The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Tuesday sealed the warehouses and business premises of four major rice importing firms over N23.6 billion unpaid rice duty and levies.
The Public Relations Officer of NCS, Mr Wale Adeniyi, told a news conference in Lagos that the service would also not allow discharge of the companies’ imports in any of the nation’s ports.
The companies are Olam (Amuwo, Lagos), Stallion/Popular Foods/Masco Agro (Iganmu, Lagos) Ebony Agro (Wuse, Abuja) and Conti Agro (Victoria Island, Lagos).
Adeniyi said that altogether the companies had imported a combined excess of 750,253, 03 tonnes of rice, for which the service expected payment of extant duty and levies.
The customs spokesman said the service had written the affected companies severally to notify them of their duty liability at normal rate if they exceeded their quotas.
“Similarly, we published many notices in national newspapers, including where affected importers were mentioned with outstanding payments,’’ Adeniyi said.
He explained that the importers were the beneficiaries of 2014 Rice Import Quota Policy, which specified a preferential duty rate of 10 per cent and levy of 20 per cent for their imports.
“The importers and their sister or associated companies have been blocked from the Nigeria Integrated Customs Information System (NICIS), thus denying them access to make declarations.
“All these will be done preparatory to instituting full legal proceeding to compel them (importers) to pay what they owe Nigeria, when the courts are back from recess,’’ the customs spokesman said.
Adeniyi said the service had issued several ultimatum to the companies to pay the outstanding charges against them, adding that “today, we are no longer issuing ultimatum’’.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Rice Import Quota Policy was meant to fill a national sufficiency gap which needed to be met in line with quotas allotted to the beneficiaries.
NAN also reports that the beneficiaries were rice millers who have invested in the sector and created employment in the value chain.
The policy states that the quantity imported in excess of approved quotas will be subjected to the extant rate of 10 per cent duty and 60 per cent levy.