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Customs

Who Is Afraid Of Transparency In Customs’ Operations?

Bomodi

Timi Bomodi

On September 26, 2021, members of Freight Forwarding Associations and Customs Licensed agents, including executives and members of thE Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents(ANLCA), National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders(NAGAFF) and three other associations held a meeting at a popular hotel in Apapa, Lagos.

Among other things they were reported to have complained about was an intended hike in license fees, arbitrary increases in Nigeria Customs Service duty, hikes in the values of Pre-Arrival Assessment Reports(PAAR) issued to importers, the conduct of Valuation Officers, uncertainty or inconsistencies in tariff classifications for certain goods, frequent alerts, and the illogic of government giving revenue targets to Customs, especially in an era of trade facilitation.

Again on October 5th, 2021, and in response to the invitation of the House of Representatives Committee on Customs, ANLCA was quoted to have said that “the present Customs Management is not interested in professionalism and trade facilitation,  but to circumvent all processes for revenue generation”.

The Nigeria Customs recognises and acknowledges the rights of Nigerians to freely organise, assemble and associate for the purpose of articulating group goals, visions, and objectives.

The NCS also acknowledges truth as the ultimate instrument which can free the maritime industry from the shackles of deceit and liberate our economy from the trenchant actions of those committed to sabotaging our efforts.

This is why it has become imperative to correct the numerous misrepresentations about the NCS contained in both their press release and the presentation made before the House Committee on Customs.

These recent outbursts and accusations do not come as a surprise.

In truth, Nigerians are not fooled by the current cavalier attitude of certain persons who for far too long, had an entrenched culture of opacity and disrespect for laws, regulations, rules, and procedures when it comes to making proper declarations for the purpose of paying correct government duties and taxes. Understanding their antecedents will throw more light on their recent ‘crusade’ against the current management of NCS.

Some executive members of these associations have long abandoned their responsibilities in entrenching professionalism among their colleagues.

They have forgotten their oath of honesty in their dealings with the government and have taken to the pursuit of power for personal aggrandizement. They have attempted to use their positions to procure favours for themselves and their companies.

When confronted with the force of reason, they have resorted to threats and blackmail . Incapable of articulating their positions in reference to our books of laws, they have resorted to intimidation, and have even facilitated physical attacks on our officers.

In all these situations, officers of the Nigeria Customs have refused to be cowed. We have remained resolute in our commitment to the government by towing the path of honor.

Our achievements in revenue collection and anti-smuggling speak for themselves. The current management under the watch of the Comptroller General, Colonel Hameed Ibrahim Ali (retd), has shown exceptional leadership in this regard.

Our systems have been put through a good number of iterations.  From ASYCUDA I, II, & ++, to NICIS I & II. We are currently on the verge of migrating to E-Customs, which will herald a new epoch,  as all Customs activities will be electronically enabled.

The simplification, harmonisation, and automation of Customs activities are in tandem with WCO and WTO objectives for trade facilitation. Our commitment to this reality is unshakeable and our actions bear testament to our resolve.

We also note that trade compliance is a sine qua non for trade facilitation. Where the level of compliance is low, the level of control becomes high.

Some agents and Customs brokers have taken abnormalities as rights. They have assumed the role of activists, encouraging illegal behaviours.

This cannot be accepted as no government agency worth its name will allow itself to be swayed by the whims and caprices of those whose actions they are supposed to superintend. Indeed it will be a complete dereliction of duty if we succumb to these and other attempts.

The disposition of NCS management is neither authoritarian nor archaic. Its actions have always been guided by federal government policy decisions in line with international agreements and conventions on trade.

Contrary to their claims, there has been no attempt to arbitrarily increase the license fee of Customs Licensed Agents. It is important to note that the fees payable by Customs Licensed agents are  as approved by law outlined in section 156 of CEMA as amended.  The only recourse to a revision in fees can only be as dictated to by extant laws.

Arbitrary increase in Customs duty.

There are two main avenues for the adjustment of duty payable to the government that a Customs officer can legally activate.

Where the transaction value declared for an item is questionable and where the classification of the item is wrong.

The former refers to the declared CIF value, while the latter concerns the HS code for that item.

Part II of the Common External Tariff prescribes ‘General Rules for the interpretation of the Harmonised System’.

There are six rules in total and they provide clear, unambiguous guidelines for the classification of all goods under the CET. These rules are not subject to the interpretation of Customs officers alone as they are captured in simple English for the enlightenment of all persons equipped with the proper understanding of that language.

In addition to the interpretative rules are chapter headings and the explanatory notes which are designed to further highlight grey areas both of inclusions and exclusions as deemed appropriate for classification purposes.

The issue of value has also been comprehensively addressed in the WTO Agreement for Customs value adopted in Article VII of General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, 1994.

