Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala
By John Iwori
The disparity on the duty paid on rice imported into the country through the nation’s seaports and international borders has led to a huge revenue loss into the coffers of the Federal Government (FG), the National President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu has said.
FG had in 2010 as part of its fiscal policies created a disparity on the amount of money paid as duty on rice imported into Nigeria through the nation’s seaports and land borders.
The move which was aimed curtailing the activities of smugglers through the land borders had led to a lull in business activities in the land borders as the importation of rice which is a staple food among Nigerians have dropped drastically.
The reduction in the importation of the commodity has also led to a significant drop in the revenue accruing into the central till as reports in recent times from Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) formations across the land borders have shown.
Shittu who is also the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Skellas Group dropped the hint while on a visiting tour of Seme Border.
The tour was part of the strategies the ANLCA National President put in place to find out the true state of things from members of the association across the country.
He revealed that with the disparity, the revenue accruing into the coffers of FG has continued to witness a steady decline as importers now prefer to use the nation’s seaports instead of the land borders.
Shittu revealed that while the duty for a container of rice from the ports is N6 million, Seme border was paying N1.3 million before the ban on importation of rice through the land borders. Therefore, if you look at the figures since the ban was announced by the Federal Government and compares it with the ones before the ban, you will see the difference and this means a huge revenue loss.
“I recall that Alhaji Mikky Okunola led a delegation to Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji Inde Dikko Abdullahi and we put so much pressure that importation of rice should be universal. But at land border, the revenue paid is so small when compared to the seaports. So there is revenue linkage. We need to find out how much people here are ready to pay, then we can discuss with the management of customs without which we cannot go into such discussion, because the difference in revenue is so much”, he said.
Shittu used the visit to ask members of the association to tell him if they will be ready to pay the true amount so that when next he goes to the Presidency, he will know where to anchor his arguments.
He also decried the continuous importation of toothpick into Nigeria instead of machines to produce it.
He told members of ANLCA in Seme Border that he would not talk to anybody on their behalf to allow them to continue to bring in toothpick, saying it is a national shame.
His words: “We are still talking of importing toothpick from overseas in the present Nigeria. It is a shame. If we are talking machine to make toothpick then I can talk to somebody. In fact, government should sustain its ban on importation of toothpick”.
He warned that any member of the association, especially the executives found wanting in the discharge of their roles and responsibilities would not only be sanctioned by the national leadership of the association but also handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution.