13 June 2012

Nigeria: SGF Queries Customs Over N60 Million Missing Containers

The Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SFG) has petitioned the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) over the wrongful interception and detention of two containers of motorcycle helmets belonging to SanShek Nigeria Limited.

This follows an earlier petition by the company to the SGF over allegation that the said 2X40 Feet containers worth over N60 million was duly cleared and released by the Customs in 2009 after inspection with the appropriate duty and other auxiliary payments made at the Tincan Island Terminal Limited, Lagos.

In the petition to the SGF dated June 3, 2012, SanShek had explained that at the point of conveying the CMAU5210p405 and TRLU5431040, which were the cleared containers out of the port gate, the items were intercepted by the Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) on grounds that the helmets were unbranded.

It stated that the company had since proved that the helmets were actually branded. But the consignment was said to have been subsequently earmarked for auctioning without duly informing the owner about the circumstances warranting such moves.

Nevertheless, the firm stated that: "We have been trying to settle the issue with them but have just been informed that the customs service has examined and marked the two containers for auction."

SanShek is seeking the immediate stoppage of the alleged sale of the consignment and its release since it had been earlier cleared by the customs and the required payments made.

But in a telephone chat, Customs' spokesman, Mr. Wale Adeniyi, told THISDAY that he did not have the related documents to be able to make any statement on the issue.

He, nevertheless, refuted the allegation that the Service may have concluded plans to auction the container stressing that such move could only be taken after a normal court procedure adding that the matter was not yet in court.

Meanwhile, in its petition to the SGF, SanShek's solicitors, Mike Igbokwe (SAN) & Co., among other things, provided evidence of the bill of laden in respect of the said containers, Customs duty payment receipts as well as authority to release as well as inspection and sampling record sheet dated May 11, 2009.

"However, despite our Client's letter and entreaties contained therein, SON failed, refused and /or neglected to release the said containers. Our client also informed us that on 24/6/2009, SON acting through its employee and agent, Mr. A.S. Adeyemi issued a demand note for the containers and directed our client to pay the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Naira (N500, 000.00) to SON as guarantee deposit for the release of the two containers. We are instructed by our client's officials that our client refused to make the above payment," the petition read.

Giving reasons for refusing to pay the said amount, the firm's solicitors maintained, among other things, that: "There was no letter or report issued or served on our client by SON and Customs to the effect that our client's containers were carrying substandard motorcycle helmet(unbranded)from the date of interception and detention to 24/6/2009."

It stated that the action of both SON and the Customs not only breached the rule of law but also is unwarranted affront to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

"This type of wrongful conduct is not only frowned at by the Courts but it is embarrassing to your government and gives the impression of 'executive lawlessness' because as the agents of the State, they had wrongly carried out their duties and responsibilities with impunity and with regard for the rule of law," it added

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