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Customs

Editorial! The incursion of Chinese into Nigeria’s revenue vault. 

Chinese company, Huawei Technologies

The ubiquitous Chinese is gradually getting a foothold in the nation’s economy.

Apart, from giving a huge financial lifeline in form of loans to Nigeria, the Chinese are the ones building the country’s railways, among several other critical infrastructural projects they are involved in across the country.
The latest catch of the Asian country is the Nigeria Customs Service, the cash cow of the Federal Government.

On May 30th, 2022,  the controversial concession of the Nigeria Customs Service was consummated at the national headquarters of the service in Abuja.

Despite the outcry of stakeholders against the concession of the operations of the Nigeria Customs Service, the Federal Government signed a tripartite concession agreement with a Chinese company, Huawei Technologies, and their Nigerian counterparts, Trade Modernisation Project Limited with Africa Finance Corporation as the lead financiers.

The agreement was facilitated and midwifed by the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission(ICRC).

The concessionaires, under the agreement, will drive the modernisation project for 20 years.

The concessionaires are expected to invest the sum of $3.2 billion dollars with an estimated income of $176 billion generated for the Federal Government in 20 years.

Last Monday’s  consummation of the concession agreement was preceded by the approval granted by the Federal Government in September 2020 to concede the operations of the customs to concessionaires

The concession agreement, which spans a period of 20 years, will involve the modernisation of the processes and procedures of the Nigeria Customs Service, including its revenue generation which the concessionaires will take over through which they are to recoup their $3.2 billion investments.

Expectedly, the decision of the Federal government, which was clinically executed in the mould of a coup d’é tat, caught many industry stakeholders pants down.

It also generated animated discussion as the approval and eventual concession was granted in defiance to the popular wish of the operators.

Since 2019, when the industry got wind of this concession deal before the 2020 approval, there has been concerted opposition mounted by the aghast operators who felt the move was an attempt to give away our common patrimony to the foreign interests.

Then,   Hon. Jerry Alagbaso, a former Customs chief and erstwhile member of the House of Representatives, rallied the National Assembly against the move.

But to the chagrin of everyone, the Federal government pulled a fast one on all the antagonists of the project.

We are less disconcerted over this concession deal which we believe was willing away the nation’s cash cow for 20 years to the foreign imperialists and their local collaborators.

We are at a loss on which powerful forces could have forced the hands of the Federal government to enter into this type of deal against the popular counsel of knowledgeable stakeholders.

Modernisation of Customs, they said.

What is there to modernise in the processes and procedures of the Nigeria Customs Service?

At the risk of being controverted, we dare say the Nigeria Customs has the most advanced form of automation process among the government agencies in the industry and one of the most automated in Africa.

The Secretary-General of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA),  Wamkele Mene said as much when he visited Apapa Customs command last week.

Mr. Mene said Nigeria Customs has the most advanced and comprehensive automation programme among its peers in Africa.

The only challenge which the service has is human.

Some of the men and officers of the service are clearly aversed to full automation due to their selfish and pecuniary interests.

The automation process will eliminate human contacts which is the avenue for extortion and exploitation.

Since 2003, Nigeria Customs has gone through a series of automation processes that have made its processes and procedures seamless.

The Automated System for Customs Data (ASYCUDA) and its advanced form of ASYCUDA+, ASYCUDA++, the Nigeria Customs Integrated System (NCIS1 &11), and Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) are some of the automation platforms created by the customs management over the years to make customs operations seamless.

Even, in 2013,  the Service developed a web-based application to provide information and guidelines for international trade business processors, export and transit trade which is called Nigeria trade Portal which is interactive.

To our mind, what the service needs is to upgrade these automated platforms, and integrate them with other players in the cargo documentation and clearance chains under the neglected single window project.

With adequate capital outlay, we believe Nigeria Customs can achieve full automation status without the involvement of foreign economic imperialists, aided and abetted by their avaricious local collaborators.

The anti- automation officers, who are averred to technology due to their selfish interests, could be reformed.

If they are adamant, they could be shipped out.

Cargo scanning could be emphasised while physical examination of cargoes could be sparingly used.

With these and all other automation platforms well integrated into the single-window under the supervision of a willing Customs administration, the Nigeria Customs will be a world-class agency.

We are however least surprised at the tenacity of these economic vultures in their quest to lay hands on the Nigeria Customs Service, which is gradually emerging as the cash cow of the nation.

