Editorial! The incursion of Chinese into Nigeria’s revenue vault.
The ubiquitous Chinese is gradually getting a foothold in the nation’s economy.
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.
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.
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.
Apapa Customs launches man hunt for fleeing importer, agent of seized Tramadol
–—hands over 20 cartons of illicit drug worth N1.4billion to NDLEA
The Eyewitness reporter
The Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has launched a manhunt for the fleeing importer of 20 cartons of Tramadol intercepted at the Classic Bonded Terminal, Lagos in December 2022.
The importer, who brought in the illicit drug from India, is currently on the run with his agent who attempted to clear the illicit drug said to be three times deadlier than the conventional tramadol tablets.
The Area Controller of Apapa Customs, Comptroller AB Mohammed, while handling the 20 cartoons of the seized drug to Mr Udotong Noah Essien, the Commander of Nacortics of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA), Apapa Special Command, Wednesday at the Clarion Terminal, Lagos, disclosed that both the consignee and the agent could not be traced to their addresses which he said were fake.
”I am here today to hand over 20 cartons of illicit drug which belongs to the class of tramadol to the NDLEA Commander Essien for further investigation and prosecution of the suspects”
Comptroller Mohammed disclosed that the TIN number of the importer and the customs license of his agent have both been blocked but lamented that both of them gave fake addresses which make it difficult for them to be traced.
He however promised that the Customs, in collaboration with the NDLEA and other security agencies, will hunt down the fleeing suspects wherever they may be.
The Customs chief even said the suspects will be caught even if they fled the country with the aid of INTERPOL.
”We tried to trace them through their addresses but the addresses they gave were fake. We could not trace them to the addresses.
”They have been on the run and we are in search of them but sooner or later, we shall catch up with them and they will face the full wrath of the law.”
Comptroller Mohammed disclosed that the consignee concealed the drug in a jumbled mass of gummy pop sweets which he falsely declared as driving shaft and candy sweets.
He however promised to make Apapa port unconducive to the importation of illicit drugs and their traffickers, vowing to bring to bear the full weight of the law on the perpetrators.
While receiving the drugs on behalf of the Chairman of the NDLEA, Brigadier-General(rtd) Buba Marwa, Mr Udotong Noah Essien, the Commander of Nacortics of the National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency(NDLEA), Apapa Special Command, lauded the efforts of the Apapa Customs command for the successes so far recorded in the war against the importation of illicit drugs through the port corridor.
He applauded the collaboration between the two agencies which he said has yielded tremendous results in curtailing the importation of drugs into the country.
The NDLEA commander promised that the agency will hunt down the fleeing suspects with the collaboration of the Customs and other relevant security agencies, adding that the agency has spread its dragnet all around the country and that the suspects cannot escape.
The seized drug is said to be a deadlier new variant of Tramadol called Trapaking tablets which has a higher potency than normal Tramadol.
The interception and seizure made at the Classic marine bonded terminal, Ago Palace Way, Festac, Lagos, exposed the novel way the importers of these illicit drugs now use to bring in the prohibited item.
It was Imported from India and is three times deadlier than the normal tramadol.
The new drug variant was in 20 cartons of 225mg of 838,500 tablets and 90,000 of 120mg tablets.
The street value of the seized item was put at N1.400 billion with each cartoon worth about N70million.
The consignment came in from India but was intercepted through intelligence and collaborative efforts of Customs officers and other sister security agencies.
The Customs operatives trailed the illicit cargo since it came into the port on July 3rd, 2022 as the importer, who initially abandoned it, was buying time and delaying its declaration in order to throw off the officers from its trail.
How terminal operators sabotage cargo scanning operations at Tin Can port
—As Customs intends to get mobile scanners to achieve total compliance
The Eyewitness reporter
The Tin can Island command of the Nigeria Customs Service has accused the terminal operators of frustrating the cargo scanning process at the port.
The Area Controller of the Command, Comptroller Olakunle Oloyede, made the veiled accusation last week during his presentation of the command”s performance for 2022.
Comptroller Oloyede alleged that the terminal operators are not willing to provide trucks that will take consignments scheduled for scanning to the scanning site, thus making it difficult for the command to achieve a 100 percent compliance level by importers and their agents.
”It is a big problem for the terminal operators to bring me trucks to take the consignments to the scanning site where the fixed scanners are located”, he lamented, saying ” but customs can”t do it alone, we have to do this work together with other stakeholders, there should be a synergy to get this job done as we all agreed to work together”
”Even, if I have 10 fixed scanners at the port and the terminal operators are not willing to provide trucks to move the consignments to the scanning site, that is a problem”, he stated.
But to circumvent this human obstacle to the scanning operations, Comptroller Oloyeded revealed that the command has decided to procure mobile scanners that will be placed on the quayside to scan containers dropped from the vessels before they are taken to the stacking areas.
”What we intend to do is to buy more mobile scanners and place them at the quayside.
”As your container is dropped on the truck that will take it to the stacking area, it would be made to go through the mobile scanner at the quayside. This will make compliance level compulsory.
”This is because the mobile machines will be at the quayside where they can be moved from one end of the quayside to the other.
”Even, if I have two mobile machines, they are enough for me. We just place them side by side on the vessel and your truck we move through them.
”And the scanning will not be more than five seconds per container. I can scan up to 400 containers a day, even more, without analysis.
”I will just scan for record purposes but when it is time when the owner of the cargo is ready for the clearance process, that is when the risk management tool will tell me which of those containers I have already scanned and kept their records are going for scanning. This is when we scan and analyse.
