Uche Usim, Abuja
Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Monday explained why it seized a pair of canvas footwear and a bag belonging to a Nigerian, Mrs Udensi Adaeze Nwagboliwe, who arrived Abuja from London on Friday, October 18, aboard British Airways flight BA083.
Mrs Nwagboliwe, in a facebook post, blasted some Customs officers whom she alleged were rude and ethnically biased.
She said: “I arrived with a pair of trainers and one mini-boy bag bought at the duty-free shop in Heathrow. For the records, I am a banker. I am not a trader.
“To my shock, Customs at Abuja airport headed by one Ms Essien and T. Abdulrahman said they do not qualify as personal effects and calculated duty payment of about N175,000 for me to pay. Most shocking to me was that I was the only passenger on that flight BA 083 from London that was singled out for this treatment.
“What are Nigerians able to buy when they travel? Ms Essien says that Nigerians are only entitled to N50,000 worth of goods. Everything above N50,000 is considered luxury and dutiable.
“I pointed out to her that someone who had shoes had just been released by same Customs without any charge and to my shock she said that it’s because he put his feet in it already,” she said.
But reacting to her claims, the spokesman of Customs, Joseph Attah, said she was simply told to pay duty as what was in her possession was far above the allowable value of N50,000 and certainly beyond what normal discretion would allow.
“Upon a routine search of this passenger’s luggage, operatives discovered a Louis Vuitton bag and shoes. Obviously knowing the luxury brand (Louis Vuitton), she was asked to produce the receipt which will be the bases for duty calculation or not.
“She could not produce the receipt of what she claimed she bought at the duty- free shop at the point of departure, saying the receipt was with her husband who did not travel with her.
“The officers had to take the long route of ascertaining the current worth of her items through the internet. The luxury items were found to be worth N570,467.40k.
“Consequently, appropriate duty assessment of N165, 692.25k was made and given to her to pay into Federal Government coffers. Since she could not immediately go and pay, a detention notice was given to her showing that the items will remain with the Nigeria Customs Service until she pays and brings evidence of payment before they will be released to her,” Attah explained.
However, the victim, Mrs Nwagboliwe insisted she was treated poorly “because of my gender and tribe. I literally wept for my country Nigeria yesterday”, she noted.
But the Customs spokesman said it was not clear why the lady would prefer to insult a fellow woman and declaring her not fit to perform her duty and still find it convenient to complain of being ill-treated on the bases of gender.
“Since her attempt to evade duty payment by refusing to produce receipt could not work, it appears convenient to transfer reluctance to pay tax into unnecessary public incitement,” he said.