Uche Usim, Abuja
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on Thursday justified its raid on Frazier Suites, Abuja and other car marts across the country, saying that internal intelligence had revealed that owners of smuggled exotic vehicles have hurriedly removed them from car shops to hide away in hotels.
Customs Spokesman, Joseph Attah told our correspondent that “following ongoing raids on car shops for vehicles without proof of duty payment, some car dealers are moving high profile Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and bulletproof cars into Abuja hotel premises.
“The service acted on intelligence and visited the hotel, interacted with the Manager of the facility and moved away with four cars suspected to have been smuggled into the country”.
According to him, the hotel manager has promised to cooperate with Customs by providing proof of duty payment for the impounded vehicles and keys to other suspected smuggled vehicles on the premises.
“Contrary to some wrong insinuations being circulated, our operatives went into the hotel and had a meeting with the manager to disclose their mission. They never went into rooms or disturbed guests in any way.
“The manager is cooperating with us and has promised to provide evidence of duty payment for the suspected smuggled vehicles found in the hotel car park.
“As a responsible government organisation, we have assured him of prompt release of all the impounded vehicles as soon as proofs of duty payment are brought to us.
“Due to the ongoing raid of car marts across some cities, we received credible and reliable intelligence that owners of some exotic smuggled cars including bulletproof jeeps were hurriedly removed from their garages and shops.
“Our intelligence indicates that some of these vehicles were parked inside the hotel believing they have been kept away from our operatives.
“We want to reassure all Nigerians and foreigners resident in the country that Nigeria Customs Service will not infringe or trample on their rights in the course of carrying out our legitimate duties.
“Let me also advise hotel owners, operators of leisure, holiday and recreational facilities to avoid attempts by smugglers or owners of smuggled vehicles to use their premises to hide smuggled items,” Attah said.
Nigerians in the social media had frowned at the Service for what it terms archaic and brutal approach to recovering evaded duty payment on imported vehicles.