This agreement provides a Customs Valuation method primarily based on the transaction value of the imported goods, also known as either the price ACTUALLY PAID or PAYABLE for the goods when sold for export to the country of importation.

In addition to the transaction value, WTO prescribes five other methods that can be applied successively. So the transaction value is followed by:

The transaction value of identical goods
The transaction value of similar goods

The deductive value method

The computed value method

The fall-back method.

In applying these rules for Customs valuation, the Service has noticed frequent attempts by importers, and, or their agents to falsify transaction values in order to evade the payment of correct duties.

Their insistence on uniform values for cars of the same make and manufacture is at best illogical when we agree that there are no uniform purchase prices, especially for cars from diverse locations.

A true declaration of the purchase value for cars should suffice,  but agents have been known to deliberately mislead importers, by promising them lower duties even when they’ve been furnished with the correct information. Competition among themselves for customers has itself become inimical to honest declarations for tax purposes.

Freight, being an important consideration for assessing value, needs to be highlighted.
Indeed in recent times, there have been sharp increases in shipping costs across the globe occasioned by the effects of the pandemic refs:https://www.wsj.com/articles/container-ship-prices-skyrocket-as-rush-to-move-goods-picks-up-11625482800https://amp.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3147013/chinas-shipping-container-costs-hit-all-time-highs-andhttps://www.reuters.com/business/china-us-container-shipping-rates-sail-past-20000-record-2021-08-05/.

The above links from Reuters, Wall Street Journal, and others can be easily verified.

The cost of freight alone is one out of three components which when added up, defines the value for duty.

The others are the cost of the product itself and the insurance payable for the goods in transit, otherwise known as the CIF value.

Where the value of the goods remains constant, but the freight rate changes, it will have an effect on the total CIF value of the goods assessed for duty.

In this case, the transaction value must be a true representation of the actual monetary component of the exchange.

In addition to this is the increase in the exchange rate. Where all other components of value remain constant, the exchange rate alone can trigger increases in value for duty.

It is, therefore, curious to observe individuals insisting on retaining the same historical values contrary to abundant current evidence.

What the Nigeria Customs Service has been inundated with are fictional representations of this monetary component which bear no resemblances to present realities. In truth, a good number of Customs agents and importers have been connected with this unwholesome practice.

Even the agents themselves cannot recognise the obvious contradictions in their statements. In one breath, they demand uniform values for cars but insist on totally different standards for other commodities.

There are no benchmarks for costs, values, or duty. However, when agents resort to cooking up invoices with the intention of evading duty, we are also duty-bound to adjust those values using the WTO Agreement on Customs Valuation, to reflect reality.

Where there is honesty in intention and action, the NCS can only reciprocate in good faith.

We live in a world where authenticating documents submitted for the validation of Customs has been made easy by technology.

The NCS has at its disposal the historical records of all imports/exports, importers/exporters, and a comprehensive index of values submitted by importers themselves.

The Service has numerous resources at its disposal for the verification, authentication, and adjustment of submitted data.

The same agents develop selective amnesia when confronted with the historical data of their importers within defined periods as cross-referenced from our system

We understand the frustrations of some of these agents as reports reaching Customs Headquarters indicate a radical change in the trajectory of business practices at our ports and borders.

This penchant for cutting corners as exemplified in false declarations and illegal deductions in Customs values is constantly checkmated by diligent officers intent on facilitating legitimate trade only.

So their anger is not for the number of alerts in the system but for being stopped by it. With the introduction of artificial intelligence and machine learning, more loopholes in the system will be identified and plugged.

We hope when this happens, they will attend anger management classes to save themselves the cost of managing their health.

As agents of the government, we can only live to the billings and briefs issued to us by our supervising ministry. Revenue collection, being one of our duties, is one to which we are wholly committed as attested to by our groundbreaking achievements in current and previous years.

We owe no organisation any explanation in our commitment to collecting revenue for the government. Our risk management protocols are determined by the strategic needs of the Service.

Our risk management techniques have been quite effective as evidenced in duty recoveries, and landmark seizures.

The activities of FOU and other intervention units of the Service are all part of the same risk management architecture. Officers who were found to be complicit in aiding the illegal activities of agents have been shown the way out.

Others with more grievous offences have been prosecuted in the courts.

The recent installation of scanners at a few of our ports will address the challenge of physical examination of goods and we look forward to their full engagement as it will no doubt help to facilitate trade.

We are also mindful of the impact our actions can have on legitimate traders, that is why we have provided avenues for the expedited clearance of goods under the fast track and other facilitative channels for businesses with unblemished records.

Often when disputes on classification and, or value arise following examination, a lot of time is wasted on baseless arguments.

Because most agents are not grounded in the rudiments of the Common External Tariff, and other books of instructions, they tend to use bargaining as a tool for resolving disputes, when all they need do is make superior submissions by referring to relevant books of authority.

