From Uche Usim, Abuja
Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has seized mobile phones valued at N566 million, which were concealed alongside relief materials from foreign donors.
Consequently, the Ministry of Finance has warned not-for-profit organisations and members of the public to exercise caution in applying for Import Duty Exemption Certificates (IDECs) while receiving donations of relief materials from offshore donors.
The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, who gave the warning in Abuja yesterday, through the Ministry’s Director of Press, Salihu Danbatta, advised organisations to ensure all their donations are from genuine partners.
“This warning follows a recently discovered case in which a charitable organisation applied for and was granted IDEC for the importation of donated drugs for HIV treatment, anti-malarial drugs and mosquito nets.
“However, on inspection by the NCS it was detected that 5,900 units of high-end Samsung mobile phones and screen covers valued at over N566 million were concealed within the mosquito nets. The items were not listed on the manifest nor detailed in the IDEC application. The items have now been seized and a case for potential prosecution is being prepared.
“The Federal Government would henceforth hold local charity organisations and their trustees responsible for abuse of IDECs issued in respect of relief materials.
“Following this discovery, the Ministry of Finance and the NCS have amended the procedure for the issuance and extension of IDEC in respect of relief materials. Henceforth, the NCS would automatically conduct 100 per cent inspection on all donations for which IDECs have been issued,” Danbatta explained.
He added that prior to issuance of IDECs for relief donations, the Ministry and Customs will conduct more vigorous and detailed background checks on both the foreign donors and the trustees of local charity organisations.
“In addition, IDECs for relief materials will be valid for 180 days only but can be reviewed if unused. The Ministry and the NCS reiterated that Nigeria welcomes and appreciates donations of relief materials but would work to prevent abuse by unscrupulous individuals determined to economically damage Nigeria by evading duties payable on commercial goods,” he noted.