Senate probes Customs over N4trn revenue loss

The Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, has commenced investigation into over N4 trillion revenue loss in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) between 2006 and 2016.

The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Hope Uzodinma, disclosed this while briefing journalists on the development in Abuja at the weekend.

He said that his committee was not pleased with the failure of the Technical Committee on the Implementation of Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme to ensure that the provisions of the Customs Act were strictly adhered to.

The lawmaker further expressed dissatisfaction with the quantum of revenue losses, which occurred as a result of different infractions committed at the agency, ranging from abuse and non-implementation of some policies that ought to be implemented by the agency.

Uzodinma pointed out that, as a result of these lapses and infractions, the Committee on Customs estimated the revenue loss from 2006 to 2016 at over N4 trillion.

He pointed out that preliminary investigation by the committee revealed that the N4 trillion leakage was as a result of various forms of infractions, including abuse and non-implementation of Form M (Foreign Exchange forms).

He said that other factors responsible for the leakage were wrong classification of cargo under HS Code (Harmonised System Codes), non-screening of cargoes coming into Nigeria and lack of adequate ICT infrastructure for revenue collection.

The senator also pointed out that cancellation of prearrival assessment reports and abandonment of single goods declaration were also responsible for the leakage. He said: “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. 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, 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 also lamented that this sharp practice, including round tripping and false declarations, had, over time, led to increase in the exchange rate, stressing that in most cases, the amount of money spent was not commensurate with the number of goods being imported.

The legislator further noted that the committee had started investigating activities of companies and banks indicted in the matter. He, however, refused to mention the names of the affected companies.

“We will not mention the companies involved  because we are also very careful of the integrity and public perception of some of these companies, being that some of them are in the stock market.

We will be diplomatic in carrying out this investigation. “This is to the extent that little or no damage will be done to the integrity and image of such companies provided that government revenues in their hands will be recovered,” he said.

On concerns that little or nothing was often heard of outcome of previous investigations carried out by the Senate, Uzodinma said that the Upper Chamber sometimes faced constitutional limitations.

He, however, said that the 8th Senate had proven to be different, assuring that investigation into the over N4 trillion revenue leakage would be logically concluded because it had to do with the nation’s economy and revenue loss.

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