Apart from oil, maritime is the second-highest revenue earner for the country and Nigeria Customs plays a key role in this regard.

With the yearly earnings in the excess of a conservative estimate of trillions of naira and the capacity to do more, as well as the dwindling earnings from oil due to the global crisis in the oil market, the maritime industry nay Nigeria Customs is understandably the preferred bride for these economic speculators.

Various attempts have been made in the past to dip their hands in the Customs’ till without success.

The proposed invitation of Crown agents of London to take over the revenue generation of the customs as was muted by the then Minister of Finance but now the Director-General of World Trade Organization (WTO), Dr  Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, under Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration, was promptly shot down.

In 2011, the illegal concession of Customs key functions between the ministry of finance and a company called Single Window System and Technologies was shot down.

In 2017, another move for Customs modernisation was made by the technical committee on the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme(CISS) which was pretentiously acting on behalf of the Federal government, with a  technical partner called Adani system Nigeria limited.

The attempt, which sought to concession the Customs then for 25 years,  was frustrated.

However, in a blatant disregard for popular opinion, the Federal government, after several failed attempts,   eventually forced down the throat of the unwilling stakeholders, the concession of the agency.

However, the deeds have been done.

Any further lamentation by the stakeholders on the issue is crying over spilled milk.

Now that the government has had its way, we can only hope that its aspirations for the concession will be realised.

The Minister of Finance, Budget, and Planning, Zainab Ahmed, has said the government stands to realise $176 billion from the project without spending a Kobo.

The question is how much will the concessionaires realise within the 20- year period of the deal beyond the $3.2billion investments they are expected to sink into the project?

What would be the fate of the customs officers whose jobs will be affected by the take-over of the revenue functions of the agency?
Even though the Comptroller General of the service, Col. Hameed Ali, has allayed the fear of job loss, the redundancy of some categories of officers could not be totally ruled out.

It is instructive to note that one of the two core functions of the customs, which is revenue generation, has now been concessioned under the guise of this new modernisation project, leaving them with the anti-smuggling function.

We hope rather than render some crop of officers reductant which may lead to possible right-sizing of staff, they could be redeployed to beef up the anti-smuggling function of the service.

We are worried about the involvement of the Chinese in the project as represented by Huawei which serves as a technical partner.

The ubiquitous Chinese have gradually become a leech on Nigeria, sucking on the economy of the nation.

We can only hope that the modernisation project will leave the Nigeria Customs service better than it met it.

We equally hope the project will not be sabotaged by disgruntled insiders whose means of livelihood is being threatened.

The misadventure of the  Professional Import Duty Administrators (PIDA) between 1996 and 2000 in the Nigeria Customs Service is still poignant in the memory of those who were in the know.

At that period, a firm of an accounting/consultant was engaged as professional Import Duty Administrators to complement the Nigeria Customs Service in the task of revenue generation.

They left the service worst off than they met it.

We appeal to the Federal government to ensure that this project transforms the service into a technologically-driven agency whose operations are seamless and paperless.

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Customs

Alleged cross- border smuggling of fuel: Fate of detained Customs officer uncertain — summoned, detained in Abuja

