Federal government warns charities against abuse of duty exemptions

Elizabeth Christopher, Abuja

Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun

The Ministry of Finance has advised not-for-profit bodies and charity organizations and members of the public to exercise caution in  applying for Import Duty Exemption Certificates (IDECs) while receiving donations of relief materials from foreign donors.

Organizations were also advised to ensure that the donations were from genuine  partners.

A statement signed by the Director Information, Ministry of Finance, Salisu Na’inna Dambatta said  Government would from now on, hold local charity organizations and their trustees responsible for the abuse  of IDECs  issued in respect of relief materials.

The warning follows a  recently discovered  case in which a Charitable organization applied for and  was granted IDEC for the importation of donated drugs for HIV treatment, anti-malarial drugs and mosquito nets.

However, an inspection by the Nigerian Customs Service detected that 5,900 units of high-end Samsung mobile phones and screen covers valued at over N566 million were concealed within the mosquito nets.

The items were not listed on  the manifest, nor detailed in the IDEC application. The items have now been seized and a case  for potential  prosecution is being prepared.

Following this discovery, the Ministry of Finance and the Nigerian Customs Service have amended the procedure for the issuance and extension of IDEC in respect of relief materials.

The NCS will now automatically conduct 100 per cent inspection on all donations for which IDECs have been  issued.

In addition, prior to the issuance of IDECs for relief donations, the Federal Ministry of Finance and the Nigeria Customs Service will  conduct more vigorous detailed background checks on both the  foreign donors and the trustees of local charity organizations.

In addition, the statement stressed that IDECs for relief materials will be valid for 180 days only, but can be reviewed if unused.

The Ministry and the Nigeria Customs Service reiterated that Nigeria welcomes  and appreciates donations of relief materials but would work to prevent abuse by unscrupulous individuals determined to economically damage Nigeria by evading duties payable on commercial goods.