By Tunde Adetunji, Abuja.
With Round One gone, the Senate is preparing for the next round of trading tackles with Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) with the opening of a N4 trillion probe of the revenue earning agency.
Analysts think it is a continuation of the battle against the humbled Comptroller-General of the Service, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), whose lucrative job the lawmakers put in jeopardy last week by calling for his resignation, and declaring him unfit for public office.But Chairman of the
But, according to the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Senator Hope Uzodinma, the revenue leakage being probed took place between 2006 and 2016.
Uzodinma said in Abuja that the lapses were due to infractions and lapses adding that the inability of the technical committee on the implementation of comprehensive import supervision scheme to ensure that the provisions of the Act led to the huge losses.
Speaking on the suspended policy of getting vehicle owners to pay import duties, the Imo Senator noted that that the power to make policies for the service was vested in the Ministry of Finance.
“Having gone through the legislations and books available to my office as it has to do with the administration of the customs service, it only implements policies made by the Ministry of Finance.
“It sounds very strange to hear that Customs gets up and says they are making a policy. That is what I am yet to understand and there is no way to fathom that before the law.
“The referral is already before us. I was waiting for him to appear before the Senate before we commence a full blown investigation into some of those issues that have been referred to us.
“Concerning the suspended policy on payment of customs duties on old vehicles, the committee will continue to interface with the service to ensure that the policy is cancelled not suspended.
“The whole idea is about governance and governance is about the people and nobody is licensed or entitled to talk about the people more than the elected representatives.
On the N4 trillion probe, the Senator disclosed it took place because of the abuse; non implementation of Form M(Foreign Exchange forms); wrong classification of cargo under HS Code (Harmonised System Codes); non screening of cargoes coming into Nigeria.
Other reasons he gave were lack of adequate ICT infrastructure for revenue collection; cancellation of pre-arrival assessment reports; and abandonment of single goods declaration.
“The committee frowns at the quantum of revenue losses and it will stop at nothing in ensuring that those involved in this ugly act would return all recoverable monies with them.
“The committee also frowns at the level of collusion and corruption within the Customs Service. At the end of our current investigation, all these will become a thing of the past and customs revenue will be enhanced and non oil revenue will be improved upon.
“What we are investigating is not money spent. It is the leakages. For instance, I am supposed to pay XYZ amount of duty, I will abandon the documentation, go get fake documents, collude with customs, pay maybe a fraction of it and carry my goods. With that, the true import circle is not closed.
“Another instance is that assessment is abandoned or I fill the form M for example with a pro forma invoice, apply for foreign exchange in Central Bank, XYZ amount of money is allocated to me, money moves in but no goods shipped. I will then go get fake documents, collude with customs and then retire the allocation”.
He declined to list companies involved in short-changing the country so as not to cause a backlash with the financial system, but added that the non-listing was predicated on the return of the revenues.