Owombo Segun John, the detained Customs officer
The Eyewitness reporter
The Customs officer, Owombo Segun John, who in a viral video last week, squealed  on alleged cross-border smuggling of refined petroleum products, with alleged official connivance, has been moved to the Customs headquarters in Abuja on the order of the Comptroller General of Customs,  Col. Hammed Ali(rtd) rt
According to Customs sources, the Customs officer, Owombo Segun, reportedly intercepted some fuel-laden tankers which allegedly wanted to cross to Cameroon, on Wednesday, November 2nd, 2022 but released the viral video of the incident on the 9th November, the following Wednesday.
Due to the viral video in which the customs officer alleged official connivance and threat to life, he was promptly arrested on the order of his supervising Controller Adesanmi Omiye in charge of Federal Operations Unit(FOU) Zone D, Adamawa, where the officer was attached to.
However, the source claimed that the officer, who has already been detained by his supervising Controller since November 9th, 2020, having been adjudged as of unsound mind by the Customs authority, was transferred to the Abuja headquarters on Monday, November 14th, 2022 on the order of the CGC.
Confirming the transfer of the officer to Abuja, DC Timi Bomodi, the Customs National Public Relations Officer, said this was to conduct further investigation and possibly to meet with the CGC while in detention.
“Yes, he has been transferred to Abuja for further investigation” declared Bomodi.
He queried the motive of the officer involved in the episode, adding that further investigation will reveal his real reason.
“I want the public to interrogate the motive of the officer and disregard his allegations of threat to life.
”The incident where he arrested the tankers drivers who have valid documents to show they wanted to discharge their products to the petrol stations within the Nigerian territory, happened on Wednesday, November 2nd but he did the video on November 9th, 2022.
“If they wanted to eliminate him as he claimed, he could have been killed between the 2nd when the incident happened and the 9th, when he released the video.
”He also failed to report to his supervisor of his discovery, if he had a genuine motive or he is of sound mind.
”Why didn’t he also report to the headquarters his findings?
”Neither did he report to any of the security agencies which any rational thinking- officer could have done in such a circumstance.
”He didn’t take any of these rational options of reporting the case but chose to make a video of the incident in incoherent words while he was half naked” declared Bomodi.
He said that the initial investigation into the matter has revealed so much information which he claimed will shock the public when it is released.
Bomodi said he could not say anything about the fate of the officer until the final investigation which will determine his real motive and fate
However, one of the siblings of the detained officer dismissed customs’ claim that Owombo Segun is of unsound mind
“My brother is a very brilliant man. Someone that was posted to Adamawa and has been working there since, how can you now say he is insane? That is a lie. They are just trying to cover up.”
“The claim that he was found naked is also not true. He told me that immediately after he released the video, he was attacked by some customs officers and tanker drivers. He even told me that if he is allowed, he has some evidence to back up his claim,” he added.
Bomodi however wondered why the said officer, whom he said has been operating for the past two years at Malabo Checkpoint on Belel Road, Adamawa state,  has not come out with such findings which he bandied in the viral video.
“The state in which this officer depicted himself in this video, his comportment and his speech suggests a level of incoherence associated with people of an unstable mind.
” Indeed, his actions led to his immediate withdrawal by the Controller Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘D’, who instructed his detention pending medical evaluation” the customs authority had retorted in a statement last week when the embarrassing video hit the public space.
A highly placed Customs source claimed that the fate of the incarcerated officer now hangs in the balance as he may be eased out of the service for the viral video which he said thoroughly embarrassed the Customs top hierarchy.
“Unless providence intervenes in his favour, the officer may be on his way out of the service” the source declared
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Customs

Customs demonises officer amidst claims of official complicity in smuggling of petroleum products across border

Comptroller Adesanmi Omiye
The Eyewitness reporter
The Nigeria Customs Service has described as an “unstable mind” one of his patrol officers attached to the Federal Operations Unit Zone D in Adamawa over his outlandish claims which indicted a customs controller of compromise in the smuggling of petroleum products across the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
The unnamed officer, in a viral video, showing fully-loaded tankers carrying Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as Petrol along Nigeria- Cameroon border, claimed that the products were being smuggled across the border to Cameroon.
The officer, speaking in Yoruba, further claimed that after he stopped the tankers with smuggled products, he was allegedly summoned by a customs Controller whose name he didn’t mention, claiming that he was being threatened for daring to stop the illicit act.
While pouring vituperation on the unnamed Controller, he said he has spent 11 years at the borders, stopping the smuggling of Nigerian oil across the borders, but was never rewarded with juicy postings to the choice commands in Lagos ports or Seme border.
Mr Adesanmi Omiye is the Customs Comptroller in charge of the zone.
Reacting to the embarrassing viral video, the Customs Service dismissed the claims of the officer whom it said was of an unstable mind.
In the statement signed by the National Public Relations Officer of Customs, Deputy Comptroller Timi Bomodi, the said officer has since been arrested and awaiting medical evaluation.
 “Nigeria Customs Service is compelled to respond to a recent video making the rounds on social media.

” This video depicts a half-clad individual recording himself while claiming to have arrested trucks carrying premium motor spirit across the border as an officer of Nigeria Customs Service.

“The facts are as follows; the person in the video is indeed an officer of Nigeria Customs Service, and he is currently attached to the Federal Operations Unit Zone D in Adamawa.

“This incident occurred on Wednesday 2nd of November 2022 at Malabo Checkpoint on Belel Road, Adamawa state.

” It is important to note that 55 kilometers separate this location from the nearest border.

“Between the place where this incident occurred and the border, there are fully operational petrol stations.

