The Nigeria Customs Service on Thursday warned importers against trading in goods banned by the Federal Government.
Malam Sani Madugu, the Area Controller of the Federal Operations Unit, Zone ‘A’ Ikeja, Lagos State, gave the warning in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Lagos.
Madugu said: “We always mention those items that have been banned, but if you go to the market, you will see them.
“They sell the left-over they have in their shops and their stores because the law has not backdated the ban.
“This ban is not actually prohibition.
“It is prohibition by trade.
“You need to know the difference between the two.
“There is absolute prohibition, which means it should not come at all.
“Then there is prohibition by trade.
“You cannot bring in large quantity and sell to the public.
“If you travel out, buy one piece and you come back with it, the Customs will not seize that one piece from you.
“They are as conversant as we are.
“The importers, the agents, they are very knowledgeable people.
“They know what government has banned and they know what government has not banned.
“They even have copies of the circulars.
“Some of them go as far as Brussels, our international body, to collect certain things.
“When you are arguing with them on classification, they will be able to defend themselves.
“They argue a lot. Decisions go to as far as headquarters.
“After the tariff decision in headquarters has taken place, they even appeal our judgement and go to Brussels.
“So when they get there, whatever Brussels decides, will be communicated (back) to the Nigeria Customs Service.”
Madugu warned that the Customs would not hesitate to arrest and prosecute any importer caught trading in contraband.
He said: “When we compile all these seizures, we will now take them to court.
“If the court condemns it, the record of the court’s condemnation and the record of the seizures will be presented to the Nigeria Customs Service Headquarters.
“At that level, it has gone beyond the area comptroller of every area.
“The management of Customs will liaise with the Federal Government of Nigeria.
“So, at that level, the government will now take a decision on what to be done with these kinds of items.
“We constructively warehouse these items.
“The Nigeria Customs Service is not relenting in its efforts.
“All the prohibited items, when we see (them), we will seize and arrest the people (involved).
“We will detain them, we will prosecute them to court, we will allow the court to take decision on that issue.
“It is better to stop smuggling than to continue doing it when you know very well the Nigeria Customs Service will detain you (when it catches up with you).”
The comptroller, therefore, urged importers to carry out their activities within the ambit of the law.