Convincing evidence that some influential Nigerians, including a serving governor and a minister, are among owners of about 1,500 exotic vehicles parked in the Volkswagen Yard, on the Mile 2-Badagry Expressway in Lagos since 2015.
It has also been gathered that another governor from the South-East (under anonymity) by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service and parked in the agencyâ€™s office in Ikeja.
Hope Uzodinma the chairman and as well as the whole Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, had visited the VON premises last week on oversight assignment when it discovered that the place looked deserted with disused equipment in its assembly plant.
The officials of the company had earlier declined to open the store to the lawmakers for inspection, but they were forced to grant the visitors access into the warehouse when the lawmakers threatened to force the door open.
The senators together with security operatives and officials of the NCS, saw no fewer than 1,500 pieces of various models of Volkswagen products and other brands of vehicles in the warehouse.
The press had learnt that the senators deduced from the port tags on the vehicles, that they were imported.
The law makers were not convinced by the explanation offered by officials of the company that the firm did not abuse the auto policy introduced by the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration with its action.
A senator when interviewed said that the team discovered that about 15 Sports Utility Vehicles, on the premises of the NCS office in Ikeja, Lagos, impounded by the service when the dealer attempted to evade payment of duty, belonged to a serving governor in the South-East.
He said the vehicles carried Federal Governmentâ€™s official number plates in an attempt to deceive officers of the customs service.
Uzodinma had alleged in an interview with journalists in Abuja that there were indications that the company was not assembling vehicles in Nigeria as it claimed.
He stated that his committee discovered different vehicle brands in the companyâ€™s warehouses which were already assembled before they were shipped to Nigeria.
Mr. Tokunbo Aromolaran, the Managing Director of VON Automobiles, however, refuted the Senate claim that the company was sabotaging the countryâ€™s economy.
Aromolaran said, â€œThe Chairman of the Senate Committee, in company with about 30 people, comprising senators, officers of Nigeria Customs Service, journalists and police officers, descended on the VON premises on October 28, 2016, without prior notification.
â€œThey were given free access to our plants and warehouses, and found nothing other than what you would expect to see in an auto assembly plant â€“ an inventory of vehicles assembled, awaiting delivery.
â€œWe also confirmed that applicable duties were paid at the ports when the components were imported into the country.
He said, â€œAll applicable duties and levies on Volkswagen vehicles stored at VON have been paid to the NCS (SKD vehicle kits and fully built units). This can be verified by the service.
Uzodinma, informed the press on Saturday that the committee was convinced that VON was sabotaging the nationâ€™s economy, adding that a public hearing would be organised soon to unravel the alleged sharp practices.
Mr. Wale Adeniyi, the Public Relations Officer, Nigeria Customs Service, said the affected vehicles had remained under NCS custody because duty was not paid on them.
Adeniyi pointed out that, â€œThere are no separate laws for top government officials or highly-placed Nigerians. The laws are the same for everybody and the laws specify that all imported Addeing that if the owners paid the required duty, the SUVs would be released.
Concerning the 1,500 vehicles found in the premises of Volkswagen, Adeniyi said, â€œI do not have details of that development.â€