREHOUSE OF DEFAULTING RICE IMPORTERS ON 28TH JULY, 2015
Gentlemen of the Press,
You may wish to recall our running battles with Importers of Rice who enjoyed concession of preferential duty rates and levy in 2014. These Importers were beneficiaries of Rice Import Quota Policy, which specified a preferential duty rate of 10% and levy of 20% for their Imports.
2. The policy was anchored on three main pillars.
I. There was a national sufficiency gap which needed to be met in line with stipulated quotas allotted to beneficiaries.
II. Beneficiaries were Rice Millers who have invested in the sector and created employment in the value chain.
III. Quantity imported in excess of approved quotas will be subjected to the extant rate of 10% duty plus 60% levy.
3. As we monitored the spate of importations by beneficiaries, we observed that many of them were importing in excess of their approved quotas. We wrote the affected Importers severally to notify them of duty liability at normal rate if they exceeded their quotas. Similarly, we published many notices in National Newspapers, including where affected Importers were mentioned with outstanding payments.
4. These publications gave ultimatum to pay the outstanding charges against them. However, there were lots of interventions and clarifications required to establish firmly our case against the importers. In some cases, some of them claimed they needed to reconcile figures with the Ministry of Agriculture.
5. You may also recall that we threatened to invoke sanctions on these importers if they do not meet with their obligations. Today, we are no longer issuing ultimatum. We are ready to walk the talk with decisive action to recover outstanding duty due to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
6. As at today, 4 Importers are still indebted to the Federal Government to the tune of N23,603,479,402.44 (Twenty Three Billion, Six Hundred and Three Million, Four Hundred and Seventy Nine Thousand, Four Hundred and Two Naira, Forty Four kobo). The Importers involved are OLAM, Stallion/ Popular Foods/ Masco Agro, Ebony Agro and Conti Agro (Milan). Together, they have imported a combined excess of 750,253,03 Metric Tons, for which we expect payment at the extant duty rates and levies.
7. Today, we are commencing the sealing up of their warehouses and business premises to prevent operation of those facilities.
– We will not allow discharge of their imports in any of our ports.
– The Importers and their sister or associated companies have been blocked from the Customs NICIS System, thus denying them access to make declarations.
8. All these will be done preparatory to instituting full legal proceedings to compel them to pay what they owe Nigeria, when the Courts are back from recess.
9. While the Nigeria Customs Service is not opposed to concessions that help engineer economic growth, we shall continue to hold beneficiaries accountable to their obligations. For instance, there are beneficiaries in the Automotive and Hotel/ Hospitality Industries who have enjoyed concessions worth billions of Naira. We are compiling the names of these beneficiaries and will request them to justify the concessions they enjoyed.
10. We are appealing to all genuine Importers not to exercise any fear as this is not designed to witch-hunt anyone. This exercise is only about enforcing payments that are legitimately due to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
11. Thank you for your attention.