Customs Men Disrupt Tinapa Trade Expo
June 06, 2008 15:34, 111 views
By Emma Una/Calabar
The much touted Tinapa Trade and Tourism Expo came to a frustrating end after men of Nigerian Customs Service confiscated goods brought in for the event.
Moments after the Cross River State governor, Senator Liyel Imoke, declared the 2008 Tinapa Expo Trade Exhibition open, at the Tinapa Business Resort and Leisure premises in Calabar, Nigerian Customs Service officials blocked the main entrance to the resort and seized items bought by customers at the expo. The heavily armed Customs officials left nothing to chance as they frisked persons and vehicles leaving the venue. They also impounded the vehicles of people who had purchased goods from the expo.
The Customs officials went wild when they saw some fabric in a vehicle, with registration number EF 153 AAA, hired by three ladies who had come to shop at the expo. They immediately seized the fabric and impounded the vehicle. But for the timely intervention of some management staff of Tinapa and members of the public, the ladies would have lost their goods to the overzealous Customs officials.
This apparent show of force confirms insinuations in many quarters that the Nigerian Customs Service have been a cog in the wheel of the successful take-off and operation of the Tinapa as a free trade zone. Since the commissioning of the business and leisure resort by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on 2 April last year, business activities at the resort have not commenced due to the insistence of the Nigerian Customs Service that it must collect import duty on items sold at the Tinapa.
Tinapa is presently awaiting the Federal Government legislation that would confer on it, the status of a free trade zone and enable it to operate as such. To this effect, the Customs officials mounted a security team at the Tinapa gate to prevent customers in the expo from taking away any item.
After the dust had settled, the Customs officials told newsmen that the management of Tinapa did not inform them that the business fiesta was a trade expo and not a trade fair.
The Customs officials said Tinapa management had held series of meetings with them but did not say that the event was going to translate into a trade fair, hence they were right to have confiscated the items.
Reacting, the Managing Director of Tinapa, Arch. Bassey Ndem, said the Customs officials were high-handed in their approach to issues that concerned the resort and that their action suggested that they were out to sabotage Tinapa.