Meanwhile, the system has provided outlets that allow for goods to be released under bank indemnity while the issues in dispute are being resolved. This mechanism is entrenched in the Post Clearance Audit department.

The Service takes serious exceptions to attempts by individuals or associations to intimidate or blackmail its officers in the course of their official functions.

While complaints and feedback are encouraged from agents and other members of the public, we reiterate our right to determine for ourselves frameworks for effective and efficient performances within the ambit of the law and executive orders.

The security situation in the country demands a dynamic approach to effective border management. The deployment of our assets is as dictated by intelligence and the risk profiling mechanisms of the Service. Those without skeletons in their cupboards have absolutely no reason to be afraid.

Finally, the NCS awaits the success of their recommendations to the government regarding revenue targets to Customs, so we can concentrate on trade facilitation and anti-smuggling activities alone. As always, our resolve for fulfilling our mandate is matched only with our determination for success and we remain totally focussed in this regard.

 Bomodi is the Deputy National Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Customs Service.

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Customs

Hameed Ali, Customs boss, in last minute  frenzied promotion, reshuffle of officers 

CGC, Ali
The Eyewitness reporter
In what appears to be his last major assignment before his second-term tenure as the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service winds down on May 29th, 2023, Hammed Ali, the Customs boss, has undertaken a comprehensive restructuring of the service through mass promotion, a reshuffle of the management team and rejigging of the area Controllers.
Col.(rtd) Ali kickstarted the massive exercise with a promotion galore of officers when on January 5th, 2023, three ACGs were appointed and 1490 officers were promoted to their next ranks by the Customs board upon his recommendation.
Not done yet with what stakeholders described as his parting gift to officers, a week later, the CGC announced the reshuffle of the management team of the service by infusing some newly promoted ACGs into the team while swapping the positions of some old members.
The icing on the cake was when he reshuffled the Area Controllers by rewarding some newly promoted Controllers with juicy Area commands while swapping the positions of the old ones.
The latest exercise, announced Saturday, January 21st, 2023, was the new disposition at the command structure of the service.
In the new posting, Comptroller Timi Bomodi, who was until now, the National Public Relations Officer of the Service and newly promoted to the Comptroller cadre, was posted to head the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) in Lagos, while  Comptroller Dera Nnadi, who had just concluded his management course at the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, near Jos, was posted to Seme Area Command as its Area Controller.
Nnadi had a short stint at Ogun Command, Idiroko, as its Area Controller before he left for NIPSS.

In the new posting, Comptroller Auwal Mohammed was moved from Port Harcourt Area 2 command to head Apapa Command vacated by the revenue czar in the service, ACG Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf.

Others include Compt OA Salefu who now heads Western Marine Command Lagos, Compt AM Ibrahim heads PTML Terminal Lagos and Compt M.S Yusuf superintendents over the Muritala Muhammed Airport command in Lagos.

Compt CD Wada goes to Port Harcourt Area1 command as its Area Controller, while M.I Jalo heads Federal Operations Unit Zone B  while B . Mohammed heads Lillypond command in Lagos.

The promotions and reshuffle of officers have however elicited mixed reactions among the Customs officers.

For those who benefited from the parting gift of Hammed Ali, it was a welcome development, but for those who hold the short end of the stick in the exercise, it left a sour taste in their mouth.

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Customs

ACG Yusuf allays fears of possible revenue dip in Apapa Customs

 

— as he resumes in Abuja as ACG, ICT/modernisation
The Eyewitness reporter
The outgoing Area Controller of the Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service, the newly promoted Assistant Comptroller General of Customs, Malanta Ibrahim Yusuf, has expressed optimism about the capability of his successor at the Apapa command to surpass his record-breaking revenue generation.
Following his elevation and eventual deployment to head the ICT/ modernisation project of the service at the headquarters, stakeholders have expressed fears over what will become the revenue trajectory of the Apapa Customs command which Malanta has raised to an unprecedented height.
In 2022, the Apapa command grossed a dizzying figure of N1. 022 trillion under the leadership of Malanta, the revenue Czar of the customs.
He also promised to surpass the feat, which is unprecedented in the history of the service, by marshaling the command to realise a projected sum of N 1. 5 trillion in 2023.
“Now that he (ACG Yusuf) has been called for higher duty at Abuja, can his successor match his towering credentials in revenue generation?
“Won’t his shoes be too big for the fellow who takes over from him” an agitated stakeholder muttered.
But the new ACG calmly said, “he (his successor) would do better than I did”
Stakeholders said it remains to be seen how the successor to the man who won the Revenue mobiliser of the year award last year from the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN) for his exemplary leadership and soar-away revenue performance in the Apapa Customs command, will match his oversized shoes.
“Taking over from Malanta would present a big challenge for whoever succeeds him because of the record in revenue performance which has been set by the new ACG.
“The least he (Malanta’s successor) could do is to sustain the tempo, even if he can’t surpass it as this would be the yardstick that would be used to measure his performance.
“It’s a real burden,” another source said of the person who will take over from the revenue marshal.
It could be recalled that Malanta was among the newly deployed senior officers to the management cadre in the service following his promotion to the ACG.
In a statement signed by Comptroller Timi Bomodi, the National Public Relations Officer of the service, the new disposition followed the statutory retirement of some members of the management team of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Consequent upon this, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col.(rtd) Hameed Ali, approved the appointment and redeployment of the management members to enhance strategic and effective service delivery.