”This is what we intend to do very very soon”, the Customs chief declared.
On the issue of customs’ failure to apply value depreciation on old cars, Oloyede said that Customs does not have data for cars older than the approved age limit of 2014.
According to him, the system has been configured in such a way as not to recognise them, but rather than outrightly reject them, that is the reason they make them pay the value of the newer cars.
He observed that in other climes, such old cars are meant to be crushed and used as raw materials for other things but lamented that in Nigeria, people still bring in cars of 2005, 2007 into the country.
”There is no data for old vehicles. They are meant to be crushed. Our system is programmed to take cognisance of government policy on the age limit of cars. Any vehicles outside the approved age limit are not recognised..
He extricated Customs from the astronomical increase in the costs of vehicles in the market, attributing the high cost to the galloping exchange rates and the dynamism of the international market.
”When we talk of value for clearance, before, what was the exchange rate, and now, what is the exchange rate? This is what has affected the cost of cars in the market.
”And on value depreciation, you can’t depreciate vehicles that you are not supposed to bring into the country. But for vehicles within the age limit of 2014, the depreciation of value is there”
He also revealed that the system has been configured in such as way that there can’t be human intervention or interference.
Tin Can Customs nets N574.3 billion in 2022 —–records N242.365 billion in exports
Oloyede said the figure represented an increase of N80.90 billion or 16.39 percent when compared with N493.4 billion recorded in 2021.
“This feat can be attributed to the constant rejigging of the existing measures geared toward sustaining the command’s revenue profile.
“It is as well as utilisation of some disruptive strategic measures such as: periodic capacity building, reshuffling and redeployment of officers using the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis and implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) valuation,” he said.
He noted that the command also ensured robust and continuous stakeholder engagements and collaborations with all sister government agencies and maritime associations.
“These led to timely intelligence sharing, utilisation and voluntary compliance to government’s extant laws by the trading public,” Oloyede said.
He added that the command increased surveillance on declarations made in order to sniff out improper declarations as well as offending items.
He pointed out that the system paid off with the command recording a total of 38 seizures with a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N1.85 billion.
“These seizures comprise 763kgs of Colorado (Cannabis Sativa) weighing 345.1kg with a street market value of N714.6 million only as given by the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), 5 x 40 containers of used motor tyre (5,060 pieces).
“Also among seized items are 1,150 bales of second-hand clothing, 1,190 cartons of 20 per carton of potassium bromate and baking powder, 11,392 cartons of 1,200 per carton Pharmacol injection chloroquine phosphate 322.5mg.5ml (IV and IM), 206,000 pieces of finished machetes.
“Also, 1,383 cartons of 50 rolls per carton of cigarettes, 650 cartons of 50 pieces per carton of new ladies shoes, 2,666 pieces in 36 pallets of new starter Ex-Premium Inverter Battery, 1,980 cartons of assorted non-alcoholic beverages and 1,048 cartons of Tilda basmati rice,” he said.
Oloyede listed others as 2,594 pieces of ammunition and 20 pieces of arms comprising of one pistol with 611090 (S/W) model JCP 40mm, one used Co2 air pistol with accessories cal 117(4.5m)BM, one marksman repeater pistol, six Mace pepper gun and 10 suspected arms of various types.
He said that the seizures when compared with the 2021 record of 27 seizures with a Debit Note of N607.27 only, show an increase of 11 seizures and N1.24 billion.
He said that the increase in the DPV rate could be associated with increased surveillance and intensified anti-smuggling drive, the high value of seized items and Naira depreciation that led to higher exchange rates on imported items.
“These prohibited items were seized and forfeited to the Federal Government in line with the provision of Sections 46 and 161 of the Customs & Excise Management Act (CEMA) Cap 45 LFN 2004 and Absolute Prohibition List of CET 2022- 2026.
“The command pertinently acknowledges the prominent roles played by the Customs Intelligence Unit, Valuation Unit, Federal Operations Unit, CGC Strike Force as well as interventions of Sister Regulatory Agencies like the NDLEA, Standards Organisation of Nigeria SON, the Nigeria Police and others in ensuring these seizures and detentions were made.
“A total of 60 suspects were detained in 2022 and were granted administrative bail while the command has 8 cases pending in court,” he said.
Oloyede said the command recorded a significant increase in the Free On Board (FOB) of exports in the period under review to the tune of $589,696,648 (N242,365,322,333.00) as against the $496,075,796 (N141,985,109,159.00) recorded in 2021.
He attributed the increase of 34.4 percent in the FOB to the high quality and value of exported commodities.
“However, the export report shows a decrease in tonnage of export from 1,723,986.8 in 2021 to 336,179.5 in 2022.
“The decrease in tonnage could be connected to current government fiscal policy which prohibited the export of wood and wood products as well as the global unrest with its concomitant economic challenges,” he said
He listed the commodities exported through the command to include: cocoa beans, insecticides, dried ginger, empty bottles, soya beans, cashew nuts, cigarettes, rubbers, cocoa butter, frozen shrimps, copper ingots, aluminum ingots, sesame seeds and other manufactured items.
“Cocoa beans were the highest exported commodity while the legend stout was the least exported commodity.
“The future of export in the command looks brighter as the command in line with the headquarter circular on Export Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) released a Port Order on the Command’s harmonised SOP for the seamless facilitation of Export Trade in strict compliance with Extant Laws and guidelines on Export,” he said.
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