Automobile dealers allege imposition of rates, shop closure, rights abuse by Customs
Automobile dealers under the aegis of Professional Platform of Auto Dealers Association of Nigeria have accused the Nigeria Customs and Excise Department of illegal closure of shops, abuse of rights, the imposition of rates among other underhand practices.
They said the industry which produces an estimate of 20per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) directly and generates 60per cent of revenue for the Nigeria Customs and Excise Department is too colossal to be taken for granted by either any government or her coercive agencies.
Interim National Coordinator, Professional Platform of Auto Dealers, Amobi Moghalu said that Customs has locked more than 400 car shops across the country because there were no collective actions taken by dealers.
Moghalu said the agency’s sealing of business premises of its members without a clear explanation was a clear abuse of the rights of the dealers and their customers.
He continued: “As usual with our industry, some went independently, other in groups bearing different sums of gratification to induce the officers of the Customs to open their shops. But, those who have remained resolute and threatened to litigate against the agencies are now victimized with their lots still under lock and key for almost two months now.”
At an inaugural meeting aimed at forming a Joint Action Committee of Auto Dealers Associations of Nigeria, Moghalu said it is a shame that an agency of government will find it convenient to single out automobile dealers and employ impunity in dealing with the industry.
Moghalu said the association must decide on a way forward, how to incorporate other sister agencies so as to achieve a holistic and permanent solution to the problems.He added: “As we speak today, Nigeria land borders are sealed. The only way you can bring any goods is through the airport or seaports and at each of those points there are customs officers.
“We import vehicles. When your vehicle lands at Tincan or Apapa port you go there, customs give you evaluation; you pay and return the papers to custom officers who release the goods before it comes outside. It is assumed the goods have been paid for, the goods come to you and customs turn around lock your shop and say you underpaid.”
The coordinator lamented that there are many grey areas in the customs business that are not understandable urged the agency to come out with letdown rules and regulations.A legal practitioner Barrister Joe Eboigbe described the act as a worrisome development.Eboigbe said he was positioned to listen to the challenges facing the automobile dealers concerning the closure of their shops by men and officers of the Nigerian Customs and to give them legal advice on the proper approach to resolving the matter.
He said: “From understanding, the customs did not ask questions. They came in and sealed up shops. We know they cannot on their own carry out such extreme action if for any reason they believe some vehicles are not properly cleared, you pick those vehicles and discuss with the owner and not lock up the whole shop.
“They can’t be accusers and adjudicators of their case. We will fill in the facts and advise them appropriately.”
Interim secretary of the association, Benny Chijioke, said it is so painful just to have your business sealed for weeks without being asked of any documents. He urged the relevant authorities to call the Customs to order.
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