” Preliminary investigations indicate that the drivers on these trucks were in possession of duly signed product distribution sheets for consignments allocated by PPMC for filling stations within that vicinity.

” As vehicles in transit, they are considered still to be well within city limits and therefore can neither be accused of nor arrested for transporting goods across the border.

“All our officers are compelled by a strict dress code to not only be in uniform while on duty, but to adorn their name tags for easy identification by members of the public.

“The state in which this officer depicted himself in this video, his comportment and his speech suggests a level of incoherence associated with people of an unstable mind.

” Indeed, his actions led to his immediate withdrawal by the Controller Federal Operations Unit Zone ‘D’, who instructed his detention pending medical evaluation.

“The NCS seriously frowns at any action that is inimical to the economic well-being of our nation.

” Our battle with smuggling has been unequivocal and unyielding. Our checkpoints are usually manned by a team of officers all of whom are assigned specific responsibilities.

“The levels of checks and counter-checks created as part of the NCS strategic enforcement initiative have made it extremely difficult for breaches to occur.

“Nigeria Customs Service wants to assure members of the public of the commitment of its officers and men to securing our borders.

“We ask for your understanding in this endeavor even as we seek your prayers for those whose health and well-being may have been compromised by stress while carrying out their onerous assignment” the statement concluded.
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Customs

Ember months:  Lagos ports record low cargo clearance activities 

—as cash crunch hits importers 
The Eyewitness reporter
The usual frenzied tempo in goods clearance during the ember months has disappeared from the Lagos ports due to a cash crunch among importers.
Usually this time of ember months, there is always high frequency of clearance of goods at the ports by importers and their agents but such enthusiasm has considerably waned as fewer numbers of importers who could surmount the economic hardship coupled with the astronomical increase in Customs dues and tariffs are able to take their goods out of the port.
Curiously, the customs commands are posting huge revenues amidst this tight fiscal policy of the government.
For example, the Apapa Customs command, the flagship Command of the service which accounts for about two third of the annual revenue of the service, last week announced the revenue of N790.630billion within the first 9 months of the year(January- September).
The Area Controller of the command, Comptroller Yusuf Malanta Ibrahim promised that the command will likely gross a trillion naira in revenue at the end of the year.
Then where does this huge revenue come from amidst sluggish clearing activities at the ports?
It was gathered that the recent increase in the Customs exchange rate by the federal government boosted the monthly earnings of the customs.
It could be recalled that for yet another time in September, the Customs exchange rate was jerked up from $409 to $422.3, an increment of $13.3.
Comptroller Yusuf, while confirming the impact of the increase in the customs exchange rate on the revenue profile of the command, also declared that the increment has a negative impact on the clearing activities.
“The increment in the customs exchange rate has also led to an increase in our revenue” the Apapa Customs chief declared.
He however confessed that the increase in the exchange rate was an additional overhead cost for importers.
“It is an unexpected increase”
Explaining why the hustle and bustle in clearing activities during the ember months are lacking this year, Comptroller Yusuf said importers are hit by a cash crunch as they could not even procure loans from the banks to clear their goods.
” The increase in the exchange rate has become another overhead cost for importers as it is unexpected.
“Prediction of the market is becoming increasingly difficult for the to make.
“However, it depends on the market response.
” If the market forces respond positively to the increase, it is fine, if it doesn’t, that’s another challenge.
“That is where a good businessman will sit down and make an informed analysis between the operating environment and corporate environment where he operates” Comptroller Yusuf declared.
He however said that the cargo is there at the Port but the rate of clearing them is slow.
“The pressure is on the cargothrouput . The cargo is there.
”When you look at the Port, there is so much cargo but the issue is importers are finding it difficult to clear these cargoes because of lack of funds.
” They find it difficult to obtain loans from the banks to clear them, they are finding it difficult to get the right response from the market forces.
”Some of them have to clear part of their cargo, sell them to get money and use the amount to clear the rest of the cargo.
”This is why the cargo clearance exercise is lower now in this ember months as against other previous ember months
because importers lack funds to carry out this clearing process” the Apapa Customs command boss explained.
Conversely, the customs commands are grossing more revenue because, according to Comptroller Yusuf, the men and officers of the command are tirelessly committed to ensuring that all revenue leakages are mitigated as well as sustaining the level of compliance by importers and other stakeholders in the clearance value chain.
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