A breakdown of the appointment is as follows; EI Edorhe DCG Finance, Admin & Technical Service; HK Gummi DCG Tariff and Trade; M Abba-Kura Ag. DCG Enforcement, Inspection & Investigation; AG Saidu Ag. DCG Human Resource Development; JP Ajoku Ag. DCG Excise, Free Trade Zone & Industrial Incentives; BA Adeniyi Ag. DCG Strategic Research and Policy and GA Itotoh Ag. DCG Training and Doctrine Command.

Others are: O Peters Ag. ACG/Zonal Coordinator Zone ‘D’; AI Alfa Ag. ACG Strategic Research and Policy; HJ Swomen Ag. ACG Excise, Free Trade Zone & Industrial Incentives; KC Egwuh Ag. ACG Training and Doctrine Command; MBA Musa Ag. ACG Tariff and Trade; A Dappa-Williams Ag. ACG Enforcement Inspection & Investigation and BM Jibo Ag. ACG Headquarters.

Also appointed are: A Hamisu Ag. ACG/Commandant Nigeria Customs Command & Staff College; Y Salihu Ag. ACG Finance & Admin; MI Yusuf Ag. ACG ICT/Modernization; SA Bomai Ag. ACG Board; CK Niagwan Ag. ACG Finance, Admin & Technical Services and KI Adeola Ag. ACG Training and Doctrine Command.

While thanking the retired members of the management for their meritorious service and support, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ibrahim Ali (Rtd) CFR congratulated the newly appointed officers and charged them to redouble their efforts in ensuring the Service achieves greater heights in its mandates of revenue generation, suppression of smuggling and trade facilitation.

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Customs

What we did differently to achieve N1trillion naira revenue in 2022–Compt. Yusuf

 

The Eyewitness reporter
The Apapa command of the Nigeria Customs Service has broken the revenue record of the service when it realised the sum of N1.022 trillion naira revenue in 2022.
The amount, which is unprecedented in the history of customs, is about half of the total amount realised by the entire service in 2022 which was put at N2.6 trillion Naira.
Addressing the press Thursday, the Area Controller of the command, Comptroller Ibrahim Malanta Yusuf, disclosed that the amount was 16.07 percent higher than the N870.388 billion collected in 2021.
Comptroller Yusuf said the command was able to achieve the feat through the resilience of men and officers in blocking revenue leakages and ensuring that all unpaid declarations and unutilized PAARs were traced and accounted to the federal government coffers.
He also attributed this laudable achievement to the creation of an enabling environment for officers which triggered motivation and productivity.
“There was a change in the environment which was made conducive and this brings motivation of staff which in turns brings productivity” the Customs chief declared
 On export trade, the command also recorded a total of $68.5 million Free on Board(FOB) value with a naira equivalent of N28.2 billion of Non- oil commodities with a total tonnage of 6.4 million metric tonnes exported through Apapa port.
Agricultural products topped the list of exports that passed through the command.
Comptroller Yusuf further disclosed that the anti-smuggling efforts of the command yielded a bountiful harvest in the year under review with a total seizure of 157 containers with a duty paid value (DPV) of N14.4 billion.
This was higher than the seizures made in 2021 which were 102 containers with a DPV of N 31.8 billion.
Fake and prohibited drugs without the necessary NAFDAC certification and overdose drugs of Tramadol top the list of seizures.
60 suspects were arrested in connection with some of these seizures and are in various stages of investigations and prosecution by relevant government agencies.
Comptroller Yusuf lauded the cooperation and collaboration with other agencies of government which he said contributed immensely to the successes recorded by the command.
He also expressed appreciation to the stakeholders for their support to the command, especially their financial support towards the renovation of a befitting ultra-modern conference room at the command.
Subsequently, the commands awarded certificates of appreciation to the deserving stakeholders.
Meanwhile, the command decorated the 37 men and officers of the command who were promoted to their next ranks.
Among them are four Comptrollers, 10 Deputy Comptrollers, six Assistant Controllers, eight Chief Superintendents of Customs (CSC), five Superintendents of Customs(SC)  and four Deputy Superintendents of Customs.
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