Seme: Businessmen Queue Into Government Export Policy As Smugglers cry Out

By Nwangwu Uba

Nigeria businessmen appear to have queued into President Muhammadu  of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, export policy . This is evident going by the export report of the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, Seme Command which was recently released at the instance of Muhammed Uba Garba, the Area Comptroller.The report shows that the Command, alone, made remarkable achievement in export trade.

The businessmen were said to have intensified their drive to export Agricultural and made in Nigeria goods in the last four months to take over the West and Central African sub-regional markets due to the sensitisation  Campaign embarked upon  by Garba, the Customs Comptroller.

 Garba may have embarked on the export sensitisation drive to boost the revenue of the Command because of his knowledge on the gains of export as a former Deputy Comptroller overseeing export activities at Tin-can Island port. Agents who knew him said there was a boom in the export of Agricultural and manufactured goods through the port because of his close working relationship with the Nigerian Export promotion Council, NEPC, and other relevant government agencies including the ministry of Agriculture, officials.

It was not surprising why he appears to have repeated the same feat at Seme Command, less than five months of taking charge.  Customs officers who spoke to The Value News disclosed that exporters who had abandoned the business in the past due to lack of basic enlightenment were said to have found their way to Seme to continue the business. The exporters, according to sources were said to have confined themselves to the items approved by the government for export. The  Agricultural products exported include  ginger,palm kernel oil,cocoa butter, gallstone, rubber,sesame seed, honey, shrimps, garlic, yam tubers, charcoal, cotton,cassava flour,cashew nuts, snail,chili pepper, poultry products

 The made in Nigeria goods that were said have been exported, the source confirmed are fruit juice, cosmetics and soap. The country which initially dominated the textile and garment market in the two sub-regions may have lost out to Chinese textiles and garments due to the collapse of the nation’s textile industries.

Given an insider information, the Seme Customs Comptroller disclosed that the Command handled a total Free On Board, FOB, value of goods  exported between January and December wof about N 14.61 billion, with a 0.5  percent, Nigeria Export Supervision Scheme, NESS,  payment of  N73.06 million.

Perhaps, what should gladden many Nigerians was that the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Economic Trade Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS, which had been abused at the Seme-Krake land border iover the years have stopped.

Foreign Rice seizures

 Prior to the tough measures put in place to ensure proper assessment of goods manufactured in the West African sub-region, some made in China products were said to have been repackaged in Togo and other ECOWAS countries and disguised as ETLS goods. Nigeria was losing out the market to China. A source confirmed that with the Jigawa born Customs Comptroller, it is no longer business as usual as some of those fraudulent ETLS gods importers have been whipped to line. They may have realised that they can no longer short change the government through the scheme and therefore have to comply to the ETLS poliy.

An elated Garba confirmed  that 2,774,trucks loaded with ETLS goods, were handled through the Seme-Krake Border, regarded as the busiest in Africa last year, promising that the situation would be better this year with the number of people coming to making enquiries from the Command to know the goods on the ETLS list before investing their money into the business.  He disclosed that the revenue generated from the one percent Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme, CISS, was about N88.51 million, which maritime watchers said was the highest in last five years. The CISS revenue, he said was generated from the importation of Cadbury hot-chocolate, Unilever blue band, Unilever BBM tub/lid and binding wires.

What should surprise many was that  despite the ban on the importation of vehicles through the land border areas  by the government last two years, a  total of 1,078 vehicles, were said to have been given  ”Lasse Passe” by the government  in 2018. That much was  confirmed Garba, the Customs Comptroller, who disclosed that NN569.41 million  was netted under Baggage assessment .

Given the rot at the -Krake Border in the past, leading to loss of billions of naira, the Garba led Seme Customs Management team were said to have initiated fraud control measures to ensure that all areas of revenue leakages were blocked in the Command, particular, ETLS and Baggage. This may have forced the stakeholders to comply with proper trade procedures and guidelines and to engage in legitimate process in their business transactions.

