COVID 19: Why NCS, May Not Hit The N2 Trillion Revenue target This 2020, As Saidu Tighten Up Security At Onne Seaport, Making A seizure Of Seven Containers Load Of Contraband

By Elizabeth Chukwuma

Hopes of the Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Compptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, achieving the N2 trillion revenue target set for  the service,  by President Muhammadu Buhari, this year,  appears dim.

This is because of the report  from the high profile revenue generating Lagos Premier port of Apapa,  Tin-can Island and Port Harcourt Area II, Onne, which had not been too encouraging.

This is because of the adverse effect of the Wuhan Town in  Hebei province of China emerged Coronavirus in the Asian country of China had disrupted movement of cargo vessels from China, India and other parts of the world including the North American country of the United States to Nigeria. The drop in revelue , may not be unconnected to the drop in the volume of imports of cargoes from the Asian country of China.

Note that China alone, accounts  for about 35%  of  the seaborne  dry bulk imports, 30% of Container  exports, 23 %  of crude imports and 18% of gas imports. Indeed, the movement of cargo vessels across the  different trade routes in  the world  sailing to Nigeria may have been made worse  after  HongKong, Singapore, Philipines and Taiwan amongst others imposed  limitations on Crew changes due to the outbreak of the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of China Coronavirus last December.

It was not surprising why some  cargo vessels were forced to deviate to other destinations  to facilitate the repatriation of the Crews  because of the Staff who are currently trapped in the Chinese ports. It also affected the vessels sailing to the African Continent , particular, Nigeria.

  The argument in Maritime circles had been that for cargo vessels to resume operation, shipping Companies and port operators  must provide  workers  with the latest information regarding to the COVID 19, follow best practice  as regards  to the health and safety protocols and supply of Personal Protective  equipment as well as set clear guidelines  for workers managing suspected  COVID 19 cases.

There is no gain saying the fact that the pandemic  had  thrown global  cargo shipping into confusion , thus setting the scene for prolonged delays in delivery  of goods to designated ports across  the globe. This may informed why there is low volume of cargo imports  at  the Nigerian ports, particular ,the south east  ports of Port Harcourt Area I and II, Rivers state, Calabar port, Cross River state and Delta port, Warri, Delta state.

ÓnneII: Seized Bales of Clothing

Indeed, this is coming at a time  when shipping Companies are already feeling the strain of weaker demand  and higher operating costs  after the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, an agency of the United Nations, UN,  issued new regulations on low sulfur fuel.

There are indications that about 350,000 Containers havd been dropped  from the  global trade since the outbreak  of the pandemic  forcing the  Chinese government to impose travel restrictions to the country last December. Take for instance , a Container ship which could lift  before the outbreak of the disease   20,00 Containers at a go to Italy, Spain  France and other parts of Europe  could only carry 2,000 Containerised cargoes now. The situation is not different from what is happening in the African Continent,  particular Nigeria.

Many believe that Cargo vessels are  currently  coming to discharge   Containers and bulk cargoes at Lagos and south east ports   because of the   measures  put in place by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, under the close watch of Hajia Hadiza Bala  Usman, to curb the spread of the disease into the country through  the ports.

  Maritime analysts believe that these  had given the  Customs personnel at the various terminals at Apapa, Tin Can Island Port, Port Harcourt Area I and II, Calabar and Delta ports including the  Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, phases I and II, the opportunity to do their work.  This may have informed why the Customs Area  Comptrollers,  at the revenue generating ports and Terminals,  could  beat their chest of generating good revenue for the government at this trying and difficult times.

 The deployment of Mahmood Ibrahim, a Deputy Comptroller, who was formerly in-charge of the Tin can Island Command Compliance Unit  to  Port Harcourt Area II, has given  a boost to the Command revenue generation drive.

A Port Harcourt based agent who spoke to the Value News disclosed that Aliyu Galadima Saidu, the Area Comptroller, may have known the stuff he is made off that he has actually been  making good use of talent to improve the Command revenue and anti-smuggling operations in the last two  months.

 He had brought to bear his experience in forcing importers with their agents to be compliant in their import  declarations and  documentations  to the new Command. The gains of Port Harcourt  Area  II Command  is the loss of Tin can Island Command.

The  fraudulent  agents  who  had been doing dirty jobs over the years at the port   with the active connivance of their Customs Collaborators and other security personnel including NPA, officials,  had been successfully caged as they could no longer penetrate the ranks of the officers at the  exit gate to pass with their under- valued  container load of cargoes . Those who were said to have tried in the recent time  would never  forget their experience in a hurry.

Indeed, Ibrahim, with the support of Saidu, the Area Comptroller had succeeded in tightening up security at the  port exit gate that it has become impregnable. He was said to have also helped in blocking areas of revenue leakage at the port to maximize the revenue generation from the  low volume of cargo traffic at the port.

Given an insight about the revenue generation of the  Command  between  January and March, 31st, 2020, Saidu, the Area Controller  disclosed  that  the Command  generated about N23 billion . The Command was said to have also made a seizure of seven Containers load of Contraband .  

The seized Containers , the Comptroller had said, had been loaded with 225 bales  of used clothing, 35 sacks of used shoes, 86 bales of used hand bags and other  items such as foreign detergent, lightings,  the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice, perfume, body spray and other items with a Duty Paid value of about N215 million.4 million.A tough talking Saidu had  said that  the seized goods  were imported into the country  in Contravention of the Customs and Excise Management Act and Extant  import prohibition list.

In addition, the Command , according to the Comptroller  recorded 1,053,531 metric tones , MT, of exportable goods  with Free on Board, FOB , value of $87,136,233.66 and  total  Nigeria Export Supervision  Scheme, NESS, value   of about  N132.4 million. The NESS fee, a source at the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, said is the statutory payment  that are made to  the government by exporters on legitimate export goods from the country to other parts of the world.

Appealing to importers and exporters with their agents to do the right thing by making correct declarations, to avoid running into trouble with his field officers,  the  Comptroller  declared  that ‘’Compliance  is very vital  for trade facilitation’’.  The Port Harcourt Area II  Comptroller was  said to have warned importers  who indulge in Concealment, under-payment  of their imports or smuggle Containerised cargoes  under any guise  at the port to desist from it as the Command  will not hesitate to seize the Consignment.  

This may have sent a signal to the  fraudulent  importers and agents  using the port to take delivery of their cargoes  that it is no longer going to be business as usual. Already he has made clear to those that cares to listen  that  importer with their agents  who violate the government fiscal policy would have their cargoes  seized and the suspects arrested in order to face the full weight of the law as a deterrence to others.

An appreciative Port Harcourt Area II, Comptroller had thanked his terminal and exit gate officers for ‘shunning every attempt to be compromised and insisting that the right thing must be done’’.

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