Businesswoman laments as Customs auctions imported vehicle

A businesswoman, Adetoro Olowe, has accused the Nigeria Customs Service of selling off a vehicle she imported from the United States of America, and whose duties she had fully paid for.

It was learnt that sometime in 2019, Olowe imported a Mercedes Benz Dodge Sprinter with chassis number WD5PD644345651104, but could not immediately clear it due to ill health.

The Osun State indigene, who noted that she eventually cleared the vehicle at the port, explained that by then, it had been moved to Ikorodu by Customs.

The woman, who is also a clearing agent, said all efforts to get her vehicle out proved abortive despite paying all necessary fees, adding that the agency auctioned the vehicle without her knowledge.

She said, “The bus was shipped to Nigeria in 2019. I was not feeling fine when it got to the country, but about three months later, I paid the Customs duty.

“When I paid, the telex from the shipping company got delayed, which made the vehicle enter overtime.

“I had already exited the job from the Customs gate, but it was just for me to pay the shipping company and take delivery of my vehicle.

“When I wanted to take the delivery in 2020, they said that Customs had moved the vehicle to their Ikorodu terminal, where they keep overtime vehicles. I asked them what I should do next, and they said that since I had paid all Customs duty and exited from Customs gate, I had the right to process it.

“I went to Ikorodu and saw the bus there. I met an officer, who said that I should go to Harvey Road, Yaba, for clearance. When I got there, they saw my documents and said that they would send the clearance to Ikorodu and that I would take delivery of the vehicle there. However, when I returned to Ikorodu, they started giving me different excuses that prevented me from taking possession of my vehicle.

“I liaised with an officer there and I kept calling him to know when my vehicle would be released, but it was one excuse after the other till 2021.

“I returned to Ikorodu with my husband in May and met one officer Ado, who brought out a gazette and said that Customs do not use the overtime clearance we collected from Yaba again and then asked for my vehicle’s chassis number, which I gave him.”

Olowe added that when the officer checked the chassis number in the gazette, he told her that she had to write an application asking for the delisting of the vehicle from the gazette. She wrote the application and it was sent to Abuja after she had paid N20,000 to have the letter delivered.

The agent noted that things took a new turn when the letter got to Abuja and it was not processed.

“I called the officer in charge of my documents to ask what was delaying my work, but he told me that they had decided to auction my vehicle. I told him that he could not auction my vehicle because the law says if you’ve paid Customs duty, Customs doesn’t have the right to auction such a vehicle.

“To my surprise, someone called me last Thursday and said that he saw a number on the bus and that they had auctioned it. I went there on Tuesday and confirmed it.

“I met the comptroller at the Ikorodu office and showed him the original documents of my vehicle and all the processes I had done and the man said that the order to auction my vehicle was from Abuja, and that the only thing I could do was to write a letter for stoppage application so that they would stop the auction. I wrote the letter as advised, but now, I hear that someone wanted to take the bus out,” she added.

When contacted, the Comptroller of Overtime and Auction, Abuja, Yakubu Salihu, said that he was not aware of the matter and urged the victim to write a letter to his office.

He said, “Nobody came to me to report anything. Let her write to the Customs Comptroller General, it will come to my office and we will respond positively on that, but there is no issue of Customs auctioning vehicles after paying duties.

“People have been saying we are auctioning this and that, but there is a process and the guideline must be followed.

“There is no way someone will effect payment and do all necessary things and say we are auctioning their vehicle, it is not done, it is misleading.”

Meanwhile, Olowe said that another contact person at Ikorodu office of Customs had advised her to negotiate to purchase the vehicle from the buyer, if she really wanted to regain her vehicle.

She lamented that while the back-and-forth lasted, the vehicle has been severely vandalised and all the mechanics equipment that was imported with the vehicle has been missing from the vehicle, saying the Customs must account for them.

Here are some of the documents showing full payment for the clearance of the vehicle:

The Punch

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