An association of car dealers in Lagos State has asked the Nigeria Customs Service to immediately open their sealed car marts and pay them N10bn compensation within 30 days or be ready to face court action.
The NCS had on September 29 commenced the sealing off of car marts across the nation on suspicion that the outlets had smuggled vehicles.
The car dealers, who described the action in September as illegal, made the N10bn demand in a pre-action letter written to the Comptroller General of customs by their lawyer, Mr Monday Ubani.
The letter, copies of which were sent to the Senate President, Speaker of House of Representatives and the Attorney General of the Federation, read, “We must state here with all sense of responsibility and patriotism that the action of the Nigeria Customs officers in this regard is a demonstration of gross irresponsibility, unprecedented impunity and abuse of power.
“Though the Nigeria Customs and Excise Management Act gives you the power to examine, mark, seal and take account of any goods; in this case, you did not examine, mark, seal and take account of the particular vehicles identified as not being properly cleared, but rather sealed the entire premises without any form of examination or inspection of papers.
“Take notice, therefore, that you have 14 days from the day you receive this letter to unseal all our clients members’ business premises to enable them carry out their lawful businesses as Nigerian citizens.”
It added, “Take further notice that you have a period of 30 days from the date you receive this letter to pay a compensation of N10bn to our clients for the severe hardship, suffering, embarrassment, loss of business, physical, mental and psychological torture and trauma your arbitrary, lawless and inconsiderate action has caused our clients and their families, failing which our client shall be left with no other option but to seek redress through a competent court of law.”
Meanwhile, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry has come up hard against the Nigeria Customs Service over the shut car marts.
In the statement signed on Sunday by its Director General, Mr Muda Yusuf, LCCI stated, “Investors should not be treated as culpable when infractions have not been proven against them. Verification processes should be done with minimal disruptions to the operations of companies.”
Yusuf called for an independent dispute resolution framework to take decisions on disputes arising from valuation and classification of consignments.
He observed that it was frustrating seeking redress on valuation under the current arrangement because the NCS was the same institution that would adjudicate in disputes between importers and Customs.
“It is not in consonance with the principles of natural justice. It is unfair for the NCS to be a judge in its own case,” he stated.