Senate C’ttee Alleges 228 Vessels Smuggled Items Evaded Customs

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  • Blames NCS, NPA

Damilola Oyedele in Abuja

The Senate has accused the Nigeria Customs Services (NCS) and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) of inefficiency and negligence at the nation’s ports, which has allowed at least 228 vessels bearing goods to evade the payment of customs duties.

The Senate said corrupt practices at the ports continue to cause a substantial loss of much needed revenue to Nigeria.

It therefore directed its Committees on Customs, Excise and Tariff, and Marine Transport to investigate port regulations and practices of the regulators.

The resolution followed a motion sponsored thursday by the Chairman, Committee on Customs and Excise, Senator Hope Uzodinma, who recalled that the committee already has a mandate to carry out a holistic investigation into the activities of the service with a view to identifying the leakages and irregularities in the import and export circle, and the causes of the declining revenue profile of the customs service.

He disclosed that the committee has uncovered over N30 trillion worth of foreign exchange abuse through the use of Form M, for imports between 2006 and 2017.

“Rather, what the commercial banks do is to apply for foreign exchange and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) approves it and the money is transferred to foreign banks, but there are no documents to prove that the goods came in. There has been round tripping with the limited foreign exchange that we have in Nigeria.

“The recent one, which is mind blowing, is that shipping companies now load cargoes worth billions of naira, come into the country, go to warehouse terminals and offload but Nigerian government will not collect one kobo. All they do is informal negotiations with the terminal operators and regulators, and they will offload. This is an international crime. We have identified over 228 vessels with their destination numbers and terminals where they offloaded. We have gone through Customs’ ASCUDA database, tracking every shipment and every vessel that came and offloaded,” Uzodinma added.

The senator further alleged that there is an ongoing practice by Asian companies who move goods meant for Nigerian market in at midnight with documents indicating that the vessels are from neighbouring countries.

“We are losing trillions of naira annually as a result of these infractions. There is incorrect classification, undervaluation, under declaration and incorrect origin. Customs service is a very technical service and the NPA is complacent. There is no control anywhere. As a matter of fact, the entire import and export circle is on rampage. And the money we are losing is even more than what we get from crude oil,” Uzodinma added.

Presiding, the Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, said the spate of revenue leakages deserves the urgent attention of relevant agencies.

He decried the spate of revenue leakages in the country, urging security agencies to arrest the situation.
“This is one area that the law enforcement agencies should move in quickly and ensure that these monies are recovered. We cannot be going to China and all around the world trying to borrow money when we can recover easily the monies lost through corrupt practices. This is where the Senate must be praised for actually blowing the whistle. This is the real whistle,” Ekweremadu said.