By Eromosele Abiodun
Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS), Col. Hammed Ibrahim Ali (Rdt), has commended the British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) for its contributions to Nigeria’s treasury over the years.
He particularly lauded the company’s role in Nigeria’s socio-economic development through its corporate social investment arm, the BATN Foundation, when he paid a working visit to BAT’s Ibadan, Oyo State Factory recently.
“BATN is one of the excise companies that generate huge revenue for us and I look forward to greater synergy between us,” he remarked.
The CG noted that with the dwindling revenue from oil, President Muhammadu Buhari has charged the NCS and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) with the task of generating revenue for the country.
Hence, the visit was to check on all industries that are major sources of revenue for government.
Managing Director of BATN, Chris McAllister, while highlighting the company’s landmark achievements in the country, said that the $150 million Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it signed with the Nigerian government in 2001 has been pivotal in its investment drive.
The investment, he said, has more than doubled in the last 13 years, with the establishment of a state-of-the-art factory in Ibadan, the leaf threshing plant in Zaria and the company’s new West Africa Head office building in Ikoyi, Lagos.
He also emphasised ways in which the company has through the BATN Foundation significantly impacted on the socio-economic development of rural communities through the establishment of several agricultural projects spread across the federation.
Speaking further, he described BATN as one of the biggest contributors to customs excise as well as the biggest exporter of finished consumer goods.
McAllister said the company had been grappling with myriads of challenges, including illicit trade and the influx of flavoured cigarettes (apple, strawberry and chocolate), which impacts on its contribution to the revenue of the federal government.
“Studies put illicit trade in Nigeria and globally at about two out of 10 cigarettes and one out of 10 cigarettes, respectively. The World Health Organisation, recognising the threat posed by illicit trade in tobacco products, called for an end to it at the 2015 World No Tobacco Day marked on May 31. Illicit trade in tobacco products is also reportedly funding criminal gangs and terrorist groups,” he said.
While responding to the threats posed by illicit trade, the Customs boss pledged NCS’ commitment to strengthen its enforcement units in order to stem the tide.