In continuation of its war on smuggling in line with the closure of land borders across the country, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) in a major crackdown yesterday shutdown some car marts suspected to have smuggle vehicles into the country through the land borders.
THISDAY gathered that members of the Comptroller General of the service’s strike force and officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit (FOU), Zone ‘A’, Ikeja stormed the popular Berger along Apapa-Oshodi Express Road and other major car dealers’ premises across Lagos in search of smuggled vehicles and subsequently shut down the car marts until further notice.
It was learnt that the car marts were closed on the orders of the Comptroller General of the Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), for allegedly retailing smuggled vehicles in the shops.
The Customs Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, who confirmed the development to THISDAY yesterday, however, denied that car dealers who are not involved in selling smuggled cars were shut down.
According to him, “Yes a number of car marts were shutdown based on credible information that there were smuggled vehicles in these car marts, but the sealing is just temporary. As from this week we will assess the situation and advised them accordingly as to what they should do.”
Asked how many dealers were shutdown, he said, “As of now I don’t have the numbers but those not involved in any bad business were not shutdown. But I can confirm that some numbers have been shutdown. Within the week, customs will take a look at the records of each vehicle in these car marts and appropriate actions will be taken.
Attah who also confirmed that no arrests were made added that the action was not taken to inflict harm on anyone but to ensure that government gets its due revenue.
“The target is not really to bring any unnecessary hardship to any individual, the idea is to see the possibility of either seizure or recovery of revenue for such vehicles,” he added.
When THISDAY contacted the managing director of one of the companies affected, he said car dealing marts were stormed in a Gestapo style with four trucks load of customs officers who pasted closure notices on their premises and asked that they report to the FOU today.
“All car dealers in Lagos were shutdown, Affordable Cars Limited, Carlink Limited, InehmicAutos, Globe Motors, COSCHARIS and Skymit Motors, Arrowhead Motors, Wonder Wheels Motors, Auto Point Motors and any name that you can think of were all shutdown. Even Stallion Motors was affected. The only one I cannot confirm is Toyota Nigeria Limited or Elizade Motors.
“They came and put a sticker, sealed off the place and said come to FOU in Ikeja. That was all. No information or notices. It was not as if they came and found smuggled cars in our premises. They didn’t even ask for anything. Globe Motors and Inehmic were the first place they went to around 7a.m. They came to my place in the evening. One will expect that they will at least ask for documents but nothing, they just sealed off the place,” he said.
Another car dealer whose mart was shut around Oregun said his documents were up to date.
The dealer, Chukwudi Nwachukwu, said he was surprised that his stand was shut down by the service.
“I was shocked when my mart was shut. I operate at Oregun and I can tell you that my documents are up to date. In fact, am printing my documents to take to FOU, Ikeja for them to unsealed my business,” he added.
One of the dealers with link with a global brand told THISDAY that the company imported its vehicles through official channels and had documents to prove the legitimacy of its transactions.
The source from the company said they would find out from Customs what went wrong when they honour the invitation to appear before the FOU today.