A Lagos maritime expert, Prince Olusegun Ologbese has flayed the recent attack on officers and men of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
Besides, the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, several committees of the National Assembly, as well as the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun had at various times openly condemned officers and men of NCS for their inability to deliver on their statutory roles and responsibilities.
At different occasions recently, they also condemned the service for the corruption in the nation’s seaports, airports and international land borders.
Specifically, Adeosun was quoted in a statement recently calling for the probe of NCS because its revenue generation so far is below the expectation of the Federal Government.
But in a chat with THISDAY, Ologbese who is also the Managing Director and chief executive officer of Ogbese Maritime International Limited averred that it was wrong to put the blame on the ills plaguing the maritime industry, particularly in the cargo clearance chain on the doorstep of the NCS.
Popularly called Alaye by his admirers, the maritime expert argued that the NCS was responsible for the present recession in the nation’s economy.
According to him, the recent pronouncements by the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, that the service should be probe for alleged inconsistencies in duty remittances into the federation account is in bad taste. The call is borne out of the minister’s ignorance of ports and Customs operations.
Ologbese who is also the life patron of Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ondo/Ekiti Chapters stated that as a registered ports operator he was concerned about what happens in the ports.
His words: “We are all stakeholders. I believe that there is no society or organization that is completely corruption free. With the harsh statements from National Assembly and the Minister of Finance, it clearly shows that the minister does not know much about the statutory roles and responsibilities of the Nigeria Customs Service and ports operations. The area she was accusing the customs off is an area which customs cannot even help it”.
He maintained that when the NCS receives duties and did not remit it to the appropriate quarters, there are ways and means to checkmate it to avert a reoccurrence. The revered licensed customs agent who has over three decades of experience and exposure in the maritime industry enjoined the minister to check the data in her ministry in order to have an insight into how duties are remitted to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) through its agents at the ports.
“After collecting duties, customs do not see that money after agent must have paid. These duties are paid in drafts to the federal government through the CBN. Immediately the customs stamped it, you don’t have authority over it again. Even the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service cannot spend it. CBN has its representatives within the ports. The money is collected through some designated commercial banks. Customs do not hold onto any money belonging to the Federal Government for a day longer”, he added.
Ologbese averred that Adeosun’s statement suggests that the Federal Government wants to eat its cake and still have it.
He maintained that the CBN restrictions of about 41 items from being imported into the country is affecting duties that should have accrued into the government coffers since President Mohammadu Buhari took the mantle of leadership nearly two years ago.
Said he: “You do not want goods to come into Nigeria. Yet you want the duties to come into the government coffers. How? Go to the ports now. They have become ghost ports. They presently operate under 30 per cent capacity. Goods are not coming in. A whole 41 items of goods are now in government unwanted list. They should go to their data and look at what the government was generating in the past. If they know what is happening in the ports now they will appreciate Customs”.
He expressed dismay that the government has strangulated the necks of importers by asking them to pay exorbitant duties from the previous 10 per cent to 35 per cent.