Economy Maritime

Kaduna car dealers set Customs vehicle ablaze over import duty

Written by Maritime First
  • As CBN says Forex ban on toothpicks, poultry products, others still in force

But for the timely intervention of the Kaduna State security outfit, code-named  ‘Operation Yaki’, the state capital would have been thrown into another crisis as car dealers and Customs officials clashed on Thursday.

In the melee, the car dealers set ablaze a Customs’ patrol vehicle.

The incident, which took place along the Rabah Road, in Kaduna North Local Government, occurred at about 3pm when Customs officials had gone on patrol to impound vehicles without import duties from car dealers in the city.

At about 4pm, the men of the Kaduna State Fire Service were still battling to put out the fire on the patrol vehicle.

Motorists and other road users as well as passersby scamper for safety while security operatives from the ‘Operation Yaki’ outfit cordon off the area.

An eyewitness told our correspondent that the Customs officials had gone to an unnamed car dealer’s showroom around  the Isa Kaita road area and impounded about six luxury vehicles which they claimed had no import duties.

However, according to the eyewitness, on getting to the showroom, the Customs officials  who were few in numbers, sensed there  could be danger and decided to go back for reinforcement.

The car dealer, it was learnt, used the opportunity “to quickly hide some of the vehicles.”

“But the Customs officials were able to tow away four of the luxury vehicles,” he added.

Not done,  the Custom officials came back to impound more vehicles, it was at this point, the car dealers mobilised and gave the officials a hot chase.

They (car dealers) caught up with the patrol vehicle and set it ablaze while onlookers cheered the efforts of the car dealers.

He said, “The Customs officials had gone to Issa Kaita Road to impound vehicles without import duties from an auto mart. They succeeded in impounding four of the vehicles but came back to tow the remaining two.

“As they took the remaining two, the car dealers mobilised and gave them a hot chase. Luck ran against the Customs’ driver as the dealers caught up with him, dragged him down and set the patrol vehicle on fire.”

When contacted, the spokesman for the Nigerian Customs Headquarters, Abuja, Joseph Attah, confirmed the incident, adding that the owner of  the seized vehicles was  already in their custody, noting that the law must take its cause.

Attah told our correspondent on the telephone that an innocent driver of the service was returning to the office from the zonal office at Kabala Coustain, in Kaduna when he was attacked by hoodlums who set the Customs patrol van ablaze.

In the meantime, contrary to media reports that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has reversed its policy banning importers of 41 items from accessing dollars through the official forex window, the apex bank on Thursday said that the restriction was still in place.

The CBN in July 2015, restricted 41 items, including toothpicks, vegetable oil, poultry products, cosmetics, plastic and rubber products.

The apex bank argued that the move would encourage patronage of locally made goods.

The Acting Director, Corporate Communications Department, CBN, Mr. Isaac Okorafor,  in a statement stated that “The attention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been drawn to media reports to the effect that the CBN has reversed part of its policy on some import items ineligible for forex.

“We wish to state that these reports and their interpretations are wrong.

The CBN has not reversed its policy on the 41 items ineligible for forex through the Nigerian forex market.”

He pointed out that the reports appear to be a misinterpretation of the apex Bank’s circular entitled: “Revised Documentation Requirements for Allocation of foreign exchange for small-scale importation” dated May 03, 2017. He explained that the circular stated that importers of items classified as “ineligible for Forex” with transactions value of $20,000 and below per quarter would now qualify for allocation of foreign exchange subject to the completion of form Q.

The CBN spokesman stressed: This provision does not refer to the 41 items that remain ineligible for forex sale in the Nigerian Forex market.”

Reuters had reported yesterday that the apex bank issued a circular indicating that the restriction has been lifted for importers bringing in goods worth up to $20,000 per quarter.

The news agency said the banking watchdog said in the circular : “Importers of items classified as not valid for forex with transactions value of $20,000 and below per quarter shall now qualify for allocation of foreign exchange.”

Last month the CBN cut the amount of paperwork needed for small firms to buy dollars, to ease doing business and help narrow the gap between official and parallel market exchange rates. It said it would offer them up to $20,000 per quarter

Punch with additional report from Citizen

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Maritime First