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The Nigeria Senate committee on
customs Excise and tariff has commenced investigation into alleged N4 trillion
revenue activities in the Nigeria customs service between 2006 and 2016

The Chairman of the committee, Sen.
Hope Uzodinma, made this known in an interview with newsmen on Sunday in Abuja.

He said that the committee would
stop at nothing in recovering the money, which was lost to lapses and various
infractions.

He pointed out that preliminary
investigation by the committee revealed that the over N4 trillion revenue
leakage was due to abuse and non-implementation of Form M (Foreign Exchange
forms).

He added that 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,
were equally responsible.

Uzodinma further explained that cancellation
of pre-arrival assessment reports and abandonment of single goods declaration was
equally responsible for the leakage.

“The Senate Committee on Customs
has condemned the inability of the technical committee on the implementation of
comprehensive import supervision scheme to ensure that provisions of Import
Control Management Act are followed to the latter.

“The committee frowns at the
quantum of revenue losses and it will stop at nothing in ensuring that those
involved in this ugly act 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 while 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 said.

The lawmaker decried that this
sharp practice, including round tripping and false declarations, had over time
led to increase in the exchange rate.

He said that in most cases, the
amount of money spent was not commensurate with the number of goods being
imported.

According to him, the committee has
started questioning the companies and banks indicted in this act.

“We will not mention the companies
involved because we are also very careful of the integrity and public
perception of some of these companies, because 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 investigations carried out by the Senate,
Uzodinma said the Upper Chamber was sometimes faced with constitutional
limitations.

However, he assured that the
current investigation would be brought to a logical conclusion because it had
to do with the economy and revenue loss.

He stressed the need to get the
country out of recession, saying that the committee would get the necessary
support to conclude investigation and recover the necessary funds.

“ I am sure that the executive arm
of government will be willing and interested to ensure that the monies that are
littered here and there are recovered.”

The chairman said a public hearing
would be held as part of the investigation process.

On the committee’s investigation
into non-repatriation of proceeds from oil and non-oil products by Joint
Venture companies, the lawmaker said report on the investigation had been
concluded and it would be laid in plenary on Tuesday.

On the retrospective policy on
payment of customs duties on old vehicles, the lawmaker expressed concern over
such anti-people policy.

He added that the service was
overstepping its bounds by making policies rather than implementing policies
made by the Ministry of Finance, which is the supervisory ministry.

According to him, the power to make
policies for the customs service is 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.

“So, it sounds very strange to hear
that Customs get 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.

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