Inde Dikko Abdullahi
Apparently worried by its failure to meet the revenue target of N1.2 trillion for last year, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has set in motion strategies to meet a fresh revenue target of N1.2 trillion this year.
The service had realised the sum of N870 billion last year from the N1trillion target it had set for itself, a shortfall of N130 billion.
Some members of the top management of the service are blaming the failure to meet the N1trillion revenue target on waivers granted some importers as approved by the Presidency and Ministry of Finance.
However, sources close to the Customs Headquarters said the service is already lobbying the Presidency and the Ministry of Finance to put a strict check on some waivers being granted importers in order to improve on the revenue generation from the ports.
Apart from this, the Customs management is said to have instructed various commands and border stations to close every gap through which the Federal Government loses revenue from imports and exports as a measure that can lead to more revenue being recorded monthly in the ports.
Part of this, our source said, included scrutiny on all import declarations and under-valuation by many importers who are desperate to evade payment of appropriate duties.
Every command, it was gathered, has been directed to check cases of under-declarations and concealment through which importers defraud the government.
A senior customs official, who did not want to be quoted, said the various commands had been directed to try to identify new fraud patterns of importers and their agents and stop them as one major way of improving on revenue generation for the year.
The Customs Headquarters is particularly worried about the level of corruption involved in cases of under-declaration and concealment involving some importers and officers of the service, warning that those caught colluding with importers would face disciplinary action.
Some officers are believed to be issuing low Debit Notes (DNs) to importers who have cases of under-declaration and concealment in return for ‘settlement’.
Importers who are able to ‘settle’ some valuation officers are said to be receiving what is described by a top official of the Customs Headquarters as ‘insignificant DNs’, a development, which according to him, has led to huge losses of revenues by the government.
The source said this was what compelled the management of Customs to, in February last year, introduced a duty benchmark that was later suspended on the orders of the Presidency.
However, our source said the customs management had introduced what was described as ‘confidential’ measures to evaluate all import duty payments to ensure that appropriate duties are collected on every consignment being cleared at the nation’s ports and border stations.
Apart from this, all Federal Operations units (FOUs) of the Customs nationwide are to conduct post clearance checks on importers to ensure that they did not defraud the government.
Following this, FOUs are to visit notable importers periodically to demand for details of transactions to ensure that the company met all trade regulations.
The border stations have also been directed to put close markings on unapproved routes to check the menace of smugglers.
The Federal Government had given the Customs a revenue target of N800 billion, but the management had on its own raised the target to N1.2 trillion for 2012.
Apapa and Tin Can Island Customs Commands realised N283 billion and N206 billion respectively as against targets of N324 billion and N264 billion for last year.
This year, the two commands believed to be the biggest ports in the country, have also been given the same revenue targets.
However, some industry operators, including the President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Alhaji Olayiwola Shittu, have advised the Federal Government against setting revenue targets for the customs.
Shittu said such target was the cause of all corrupt and sharp practices in the ports.