Nigeria Customs Service to distribute N3.2 billion worth of food items

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has announced its decision to distribute relief materials valued at N3.2 billion to Nigerians. The items are meant to be distributed in a bid to cushion the negative economic effects of the ongoing lockdown in the country due to Covid-19.

The approval to distribute the materials was given by the Comptroller-General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd), according to a statement that was released by the NCS’ Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah.

The items, according to Attah, include 46,000 metric tons of (158 trailers), 30 trucks of vegetable oil (25l) 36,495keg, one truck of Palm oil 3,428 kegs, and 54 trucks of tomatoes paste 136,705 cartons. Other items include Spaghetti/Noodles (2,951 cartons and 1,253 packets), one truck of wrappers (Ankara) comprised of 828 bales, and one truck of lace fabric comprised of 2,300 rolls.

Reasons for the decision: Attah explained that the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic had elicited various reactions from Nigerians. According to him, many people advised the Service to share the seized items at its disposal to help Nigerians during this period.

Some people also insinuated that the Nigerian Customs Service had shared the seized items among themselves. However, this notion is false. And that is one of the reasons the approval was given to share the items. According to Attah, the approval was the Service’s way of contributing its quota to the Federal Government’s ongoing efforts to provide relief for Nigerians during this difficult time. He said:

“Reacting to pains associated with the effects of the lockdown in some parts of the country, some Nigerians have taken to the social media to call on Nigeria Customs Service to share seized rice and other edible items to members of the public.

“While some of these calls appear well intended, others had attempted to create the impression that Customs Officers have the liberty to use seized items as they deem fit. Some even mischievously impugned that the items may have already been shared to cronies. Nothing can be further from the truth.

“It is, therefore, necessary to explain that in line with the provision of section 167(2) of CEMA CAP C45 LFN 2004, seized items upon condemnation and forfeiture to the Federal Government by a competent court of jurisdiction are kept in government warehouses pending Government directive on its disposal.”

In the meantime, some Nigerians have taken to Twitter to berate the NCS for deciding to distribute the items which were apparently seized from importers. According to some of those who have criticised the decision, the Customs’ DG had at some point argued that foreign rice is poisonous and unfit for consumption. Why then is he deciding to distribute the poisonous rice at this point?

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