Steve Agbota [email protected] 08033302331
Over the years, Federal Government has lost chunks of its revenue to unscrupulous and unsuspecting importers and agents at the nation’s ports.
Oftentimes, the importers and clearing agents connive to outsmart the officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) during cargo inspection and clearance in order to short-change government’s revenue through wrong and false declarations to maximize profits.
Information has it that some bad eggs among officers of the Service at times helped the importers and clearing agents to carry out the nefarious act. Some officers found wanting have been punished severely while some were dismissed from the Service.
As part of formation of NCS, who operates under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Finance is to generate certain amount of money into Federal Government’s coffers annually, the service set up various units to ensure that the saboteurs who refuse to comply are subdued in order to get the right revenue accruable to the government.
In recent times, stakeholders have raised alarm over the various units created at different commands of the Service, which they said the units were hampering trade facilitation at the port. The stakeholders said that after leaving the ports, the cargoes face another task of going through another five units of the NCS, which is permanently stationed outside the ports.
But in most cases, at the point of physical examination, what importers inscribed in the paper most times are different from what are seen in the consignment.
Speaking with Daily Sun, spokesman of Tin-Can Island Port Customs Command; Uche Ejesieme, explained that, “we have put modalities in place to try as much as possible to block some of the areas of revenue leakages.
“We know that no country has achieved 100 per cent in curbing smuggling even the most developed countries and democracy and best of the industrialised world, they are still having issues with their sophisticated technology.
What we are doing is just to see how we can eradicate to the barest minimum, issues of revenue leakages.”
He said Customs is not focusing on revenue generation only and but on trade facilitation to encourage trade and to achieve a turn around, adding that Customs is putting policy in place to ensure blockage of revenue leakages.
However, he explained that some of the listed 21 interference units of the Customs are statutory while some are for checks and balances.
He added: “First, it will be pertinent to acquaint us with the role of the Nigeria Customs Service in the trade value chain and even go further to point out the processes and procedures for a compliant trader. For the first, it may interest you to know that the role of customs is just limited to examination and release of cargoes. This is because the automated system allows for self-assessment/declaration by the importer or his agent.
“Therefore, whatever you declare would be captured and treated as such except when physical examination proves otherwise. For the import procedure, any eligible importer is expected to fill a Form M with the designated bank, attaching all relevant import documents, which will be processed by the bank and uploaded to Customs portal for issuance of Pre Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR). We must note that PAAR will be issued based on the information from the importer. Once issued, the importer proceeds to the port for clearance of cargo.”
According to him, once the importer makes the declaration on Customs NICIS 2 platform, selectivity engine is triggered to the appropriate lane and the importer’s SGD is automatically assigned to a particular releasing officer for examination and release of cargo.
However, he explained that the interference of any other Customs unit is usually on the outcome of physical examination or privileged intelligence report, adding that it is instructive that of the alleged 21 steps/units, some are statutory requirements for documentation, some for checks and balances, while the rest are actually non-existent.
“For the purpose of this response, it’s imperative to reiterate that in the course of sensitisation exercise with our stakeholders, we have identified three categories of traders namely: Compliant traders, Fairly compliant traders and full non-compliant traders.
“For the first category, it comprises mostly multinational companies. For the second category, it comprises those who you must prod to be compliant. While the third category are those that believe that processes must be circumvented despite how simple you might want to make the procedure look.
“However, the good news is that we are embarking on continuous stakeholder engagement, with a view to making the non-compliant traders see reasons to conform with extant laws,” he said.