Saidu Abdullahi, an Assistant Superintendent of Customs and the Command Image maker noted that despite the Command’s effort to block areas of revenue leakage, they did not spare the money launders. According to him, under the government Anti- Money Laundering and Counter Financing Terrorism, the Command, made a total inward declarations of 767,102,805CFA, Gold bar worth, 2,455,600 dollars, 25,00 euros and 2.2 million. This should provide statistical data for the government for planning as required by law.

In spite of the fact that Command witnessed low volume of cargo last year, it was said to have succeeded in paying into the Federation Account N9.2 billion which included seizures and the revenue generated for other and non government agencies like Federal Inland revenue Services,  FIRS,NEPC, ECOWAS, among others. On its own part,  the Command was said to have generated N6.2 billion from  the N8.1 billion target given to it, by the Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General , NCS, led Management, representing 76 percent.  Worried by the by the Command inability to meet its 2018 target,  Garba, the Seme Customs boss, was said to have warned the officers and men of the Command ”not to compromise  in their duty but remain committed  to the implementation  of  the government fiscal policies.

Maritime watchers believe what the revenue that may be given to the Command this year would be surpassed as it moves to seal the illegal outlets at the  Seme-Krake Joint Border Post. Only recently, the Seme Customs helmsman and Charles Inousa Saca Boco, the Director-General, Republic of Benin Customs Administration  including the foreign partners were  said to have carried out inspection of the planned final closure  of all illegal outlets  other than  the  single entry and exit  approved by the ECOWAS following  the Command decisive stand  on the enforcement on Customs  Laws on transit cargoes. the Seme customs Comptroller is optimistic that the take of the one Spot Border Post would shore up the revenue of the Command this year and in the future.

At present, the Seme Command may not have been the only  Area that could not meet its 2018  target. Even Tin-can Island, Apapa and Onne, which are known for surpassing their yearly revenue targets could not make it this time around.

Notwithstanding the  reports from these high profile revenue generating Commands, Customs still overshot its target  by over N160 billion  as it paid into the Federation Account over N.202 trillion, which Joseph Atta, a Deputy Comptroller and the Customs Spokesman attributed to ”pursuit of what is right rather than being populist by compromising  national interest  on the altar of individual and group interests”.

Perhaps, what should gladden Ali, the Customs boss, was that the anti-smuggling fire in Garba,  at the while Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, Ikeja, as Comptroller is still in him at Seme Command. Given Ali’s support and provision of necessary working tools, the Command was said to have made 1,119, seizures with a Duty Paid Value of NN1.3 billion. The seizures. the seizures  include 37,568  bags of foreign rice, equivalent of 63 trailers load , with a Duty Paid Value , DPV, of about  N876.09 million ,1,072, Jerry cans of processed vegetable oil with a DPV of N13.67 million, 169 vehicles  worth  about N367.59 million and 1,570 X 50Kg  bags of sugar valued at about  N6.6 million.  This is in addition to 10,439 items of General Merchandise  worth about N100.77 million, 2,300 cartons of poultry products, with a DPV, of N20.7 million and 169 pieces of tyres worth about N768,600.00.

The seizure which may have the Youths  of the Seme Community and its environs to cry out  was the 3,954 litres of PMS, popular petrol  valued at about N217,470.00.

Also, the 1,119, parcels of hard drugs and narcotics, intercepted by the Command Enforcement Unit were said to have been handed over to the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, in the spirit of inter-agency relationship.

Moreso the Command was said to have prosecuted seven persons whose cases are said to be at various stages of prosecution at the Court. The Seme Customs Comptroller has confirmed that three judgments had already be won by the Command due to the superior argument of the Prosecution Lawyers. the victory over the alleged smugglers may have forced to sent a message to the hoodlums to keep away from Seme axis or be ready to face the full weight of the Law.

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