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
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”
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.
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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