An engineer identified as Dele Falaju has come out to narrate his ordeal in the hands of some Nigerian Customs Service officials, accusing them of causing him untold hardship while attempting to get his seized Lexus SUV vehicle from Custom's Benin warehouse in Edo State, since 2015.
Falaju's Lexus was impounded by the Customs over forged documents
Falaju told local media he was driving his SUV on the Benin/Lagos highway and heading to Warri, Delta State when Customs officials flagged him down at Ekiadolor, Edo and demanded he presents his car documents.
46-year-old Falaju said it has not been up to a month he bought the car. After going through the documents, the officials told him they were all forged. There, he was detained, while his car was impounded.
From his narration, Naijauto gathered the engineer was bailed out the following day and asked to bring the car seller to their office if he wants his Lexus back.
I told a lawyer at the customs office that I was an innocent buyer because the person I bought the SUV from processed the documents.
I came back to Lagos and reported the case at the Ipakodo Police Station and the seller, Wasiu, was arrested; we took him to Benin.
When we got there, Wasiu was detained and the customs officials charged him with document forgery at the Federal High Court, Benin
Falaju complained NCS had no representative in court on the day of the hearing. As a result, the presiding judge, Justice P.I.Ajoku struck the case out over "non-diligent prosecution."
Reports gathered from the proceedings showed the court ruling was conveyed on December 8, 2017.
Though the case was struck out, Falaju couldn't retrieve his car as efforts made proved to be abortive.
So, in July 2019, I employed the service of another lawyer, who wrote an appeal letter to the Nigeria Customs Service in Abuja. I was then asked to visit the investigation unit.
When I got there with my lawyer, the officials asked for the certified true copy to confirm that the case was struck out and I gave it to them. Since then, they have not done anything about the case.
I was told in Abuja that they had sent a signal to the area commander, requesting a report on the matter, but he had yet to send the report.
People who saw the way I had suffered while travelling around to recover my SUV, told me that because the NCS charged the case to court and failed to appear till it was struck out, the area commander would not want to write such a negative report.
The customs are not ready to do the needful. I used a loan to purchase the SUV to ease my movement whenever I travel for work. After it was impounded, I have spent close to N1m to retrieve it, but it was not successful.
Falaju reiterated that it was not his fault that the suspect was not prosecuted properly, even after providing him. That the case was struck out was due to the NCS's non-appearance. Further, he claimed NCS's position was that the vehicle was evidence in the case. He cannot now understand why the service is holding on to the car, even after the case has been struck off. The suspect, Wasiu has since returned to his home base in Lagos. Falaju made an appeal to Custom authorities, including their boss, Hameed Ali, requesting his intervention. According to him, his efforts were being frustrated by Custom officials so he can give up his car.
Falaju isn't ready to forfeit his Lexus car
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The agency's National Public Relations Officer, Joseph Attah, told Falaju to exercise some patience.
He made an appeal to pay duty so he could take his vehicle; the investigating officer has contacted the command and appropriate recommendations have been made for approval.
But in recent times, customs have said that those whose cars are in custody can be allowed to pay duty with a 25 per cent penalty. So, his appeal is coming at such a time and it is just for him to exercise some level of patience.
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