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Why we sued customs for N10b, by Lagos automobile dealers

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A group of automobile dealers in Lagos State has said that they decided to sue the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) for N10 billion because of the unlawful sealing of their business premises.

Dismissing reports of division among them, the auto dealers staged a protest in Lagos against NCS’s alleged illegal act.

Speaking with the newsmen in Lagos yesterday after the protest, counsel to the traders, Monday Ubani, said that his clients had no other option but to approach the courts since the Customs authorities have ignored their demand to unlock their offices.

Ubani described the action of the Service as a demonstration of gross irresponsibility, unprecedented impunity and abuse of power.

He noted that all the cars in his clients’ business premises were duly cleared and appropriate duties paid to the Federal Government.

“This action of the Nigeria Customs Service does not, in any way, portray it in good light, but has rather made it a laughing stock among members of the international community who are watching this arbitrary exercise of power,” he stated.

Some of the placards the protesters carried read: ‘We are legitimate businessmen and women open our shops’, ‘EFCC should investigate the Customs’, ‘Customs should open our shops’, ‘We cleared our vehicles through Customs’.

According to Ubani, it is most appalling that hardworking Nigerian Citizens are made to pay for it, albeit in a rather inconsiderate and lawless manner. Let’s further assume that the action of the Nigerian Customs is because of improperly cleared vehicles or smuggled vehicles, is the Nigeria Customs by their action saying that all the vehicles in those car shops were affected, warranting the sealing up of their business premises?
“Auto-Mobile Dealers are responsible Nigerian citizens and businessmen who have families to feed and cater for.”

Their only means of survival is their car business. It is unimaginable that the Nigerian Customs did not consider their survival and the severe hardship their arbitrary action will cause them and their families.

“Since the 30th day of September 2019 when their business premises were arbitrarily sealed up, these men and women have been unable to transact any business, and some customers that bought vehicles from them who were yet to take delivery of the vehicles before the sealing up have till today not been able to use the vehicles they had since paid for, and most of them are now demanding the refund of their money.

“Nigeria is not a lawless country, rather it is a country governed by laws, and we must all operate under the law. No law under our law books, including the Customs & Excise Management Act, the Customs officers to take the steps they have taken in the manner they have taken it.

“The action of the Nigerian Customs is not only lawless but very oppressive. The moment when Nigerian Government agencies elevate the pursuit of revenue above the right and welfare of the citizens, Nigeria is doomed, but God forbid that things degenerate to that level.

We have therefore written to the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service, giving him 14 days from the day he receives the letter to unseal all the Business Premises of Auto-Mobile Dealers in Lagos State to enable them to carry out their lawful businesses as Nigerian citizens.

“We have also by the same letter given him a period of 30 days from the date he receives the letter to pay a compensation of N10 Billion to the Auto-Mobile Dealers in Lagos State for the severe hardship, suffering, embarrassment, loss of business, physical, mental and psychological torture and trauma his arbitrary, lawless and inconsiderate action has caused these men and women and their families; failing which we shall be left with no other option than to seek redress through a competent court of law. “


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