There are indications that the Nigeria Customs Service may have auctioned the 35 containers of expired rice it intercepted last year at the Tin Can Island Port.
Strong sources at the Tin Can Port told our correspondent that the service had recently auctioned 35 containers of rice to an importer, and that he is now in the process of evacuating the containers from the port.
Even though he refused to give more details about the auction, he assured that some of the rice containers were still good to be consumed.
Our correspondent gathered that a committee known as Customs Auction Committee was recently at the Customs command to take stock of all seized and overtime cargoes in readiness for another round of auction process.
Recall that the Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hameed Ali had in 2019 showcased 34 containers of rice intercepted at the command, he said some of the bags of rice are expired while some are close to the expiry date.
The rice was reportedly imported from China and Thailand.
Owners of the consignment, Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited later came out to say the rice containers belonged to it and that they were seized in 2016, and not in 2019 as the customs boss claimed
However, in the controversies that ensued later on, the Customs Service had alleged that Masters Energy Commodities Trading Limited wrongly declared 30 containers of rice importations as yeast to avoid paying appropriate duties.
When our correspondent sought confirmation on the whether the 35 containers auctioned are the same intercepted last year, the public relations officer of Customs Tin Can Command, Mr Uche Ejesieme said he was not aware of any rice auction.
He however confirmed that all the rice intercepted through the command as well as other edibles would have to be condemned by a competent court of law after which they would be evacuated.
“There was a general Presidential directive that came through the Customs headquarters about giving some of these edible products to Internally Displaced Persons and so on.
So for Tin Can, I know that we are getting ready, and the process of disposing these items requires that you go to court of law for condemnation before they can be disposed”
“I am actually not aware if any auction was given to anybody, but what I know for a fact is that the edibles including rice are ready when the Minister for Humanitarian Services would come and take delivery”
“You dont just seize and start disposing the items, it must first be condemned by a competent court of law”
“If an importers’ consignment is detained, and you have a very strong argument and you go to the headquarters, and the management decides to give you fair hearing by allowing you to pay and pick your consignment, that is another ball game, it means you were given opportunity of fair hearing, but I am not aware that we are auctioning anything to anybody right now”
Ejesieme said that for any action taking place at the command level, the Customs Area Controller receives instructions directly from the headquarters.