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Alleged seizure of 30 containers of rice stirs controversy

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•Firm says product confiscated since 2016, spoilt in custody
The claim by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) that it seized 30 containers of rotten rice in Apapa yesterday has drawn the ire of critics, who maintained that the product was seized in 2016 and had rotten in custody.

Customs’ Comptroller-General, Ahmeed Ali, while parading 54 containers of spoilt rice and other commodities, including spares, fake pharmaceutical products and vegetable oil worth about N2.7 billion in Lagos, said: “One significant finding about this seizure is that all the rice have expired or about to expire.”

He stressed that the confiscations were in line with the Sections 46 and 161 of the Customs and Excise Management Act Cap C45 LFN 2004.

The retired army colonel said the rice was allegedly re-bagged as local ones, even when they were coming all the way from China and Thailand.

A closer look at the bag of rice indicated the nametag of Masters Energy and addressed as GRA Ikeja, Lagos and another, Dr Chang by Yunfei International Trading Co Ltd in Jabi, Abuja.

However, a source in Masters Energy told The Guardian that the product was impounded in 2016, wondering what the Customs hopes to achieve by parading same item as imported spoilt goods three years later.

Masters Energy Commodity Trading Limited had petitioned the House Committee on Customs Excise and Tariff, a copy which was obtained by The Guardian, that its agent made false declaration in order to cut tariff for the 30 containers of rice. It had also indicated willingness to pay, though the request was turned down.

The letter, signed by the then Managing Director, Chukwudi Otigba, reads in part: “Sometimes in May 2016, we entered into a business transaction with a Thailand company known as Asia Inter Trade Rice Export Co Ltd, having her corporate office at …for the importation of 30 containers of Thai Parboiled Rice to be delivered at the TinCan Island Port, Apapa, Lagos as contained in the bill of laden.

“We contracted Destiny Impex Limited, a clearing company registered and licensed by customs with registration number…. As our clearing agent to clear the 30 containers of rice in accordance with Customs tariff and classifications.”

But Ali neither mentioned when the consignment was intercepted nor who imported it, as all efforts to ascertain the date of interception proved abortive.


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