By Stephen Ubanna
For years , the unusual vehicle importers had maintained an unholy working relationship with some unpatriotic Customs Enforcement officers across the country to sustain their business. The Value News learnt that they bribe their way by giving greasing the palm of the officers to the tune of N25,000.00 every week to avoid being harassed or their car mart being closed.
Unknown to the cart mart owners, a day of reckoning is coming when they would be forced to account for the vehicles in the display in their cart or be ready to face the consequence. They got it wrong as the President Muhammadu Buhari, is more concerned on how to improve the revenue generation of the government, and has , thus read the riot act to the revenue generating agencies to ensure they meet their agreed yearly target or face the dire consequence , which may not be unpalatable.
No Chief Executive officer of the government revenue generating agencies would want to lose his exalted position and therefore the need to intensify their revenue generation drive. Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, who has the ear of the President because of his outstanding performance, over the last three years in improving the revenue generation of the service to hit the trillion naira mark, may have been informed by the cabal within the service, that one area which the service had not fully explored in which the agency had lost billions of naira over the years had been the activities of the cart mart owners.
Ali may have been made to understand that most of the vehicles on display in most of the car mart across thee country did not have the valid import documents or appropriate duties paid on them. They were said to have either been smuggled into the country through unapproved routes into the country and the import document of Tincan Island port vehicle or Grimaldi, popular, Port Multi-services Import documents faked to prove that it was imported through the country seaport. Some of the vehicles were said to have been taken out of the port with the active Collaboration of valuation officers to facilitate the release of their vehicles as they under-changed the government.
Barely four years of the operating their car marts undisturbed , the game is up. Acting on Ali’s instruction, one Fatade, an Assistant Comptroller General, A of Customs, ACG, was said to have written to the Mohammed Aliyu, Comptroller, Federal Operations Unit, FOUs, Zone a, Ikeja, Lagos and his counterparts in Zone B, Kaduna, Zone C, Owerri, Imo state and Zone D, Bauch, north east geo-political region to brace up for the challenge to ascertain the status of the vehicles on the various car marts across the country.
Fatade had given the FOUs Area Comptrollers the mandate to seal car marts found wanting until they are ready to pay their appropriate duty on the vehicles on display and an additional 25 penalty on each of the identified vehicles found to have contravened the government fiscal policy to forestall being transferred to the government warehouse to be detained.
Note that Aliyu, the FOU, Zone a, Comptroller , has been waiting for such an opportunity to swoop on the car marts , because of the way are springing up in different parts of Lagos on a monthly basis. The opportunity came and he did not hesitate in grabbing it as he quickly mobilised the Command Operations and Lagos Roving Team, Headed by Riks Lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, CSC, to move into action. Between Saturday, September 28, 2019 and Monday, September 30, 2019, the Team , was said to have sealed over 70 car marts in Lagos axis alone. It was a signal to the car mart owners that there is no hiding place for them any longer but to be Compliant to government fiscal policies or risk being forced out of the car business. Abdullahi Musa, popular, MBA, Comptroller, Tin Can Island, Command, may not be taking chances with the Command vehicle Seat , as he was said to rejig the Department to improve the revenue collection of the Command. He may have given Murktar Ibrahim, an Assistant Comptroller, and the Head of the Command Compliance Team the free hand to do his job as the its revenue are rolling in billions as areas of revenue leakage have been promptly blocked by the Compliance team officers. Insiders informed The Magazine the Customs Assistant Comptroller may have taken a cue from Faith .o.Dixon, Comptroller, PTML, who is always working on his laptop to ensure that the Command collect the appropriate revenues on vehicle imports through the port without mistakes. Those who may have escaped his attention, were said to have been issued with Demand Notice , running into millions of naira, which they never hesitated in paying. He was said to maintained discipline in the running of the Department that many non-Compliant importers have been whipped to shape to become Compliant to enjoy the benefits of the multinational Companies, like Cadbury, Wahum , Nigerian Tobacco Company, based in Ibadan, Oyo state, among others to take their cargoes on transierre , which is a Customs formation to be examined without any worry of government gong to be cheated.
The situation was more worrisome in the north and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. At the FCT, Joseph Attah, a Deputy Comptroller, and the Customs Spokesperson disclosed that some car mart dealers had transferred their exotic vehicles including the bullet proof on display in their shops suspected to have been smuggled into the country to Frasier Hotel . The information was said to have leaked out , forcing Customs operatives to swoop on the Hotel to remove the exotic vehicles.
Attah disclosed that on arrival at the Hotel, the Customs operatives had interacted with the Manager of the Hotel, whose name remained a closely guided secret. The Customs Team was said to have carted away four exotic vehicles transferred to the Hotel from the suspected car mar marts leaving behind six , based on the promise of the Manager to supply the keys of the cars that were left behind.
There were indications that Ali’s men may have left the Hotel based on an undertaking to produce a Customs Duty Payment to support his claim that the vehicles were not smuggled into the country to facilitate its release. Acting on the gentleman deal, the officers were forced to leave the Hotel premises.
The Hotel officials may have turned the table against the Customs Operatives as they alleged that they went from room to rooms waking up to come out for vehicles verification but Attah, the Customs Spokesperson, had dismissed the claim as untrue, noting that the’’ operations had nothing to do with guests in the Hotel’’.
He insists that the ‘’NCS did not do such thing and has no intention to start raiding Hotels’’. Appealing to Nigerians to ‘’discountenance the fabrication’’ , he assured that the service will continue to ‘’work in the interest of Nigerians’’.
Appearing before the National Assembly Joint Committees on Finance and National Planning, working over the 2020 -2022 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy paper, Ali, the Customs Comptroller General, confirmed that the revenue generation of the agency had increased tremendously in the recent time .
According to him, the service , is currently generating between N4.7 billion and N5.8 billion daily, which he attributed to the recent closure of the nation’s borders with the Republic of Benin, Niger, Chad and the Central African country of Cameroon.
This may have informed why the Committee has increased the Customs revenue target in the year 2020 from N942.6 billion to N1.5 trillion. The fallout was that that the Committee had recommended the adoption of N1.5 trillion as the amount for new borrowing both within and outside the country to run the government since it could be from the increase in the revenue target of Ali –controlled Customs next year. The Customs Comptroller General may have put the officers at the seaports and the land borders on the works to ensure that target was met and even surpassed to win the Katsina state born Nigerian President reward.
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