Vehicle Import Ban: Seme Customs Seize Toyota Prado Worth N15m

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has urged the President of the United States of America (USA), Donald Trump, to attach and release to Nigeria, some $500 million worth of US-based proceeds of corruption traced to former Nigerian dictator, late General Sani Abacha.

SERAP, which made this request in an open letter it send to the US President, also urged President Trump to initiate discussions with the Nigerian government to fulfill these objectives within an agreed framework and timeline.

The organisation in the letter dated 3 February 2017 and signed by the organization’s US Volunteer Counsel Professor Alexander W. Sierck and executive director Adetokunbo Mumuni, also wants the Trump’s Administration to instruct the Justice Department to initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings in regard to the $500 million in assets.

SERAP further stated, “these proceeds are separate from the $480 million of Abacha-origin funds that have been forfeited to the US under an August 2014 US federal district court order. SERAP’s request is fully consistent with the UN Convention Against Corruption, which both the US and Nigeria have ratified.”

“The US Department of Justice must promptly initiate civil asset forfeiture proceedings against these proceeds so as to fulfill several non-controversial commitments by the US to assist Nigeria in recovering assets looted by former Nigerian government officials,” the organisation.

The letter, a copy of which was sent to the US ambassador to Nigeria Stuart Symington, and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, reads in part, “Any bilateral discussions between the US and Nigeria concerning these assets should include clear acknowledgement of the significant role that civil society plays in asset recovery matters.

“To that end, the respective governments ought to commit to promptly sharing information with relevant civil society organizations on stolen assets of Nigerian origin located in the US or otherwise subject to US jurisdiction. This proposed commitment is similar to one between the US and Kenya as well as consistent with Articles 46(4) and 56 of the UN Convention Against Corruption.

“SERAP notes that Article 51 of the UN Convention against Corruption provides for the return of “corrupt” assets to countries of origin as a fundamental principle. Article 43 provides likewise. Similarly, under Articles 47(3)(a) and (b) states parties have an obligation to return forfeited or confiscated assets in cases of public corruption, as here, or when the requesting party reasonably establishes either prior ownership or damages to the states.

“In SERAP’s judgment, some or all of these requirements have been met with respect to the $500 million in proceeds described above. A resolution adopted by the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention Against Corruption in Panama in November 2013 reaffirms this obligation, by requiring state to make “every effort” to return such proceeds. to the victim state.

“Nigeria’s Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption has recently informed SERAP that the US Government has identified another $500 million or so proceeds of Nigerian corruption subject to US jurisdiction,” SERAP stressed.

It would be recalled that last month the Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Professor Itse Sagay had raised the alarm that Nigeria risked losing another $550m recovered from the Abacha family to the government of United The All Progressives Congress (APC) yesterday, disagreed with the Bayelsa State government following its denial of any involvement in the purported N3billion loan approval by the state government for the acquisition of cars for state legislators, political appointees and the state, saying the claims of the state government is a sign of double speak.

The Bayelsa State government had through a statement issued by the chief press secretary to the governor, Mr. Daniel Markson-Iworiso, dismissed the claim of House of Assembly loan approval as untrue,

The state government noted that, though there was an undisclosed arrangement to procure vehicles for the legislators, the arrangement is based on hire purchase and the payment for the vehicles will spread over a long period of time with monthly deductions from beneficiary’s allowances.

“The purchase of said vehicles only covered the State owned security outfit ‘Operation Doo Akpo’ to rejuvenate and boost its functions and improve security in the State, especially within Yenagoa and its environs.

“The payment for the vehicles, which has been spread over a long period of time will be deducted monthly from the beneficiaries, as against the widely spread notion that, the Government has dished out N3billion to buy official cars for assembly members and political appointees.”

“The Government is not in a good financial standing to buy cars for the use of its functionaries. Even the state Governor has remained with the same set of vehicles that were procured in 2012/13, and no arrangement has been made to buy new cars, in view of the state of the finances of the Government.”

“As lawmakers and like their counterparts at the Federal level and other States, they need cars to function and perform their duties as representatives of the people, stressing that, it has always been the practice and not new to Bayelsa.”

“Governor Seriake Dickson is commited to running a transparent system, where the welfare of workers and the citizenry remains top most priority. It is therefore not true that government is owing six months salary of workers, as alleged in some of the media reports, rather government is making conscious efforts to clear all outstanding salaries and has even gone ahead to pay in full the salary for the month of January.”

The statement advised the media and persons spreading the unfounded rumour to cross-check their facts for the overall interest of the government, the workers and the entire people of the SThe Nigeria Customs Service, Seme Command, said it had seized a 2016 Toyota Prado, worth N15 million, in enforcing Federal Government’s ban on vehicle importation through the land border.

Fedilis Nwaeze, who led the customs patrol team, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that two suspects were arrested when trying to smuggle the vehicle through Seme border.

Nwaeze, a chief superintendent, said that the suspects refused to stop for a routine check at the customs checkpoint.

“We spotted the car from afar and flagged it down to stop for routine check but the driver didn’t stop, but sped off.

“They were caught before they could go far away and on inspection, we found that the car doesn’t have duty papers and that it was brought in through the border.

“Proper investigation shall be carried out and the suspects would be handed over to the appropriate authorities,’’ the customs official said.

NAN recalled that the federal government banned the importation of used and new vehicles through the land border with effect from Jan. 1, 2017.

Sagay said that the amount represented a separate tranche from the earlier $480m forfeited to the US following a court judgment. According to him, “Nigeria presently stands to lose another $550m recovered from the Abacha family to the US, contrary to the earlier promise by the US to return same to Nigeria.

Source: Leadership

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