By Stephen Ubanna
The Tightened up security at the Onne Port exit gate which may have forced the Examination of officers comprising of Customs personnels and other officers from other security agencies and the releasing officers to sit up.
An informed source told The Value News that the importers and the agents who are known to shortchanging the government through False declaration, Wrong Classification , Concealment and under-payment, may have expected that it is still going to be business as usual at the PortHarcourt Area II, port, which had been known over the years for flying of Containers with the appointment of Auwal Mohammed as the Command Area Comptroller. They got it wrong.
The Value News learnt that the Customs from the onset had read the riot act to the officers to ensure they do the right thing to avoid giving officers and men of the Federation of the Operations Unit, FOU, Zone C and other Interventionist Units room to make seizures released from the port. It was a clear message to the fraudulent importers with their agents that the game was up. It is either they shape up or relocate to the Lagos seaports.
Some of them were said to have relocated to the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island and Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, to take delivery of their cargoes . The few who had remained at the port to practice what they know best would never forget their experience at a hurry as either their Containers load of goods which have Contravened the government Fiscal policy have either been detained and a Demand Notice , DN, issued, or seized.
This is evident going by the large number of seizures that was confirmed to have been made by the Command the Muhammed, the Area Comptroller. He had said that between January and March, 2021, despite the Asian country of China emerged coronavirus, popular, COVID 19, the south east port had made a total of 12 Containers loaded with different items .
Given an insider information of the seized items, the Onne Customs boss, disclosed that seized items which found in the seized Containers load of goods ranges from the Containers used Mitsubishi buses,bales of second Hand Clothing, fairly used tires, used engine gear box and auto spare-parts, Pellets of Laser ketchp to Fabrics.
A break down of the seizures shows that there were two units of Mitsubishi buses, 210 bales of second hand clothing, I,435 pieces of used tyres, ,310 pellets of Laser ketchup and 20 bales of fabrics and many more.
Valuation experts put hetotal value of the Confiscated items at about N4.121 billion. This is bad market for the fraudulent importers with their Custom Collaborators who will never want to change. An insider said four seizures were made in the month of January, , which included three Containers with a DN, of about N86million and the arrest of two suspects in connection with the clearing of the Consignment.
The situation was not different in the month of February as another four Containers load of cargoes , which had Conravened the government Fiscal policy were seized. The Duty Paid Vale of the seized items were put at about N46 million. In the month of March, it was said to have seized seven Containers with a DN, of about N4 billion.
Being a port that had been known for export of Nigerian Agricultural goods, the officers on the on the port Export Seat, were said to have processed 207, 749,614 metric tonnes of cargoes with a Free On Board , FOB, of N$70,838,025.68. The exports items that were said to have been made through the Onne port included cashew nuts, ginger, hibiscus flowr, palmcarnel, sesame seeds, zircon, sand, palm kernel, tiger nuts and many more.
There is no gainsaying the fact that exporters had found the Port Harcourt Area II , port ,Onne, very attractive to do their business because of the ease at which the officers do their job without causing any delay as obtained at the Lagos ports.
Mohammed, the Onne port Comptroller who has a very dedicated and Committed Officers and Heads of Units , from the Valuation, Enforcement to the Exit Gate , was said to have collected N39. 8 billion for the government between January and March 2021.
Many believed that he could achieve that much because he has succeeded in blocking areas of revenue leakage at the port, particular, West Container Terminal, WACT, described as one of the biggest Container terminals in the country. The Command was said to have made N13 billion revenue collection in one in one month, described as the highest to be collected in the Command since it was established 38 years ago
Appealing to the officers and Men of the Area Command ‘’to avoid being Complacent, he urged them ‘’to be unrelenting and uncompromising in collection of revenue and implementation of government directives as it relates to facilitation of trade’’.
He insists thhat ‘’there are still rooms for improvement in revenue collection, anti-smuggling, trade facilitation and robust stakeholders engagements’’. The National Assembly has set a revenue target of N1.6trn , for the Customs this 2021 and the Management appears to have given the various Commands their monthly and yearly targets. It is not surprising why Comptroller Mohammed and officers are working round the clock to meet and even surpass the monthly targets of N7 billion, which would translate into surpassing the 2021 target set for it by the Management.
His major worry was that the Command within the three months under review, could not recover any lost revenue for the government. This may have informed why he has said that the Command ability to detect attempts at duty evasion and issuing DN, to collect complete revenue from importers with their agents must be improved upon by relying on the Information Communication Technology , ICT, and hands on experience.
Althogh, the Command may not have recovered any lost revenue for the government from duty evaders but, it may not be for want of trying. The Onne Comptroller was said to have warned the duty invaders ‘’to steer clear of the port or lose their imported goods to the government as’’ it will be seized in accordance with the provision of the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, Cap 2004’’.