By Stephen Ubanna
It is no longer news that Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, daily revenue generation has gone up in the recent time. This is because Comptroller Mahmud Ibrahim, the command Area Comptroller has introduced bold initiatives to effectively tackle the problem of wrong classifications of cargoes which is one of the major areas of revenue leakages at the Terminal that had resulted in under payment by fraudulent importers with their agents over the years.
Informed sources told The Value News that over the last seven years, Various Customs Formations, particular, Apapa, Tincan Island, Port Harcourt Area I and Port Harcourt Area 1I, Onne, including Murtala Mohammed Inernational Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos as well as Seme and other Interventionist Commands, across the country, have been have been losing billions of naira in revenue annually due to wrong classification of goods, by fraudulent importers. The situation appear to have been more worrisome at Apapa port, Tincan Island PTML, and Port Harcourt Area 11, Command, Onne.
Compt.Ibrahim may e giving a good fight to importers engaged in wrong Classification at PTML, through close monitoring in his office with the support of the Close Circuit Television , CCTV,as suspected cargoes believed to have been wrongly Classified in order to pay in appropriate duties have been stepped down, to do the needful.
There is no gain saying the fact that such incorrectly classified imported products which lead to non-compliance of the country’s trade rules are liable to seizure but the Customs Authorities may decide to give the importer with his agent a soft landing to pay, Demand Notice, DN, by correctly reclassifying the cargos to fit into the Harmonised System, HS, Code with the appropriate duty, based on what is contained in the 2022-2026, Economic of West African State, ECOWAS, Common External Tariff, CET, as adopted by the Federal Government.
Note that the HS , Code which was developed and maintained at the World Customs Organisation , WCO, Headquarters in Brussels, Capital of Belgium, is used by the world Customs Authorities to categorise cargoes , which attracts’’ specific duties, tariffs or taxes, that the importer needed to pay’’.
Take for , instance , a Station Wagon, HS 8703.23.20.00, which attracts 35 % duty , though the duty recommended for implementation in the 2023 , fiscal year is 40% , because of the additional five percent Import Adjustment Tax, IAT, levy or a four wheel drive vehicle , with HS C ode 870322.20, with a 40 %duty recommended duty to be paid , may be wrongly classified by the importer as different brands of vehicles that attract less duty.
Indeed, this is one area at PTML, where the Command Authorities appear to be raking huge revenue over the years that may have stoppe. This may have gladdened the heart of the officers, who have come to agree to what Suleiman Bomai, a former Comptroller of the Command, now an Assistant Comptroller General, ACG, Customs Board, had said of, Comptroller Ibrahim, his successor to be a’’ revenue mobilizer and a thorough bred enforcement officer’’. Officers and men of the Command believed that he has introduced some changes in the Command operational system that has started yielding results as evidenced in the Command daily revenue generation in the last couple of weeks.
On Tuesday, February 14, 2023, the Command was said to have generated and paid into the Federation Account n1.4 billion. It was learnt that the Command had at different times generated and into the Federation Account. It was learnt that the Command had generated more than that amount at different times since Comptroller Ibrahim assumed the mantle of Leadership in the Command, last January.
Given what Comptroller Ibrahim, and his officers, are doing to improve on the daily revenue generation of PTML Command, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, under the close watch of Godwin Emefiele, may have provided the opportunity for the Customs Command terminal officers to properly scrutinize the import documents of the importers’ as presented by their agents for processing to know the HS Code of the imported item to find out if there is over-invoicing, transfer pricing , double handling charges and avoidable costs, that may have been used by the importers to wrongly classifying their cargos, mostly purchased through a buying company/a gent or third parties with the intention to shortchange the government through wrong classication.
Muazu Jaji Sambo, an Engineer and the Taraba state born minister of Transportation, may have made Nigerians to understand that Fraudulent importers with their agent using the ports of Apapa, Tincan Island, PTML, and the south eastern ports of Onne, Rivers, Delta and Calabar including the Land Border posts to take delivery of their cargos may no longer continue with their fraudulent ways of doing business to shortchange the government with the Federal Executive Council , FEC, approval of the Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, Tracking System.
The minister had told those that cares to listen that the tracking system which will be co-implemented by a Consortium of five Belgium firms and four indigenous Logistics Companies in a Concession that will last for 15 years, will ensure ‘’the elimination of the loopholes in Customs revenue generations at the sea ports and the country’s Land border Areas operations.
He noted that it will provide a boost to the government revenue in form of duties generation, port charges and levies. He noted that the tracking scheme will also tackle wrong declaration, wrong classification, secure imports and exports as well as provide transparency in cargo invoicing and classifications.
Given an insider information about the workings of the Tracking scheme, which is already operational in 26 African countries, the minister shad said that ‘’its implementation will ‘’diminish the challenges of under-declaration, concealment and wrong classification of cargo imports which are ‘’the primary causes of revenue leakages, insecurity and safety issues at the nation’s seaports and border Areas’’.
He had said that the government will generate additional revenue of over N235 million revenue from the ports and border Areas from under-declaration, wrong classification, concealment, port charges and levies with the deployment of the Tracking scheme into operation.
In a related development, the volume of imports into the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Islan, PTL, Kirikiri Lighter Trminal, phases and II and the south east ports, appear to have dropped. This is because most importers , are believed to have wand up business and adopted a wait and see attitude to know who will emerge as the next President of Nigeria, among the trios of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, popular , BAT, the Presidential Candidate of the ruing All Progressive Congress, APC, Atiku Abubaka, the Candidate of the Opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, and Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra state and Flag bearer of the Labor Party to know their policy direction to avoid playing into Customs personnel hands of importing prohibited items.