Hours after a traveler’s claims of being maltreated by Customs officers owing to her tribe and gender, the Nigerian Customs Service has debunked her claims and released her own version of the story.
According to a statement released the Customs Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, the woman identified as Mrs. Udensi Adaeze Nwagboliwe who arrived the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport onboard a British Airways Flight 083, was accused of buying a Louis Vuitton bag and shoe which was above N50,000 – which is the maximum worth of goods allowed for arriving passengers freely without Duty payment.
“The lady reportedly failed to show receipt for the Louis Vuitton bag brand she had on her and also claimed she bought it at the duty free shop at the point of departure. A verification done online revealed she was carrying a N570, 467 worth of bag, hence the duty assessment of N165,692.
The agency statement reads thus;
The attention of the Nigeria Customs Service has been drawn to a misleading narrative by one Mrs. Udensi Adaeze Nwagboliwe whose claim of being ill treated at the airport on the bases of her gender, tribe or where she comes from is going viral on the social media. Mrs. Nwagboliwe who arrived the country onboard BA083 with passport No. A07994773 at Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport had claimed that she was singled out and slammed with Customs Duty payment for one pair of shoes and “a mini boy bag” that should have been allowed to pass freely as personal effects.
There is therefore the need to make public what actually transpired to put the record straight, especially as she maliciously introduced gender, tribal and other unnecessary sentiments into what was simply a case of being told to pay duty as what was in her possession was far above the allowable value of N50,000.00 and certainly beyond what normal discretion would allow. Upon routine search of this passenger’s luggage, operatives discovered a Loius Vuitton bag and shoe. Obviously knowing the luxury brand (Loius Vuitton), she was asked to produce the receipt which will be the bases for duty calculation or not. She could not produce the receipt of what she claimed she bought at the duty free shop at the point of departure, saying the receipt was with her husband who did not travel with her.
The officers had to take the long route of ascertaining the current worth of her items through the internet. The luxury items were found to be worth N570,467.40k. Consequently, appropriate duty assessment of N165, 692.25k was made and given to her to pay into Federal Government coffer. Since she could not immediately go and pay, a detention notice was given to her showing that the items will remain with the Nigeria Customs Service until she pays and brings evidence of payment before they will be released to her.
Instead of paying the assessed duty and pick up her items or request to see any superior officer should she have any reservation on the assessed value, she took to irresponsible use of the social media drawing all sorts of conjectures, gender (even when the officer, Ms Essien who attended to her is a lady), tribe etc and even inciting the public against the Service. Up till now, it is not clear why this lady would descend this low as to insulting a fellow woman and declaring her not fit to perform her duty and still find it convenient to complain of being ill treated on the bases of gender. Since her attempt to evade duty payment by refusing to produce receipt could not work, it appears convenient to transfer reluctance to pay tax into unnecessary public incitement.
For the avoidance of doubt, we are aware that many Nigerians complain about the allowable amount of N50,000.00, but until the law is changed, Nigeria Customs Service will continue to enforce the extant law that says personal effects shall not exceed the value of N50,000.00. Anything more than the approved value is considered Merchandise in Baggage and therefore liable for duty payment. We therefore call on members of the public to disregard these conjectures and give assurances of our resolve to treat all Nigerians with deserved courtesy and respect in the discharge of our statutory functions.