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Custom Reverses Self on Shutdown of Intercontinental Hotel Over N23billion Unpaid Duty

IntercontinentalBy Alex Akao
Barely 48 hours after the Nigeria Customs Service gleefully announced its seal-off Intercontinental Hotels in Lagos as part of efforts by the service to recover over N23 billion evaded duty by five prominent rice importers, the service made a u-turn on the closure of the hospitality business.
National Public Relation Officer of the Customs, Wale Adenityi in a statement Saturday morning announced the back down from the earlier decision, “in view of media reports” on the issue.
While not blaming the media for the recant, the NCS said has found it necessary to clarify its position on its on-going battle to compel defaulting rice importers pay outstanding duties owed the Federal Government of Nigeria.
According to Adeniyi, “the confusion was created in view of the association of its owners, Milan Nigeria Limited with one of the defaulting Importers”.
Adeniyi said: “Our records have shown that Intercontinental Hotel is not indebted to the Nigeria Customs Service, and will therefore not be shut down as insinuated. It is also necessary to clarify that the defaulting importers targeted for sanctions, Conti Agro Nigeria Limited is a separate legal entity from Milan Nigeria Limited, owners of Intercontinental Hotel.
“The Management of Conti Agro has commenced engagement with the Customs to make payments of duty owed by it, and resolve the issue”.
“The Management of Conti Agro has commenced engagement with the Customs to make payments of duty owed by it, and resolve the issue”.
The Customs image maker who featured as guest in Ships and Ports maritime radio programme last Thursday, had disclosed plans to shut down the prestigious hotel which he claimed was under the same management with one of the alleged debtor companies, Milan Nigeria limited.

Accord to him, the new twist to the alleged debt recovery move was informed by the failure of the management of Milan Group to pay up the rice subsidy after exceeding its rice quota for 2014 .
He had justified the planned closure of the hotel saying that the Milan group is housed in the same premises as Intercontinental Hotel and shares the same ownership.
He had said, “We are not unmindful that they have guests in the hotel. We are making representations to them to ensure that either they pay Customs duty or they evacuate their guests before we come to seal the hotel premises off. Because it is the hotel premises that houses the Milan Group.
“The owner of the companies is the same. (Therefore), we have given them options; to make do either their payment or we have no choice but to stop them from operating. We (do not) want to create unnecessary scenes so we are going to be civil in our approach to the Intercontinental issue.
Adeniyi had clarified that the planned operation was in line with government directives that the premises of all defaulting importers be sealed off.
His words, “This is not a threat. We have been given a directive to seal the business premises of all defaulting importers. It is a directive we are going to carry out. (Therefore), we’ll give them one or two days notice to get their guests and their customers informed so that we don’t end up embarrassing anybody.
According to Adeniyi, some of the companies have falsely claimed that the quotas given to them were to be carried over to 2015.
Debunking such insinuations he had claimed that,” The documents conveying the quotas were explicit. The quotas were meant to bridge a supply gap. 1.3 metric tons was estimated to be what Nigeria needed to bridge the supply gap in 2014 and that it should be imported in a concessionary way. (Moreover), it was stated that any of the companies that exceeded the quota will have to pay what others who didn’t get concessions would pay, and that is 70% duty.
“So they imported 750,000 metric tons in excess. So, when told to go and pay they are now saying it is retroactive. It is carried over. We don’t have any document telling us that the waiver is carried over.”

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