Senate probes alleged N4tr revenue leakage in Customs

The Senate during a plenary

• ‘82% charges behind high ports cost’
• Agency faults report, welcomes probe

The Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff has begun an investigation into how over N4 trillion was lost at the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) between 2006 and 2016. It decried the inability of the Technical Committee on the Implementation of Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme to ensure compliance with its provisions .

The panel vowed that the upper legislative chamber would stop at nothing at recovering the funds that were lost to lapses and various infractions. The customs has a yearly target to improve the nation’s revenue. But it has been dogged by allegations of corruption. An investigation may engender transparency in its operations . It may also lead to the recovery of the lost N4trillion revenue which is 57 per cent of the N7.2 trillion national budget for 2017 by the Federal Government . Such recovered funds will be deployed by the government for good governance that will ultimately improve the citizens’ wellbeing.

According to the Chairman of the committee, Hope Uzodinma (PDP, Imo West), a preliminary investigation revealed that the alleged malfeasance resulted mainly from the abuse and non-implementation of Form M (foreign exchange forms). He added that other factors responsible for the leakage were wrong classification of cargo under HS Code (Harmonised System Codes), non-screening of cargoes coming into Nigeria and lack of adequate Internet and Communications Technology (ICT infrastructure), among others.

On the retrospective policy on payment of duties on old vehicles, he stressed that the service was overreaching itself by making policies rather than implementing them. Besides, the panel said it had received a petition from Motor Vehicle Network International, an automobile security engineering firm, to investigate an allegation of intellectual theft against the agency.

The firm, which is demanding a N5 billion compensation, claimed that the controversial Vehicle Registration System of the NCS is “an adulterated version” of its intellectual property it tagged Vehicle Duty Smart Card (VDC) and Vin data revalidation programme.

Its Group Managing Director/CEO, Mohammed Kabir Usman, in the petition said that the proposed platforms were first submitted to the management of NCS and the Federal Ministry of Finance in 2005/2006 and re-submitted to the Col. Hameed Ali (rtd)-led agency on September 2, 2015.

Reacting, the agency’s acting spokesman, Joseph Attah, submitted: “Customs has nothing to hide. We are open to investigation. Most of our deals are automated. It will make investigation easier. We welcome any effort that is aimed at protecting the interest of Nigerians.”

Meanwhile, a new survey commissioned by Akintola Williams Deloitte has blamed the cost of doing business at the ports on the outrageous charges by NCS, put at 82 per cent of the total payment made by importers in the course of clearing consignments.

The study said shipping companies were responsible for 13.8 per cent of the cost; terminal operators 1.8 per cent; customs 82.1 per cent; transporters 1.1 per cent and clearing agents 1.2 per cent.

In the report titled, “Public Private Partnership (PPP) as an anchor for diversifying the Nigeria economy: Lagos Container Terminals Concession as a Case Study”, the organisation bemoaned the numerous challenges impeding the timely clearance of goods at the ports.

The study, however, noted that the port concession programme had saved importers and exporters about $800 million (N244 billion) yearly. This sum was hitherto paid to shipping companies as congestion surcharge.

In its value chain analysis of a 20-foot container laden with cargo and worth $100,000 (N44.42million) imported from China, it revealed that about N6.5 million would be required to clear and transport the container out of the port. Of the amount, about N5.3 million (representing 82.1 per cent) is paid to the service as import duty, Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS), ECOWAS Trade Liberalisation Scheme (ETLS), Port Development Surcharge and Value Added Tax.

It added that shipping companies are responsible for 13.8 per cent of the cost (N897,000); terminal operators 1.8 per cent (N117,000); transporters 1.1 per cent (N71,500) and clearing agents (N78,000).

But Attah faulted the report. His words: “The duty payable on anything depends on what you have imported. We have a book called Common External Tariff (CET) which contains the various items chargeable by customs and whose rates come across all the members of ECOWAS sub-region.”

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