CBN New Exchange Rate Policy On Imports And Exports transactions: Importers And Agents Lament

By Stephen Ubanna

For years, importers with their agents have been smiling to Banks because of a favourable differential exchange  rate of N306 .00 to a dollar allowed them  by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN,  to transact their business  at the seaports and land border areas. The apex Bank officials had expected to see the impact of the government favourable exchange  rate to importers at the seaports.

 M Maritime watchers told the Value News that the CBN, officials were not happy at the decline of the volume of cargo imports and exports  at the nation’s seaports , particular,  despite the low exchange rate of  N306.00 to the dollar  approved  for them.

 Godwin Emefiele, the CBN, governor, was said to have called a meeting of the Bankers Committee, where where the import and excise tariff  were reviewed upwards. It was learnt  a copy of the reviewed import and export tariff  was sent to Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, for implementation. Ali was said to have forwarded  it to the  Deputy Comptroller General, DCGs, Trade and Tariff , T&T, Augustine Chidi,  Enforcement , Inspection and Investigation  , E.I & I and customs DCGs for necessary action.

Given the advice of the CBN to the government revenue generating agency to start implementation of  the new foreign  policy of N326.00 to a dollar  for transactions   at the seaports, airports and the  land Borders, the DCG’s , at the instance of the Customs Comptroller General , have no option but to copy the CBN circular to the  Assistant Comptrollers and Zonal Coordinators , who in turn copied the  Area Comptrollers at the seaports, Airports, and land the land  Borders including the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, across the country, for immediate implementation in their respective Zones. The Value News  learnt that Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, may has  taken up the matter with the ministry of Finance and the CBN, to  reduce  the charges to affordable rate to avoid affecting the Service monthly revenue generation.

At present  the Area  Comptrollers  at the seaports and land Borders, were said to have met with their respective Deputy Comptrollers in-charge of Valuation, and who in turn, have met with the officers  attached to the Department to be conscious of the new exchange rate in calculating import duties.

Customs implementation of the new foreign exchange rate  of calculating import duties which started on Monday, June 10, 2019,  may have caught many  importers and agents unaware.  Most agents, according to sources, who   were said to  have collected  clearing jobs from their importers at the old exchange rate of  N30.00 to the dollar, without factoring in the increase are said to be having difficulty doing the job.  This is because they cannot afford the additional twenty dollars  or naira equivalent increase which had shut  up the cost of clearing goods  at the nation’s seaports, airports and land Borders

 Investigation shows that  importers with their agents who were caught up in the CBN new exchange rate  of N326.00 to a dollar to  all cargoes transactions at the ports , airports  and land Borders have been forced to pay the differences. Those who could not afford it  were said to have had their cargoes detained until they were ready to cough out the balance payment.

It was gathered that agents who had taken delivery of their cargoes  out of the port before the new foreign exchange  rate  of calculating import duties  became effective were  not lucky  as it fell into the waiting  hands of  FOU, Zone , A, Operations and Lagos Roving , patrol team, sent out by  Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent  and the officer who is  in-charge of the team. the cargoes were said to have been intercepted ,  over alleged wrong calculation of duties. The cargoes, according to sources , may have been released at the instance of the  Area comptroller , after much explanation to prove

ACG K.C. Ekekezie: Coordinator, Customs Zone A, Lagos

To ensure that  agents and their Customs Collaborators did not take advantage of the  CBN foreign exchange policy to shortchange the government  by backdating  released cargoes,    Mohammed Aliyu, the Area Comptroller, FOU, Zone A, described   as” double- double” by KC. Eekezie, an Assistant Comptroller and Coordinator, Customs Zone A, at a parlay with  members of the  National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarder, NAGAFF, in  the Association Headquarters, baptised NAGAFF Village, at Apapa on Thursday, June 14, 2019,  had  said that he ”strategises before  sending out his  patrol teams for operations.

He cited instances of Containers that have been intercepted by men , blaming on the Area Comptroller for lack of proper control of the terminals under them as regards to transfer of Containers  to these terminals as  most of the most intercepted Containers were found to have been diverted  while on transit.  Many believe that the  problem of diversion of cargoes will be worse now that the cost od clearing cargoes has gone up. This may have informed the reason why the Customs Comptroller has put his patrol team  leaders and their officers on the red alert to ensure that  importers with their agents and Customs collaborator s do the right it.

 While, the FOU. Zone A,  Comptroller, may  not be giving  agents and their Customs collaborators room, to shortchange the government, maritime  watchers fear that  the new foreign exchange for  all cargoes  transactions  at the seaports, particular, may force many importers who could not accommodate the additional costs  of taking delivery of their cargoes to relocate to neighbouring  Cotonou port, in Republic of Benin or any other in the  West African sub-region to take delivery of  their goods . Note that some of  these cargoes imported through Conotou port,  are often times smuggled into the country through unapproved routes.

On Thursday, June 14,he Usman Yahaya, a Deputy Comptroller and Coordinator, CGC, Lagos  Zonal Command  was said to have made  seizures of thousands of ”50Kg bag of foreign parboiled rice and  25   litres of processed vegetable oil from Malaysia from various locations in Oyo and Ogun states, regarded as haven for smugglers.

Customs sources  disclosed that the prohibited Commodities   were intercepted by the CGC, Strike Force team, at Igbora area  and Idiroko axis of Oyo and  Ogun states. One of the trucks , intercepted by the team, which was allegedly   with over 1,0000, ”25” litres of processed Vegetable oil from the Asian country of Malaysia was said to have been impounded  based on information from the  CGC Information patrol team after profiling the importer.  The truck, according to Yahaya, who is desperate to  prove that he was the arrowhead of all anti-smuggling operations at FOU, Zone A, when , he was in-charge of the Command   Enforcement , was intercepted   around  the Lagos Trade Fair Complex by the Information patrol team could also make seizures without giving the information to him to pass to the Assistant Comptroller and Commander of the  Lagos Zonal Command to pass to a patrol  team to handle the operations.  Valuation officer  who confided  in  The  Value  News  disclosed that  the seizures are worth millions of naira.

  Recall that Ali, the Customs Comptroller General,  and his Beninois counterpart had  embarked  on interconnectivity  sensitisation  Campaigns with the intention   to Coordinate  Border management system   together   expected   to reduce smuggling activities in the two West African countries.Aber Benjami, an assistant Comptroller General, ICT and Modernisation, who was said to have represented the Customs at the launching of the scheme  said it will improve trade facilitation  between the two neighbours. as modern tools for inter-Border clearance of goods would be applied  to answer all questions on inter-Border trading. He further said that   ”it will deal with corrupt tendencies  with increased security  as there would be ”single declaration and examination of goods for both countries.

There are indications that President Muhammadu Buhari  will launch electronic interconnectivity soo on the invitation of the Customs Comptroller General.

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