By Stephen Ubanna
Barely two years after the House of Representatives Committee on Customs and Excise, had threatened to deactivate Guaranty Trust Bank, a Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, shortlisted authorised designated dealer bank and five others from collecting import/excise duties and other statutory charges for the Federal government over alleged non-remittance of collected Customs revenue.
The five other banks that were said to have been on the list of the House Committee for deactivation includes Wema Bank, Provident Bank, United Bank for African Bank, UBA plc, ECO Bank and Standard Chartered Bank. This is in addition to the 15 other banks being investigated by the House Committee.
Adewale Bashir Adeniyi, MFR, the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS acting Comptroller General was said to have applied the sledge hammer in dealing with the undisclosed defaulting banks over the alleged ‘’ non- remittance of revenue’’ to the relevant agencies including the Customs coffers at the CBN, as at when do.
Adeniyi, the incumbent acting Customs Comptroller General who, may have broken the records as he was said to have taken a decisive action against some of the CBN authorised designated banks collecting Customs revenue for defaulting, by deactivating the banks. An insider confirmed that the undisclosed banks were deactivated ‘’for failing to meet the service-level agreements, SLAs, related to the Customs duty and statutory charges remittances’’.
Informed sources told The Value News that ‘’despite the deactivation of some of the CBN, shortlisted designated banks for collection of import /export duties and other statutory government charges, the Customs helmsman was said to have implemented other measures ‘’to minimise disruptions for importers /exporters with their agents and other stakeholders within the ecosystem’’.
He was said to have also assured the trading public that all ‘’pending assessment will undergo clearance processes in line with international best practices’’. Appealing to importers and exporters who obviously had relied on the deactivated banks, for duty payments to utilise other authorised dealer banks that comply with the NCS, regulations, noting that it is the only way for them to still remain in the business uninterrupted.
The Customs boss has a word of advice for the stakeholders’ encountering challenges in terms of making payments with particular dealer banks ‘’ to use the alternative banks that function appropriately’’. He may not have foreclosed his mind on the deactivated banks as he had said that ‘’the deactivated authorised,CBN designated banks for collection of Customs revenue will have the opportunity of being ‘’reactivated once they can meet all the regulatory requirements and settle outstanding taxes’’.
Adeniyi was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that they have no cause to worry because the NCS ,’’ places high priority on trade facilitation, putting stakeholders’ and Nigerian citizens first , even in the face of non-compliance by some authorised designated banks for collections of Customs import/export duties and other statutory charges in remittance of revenue’’.
He had reiterated that the Customs paction in dectivating the defaulting designated banks ‘’underscores the service commitment ‘’to maintaining a fair and transparent revenue collecting process’’, insisting that with the ‘’Collaborative efforts with the Financial regulators and the stakeholders underway, it will ensure the efficiency and integrity of the Customs duty collection system’’.
Many believe that the House Committee 2021, report and investigations of 15 other undisclosed banks contracted for collection of Customs revenue may have prepared the ground for the Acting Customs Comptroller General to act.
Recall that the Committee had revealed in their report that some of the authorised Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, designated banks collecting collecting Customs revenue have unsettled N110 billion import duties and other sundry charges to remit into the Consolidated Federation accounts. It had stated that ECO Bank, Provident Bank and UBA plc, have unremitting sums of N4.4 billion, N2.4 billion, N66.8 million and N3 billion respectively Customs duty and other statutory charges to settle.
The Committee was said to have given the six identified defaulting dealer banks, regarded as ‘’Consultants ‘’in Financial circles two weeks as at October 14, 2021, to remit the outstanding money still with them to the Customs coffers in the CBN and other relevant government agencies for record purpose or they will bring out’’ the big stick and use it against them and even ask the CBN, to deduct the unremitted revenue from the banks source’’ . The House was said to have further threatened to delete the Consulting banks from the list of CBN, designated banks collecting ‘’Customs duties ’’ but have failed to remit it to the appropriate relevant agencies.
It is on record that the CBN, had initially shortlisted 62 banks, comprising 57 existing dealer banks and five other new banks for the Collection of the Customs revenue. Some of the old banks that were said to have been shortlisted by the apex bank in 2004 to collect Import/Export duties Excise duties for the NCS, and other Statutory charges which includes 7% Surcharge, 2% National Automotive Council, NAC, Levy,1% Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme, 5% Value Added Tax now 7%, 0.5% Economic Community of West African States , ECOWAS, Trae Liberalisation Scheme, ETLS, 10% Rice levy.
The rice Levy was said to have been abolished with the ban on the importation of rice into the country through the Land borders in January 1st, 2017 and which was said to have been extended to the seaports on June 1, 2017, by the then President Muhammadu Buhari, on the advice of Godwin Emefiele , the suspended immediate past governor of the CBN. The Customs revenue collecting banks were also mandate to collect levy on Foreign Sugar that are imported into the country as a way to protect the local Sugar factories.
In shortlisting the designated banks for Customs revenue collection in 2004, the apex bank was said to have mandated them to ‘’receive payments from the importers and exporters and the excise factories owners or their agents in respect of the revenue enumerated . It was said to have made it clear to the designated revenue collecting banks that ‘’on every Monday following the week of collection , the revenue payments must be transferred to the CBN .
It further enjoined the banks to ensure that ‘’monthly bank statements are prepared and forwarded to the NCS Area Command latest by 3rd day of the following month. The bank did not stop there. It stated that Weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual schedules of revenue collection must be forwarded the NCS, Headquarters in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT and the office of the Accountant General of the Federation, AGF, and the governor of the CBN, as ‘’specified in the agreement for collection of the Customs revenue .
The CBN , was said to have made it clear to the designated banks that acts of breach includes ‘’delay in remitting revenue to the CBN, on a weekly basis, failure to render accurate and timely returns on specified formats to relevant government agencies and failure to adhere to NCS areas of operations and converting revenue payments to unauthorised accounts/use.
Given the allegations of delays in the making the revenue remittances as at when due may have encouraged the House Committee on Customs and Excise had probed the Customs revenue to investigate some of the suspected to have defaulted banks in 2021, and found six of them to have defaulted in the agreement the with the NCS as regards to the collection of the revenue and 15 others also being investigated.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, under the close watch of Abdulaziz Bawa, who is in the Department of State Services, DSS, custody, over an undisclosed offence had said that ‘’no major fraud could be committed by the importers with their clearing agents without the connivance of bank officials’’.
Antigraft agency had said that bank’s Compliance Officers at all levels have a key role to play in the fight against economic and financial crimes. It was therefore not very surprising why some of the Customs Consulting banks are still finding it difficult to reconcile the account books on duty collections and other statutory charges with that of the Nigerian Customs Service over the years.
By 2018, many of the Customs revenue collecting had been liquidated by the CBN, for failing to provide the 25 billion funds that could have helped in improving the bank liquidity as requested by the bank within seven days for amicable settlement of Customers.
Between , September1994 and September, 2018, an interval of about 30 years, the bank which had revoked the operating licenses of 52 banks following Court Orders to wind up the affairs of the banks had appointed Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation, NDIC as the Liquidator of the banks and which it had succeeded in doing.
Indeed, the reliquidation f the 52 banks may have informed why the House Committee on Customs and Excise and Management of the NCS, both at the Area Command and Headquarters’ levels had beamed their search light on the banks to ensure that government is safe and secure.
Abdullahi Maiwada, a Chief Superintendent of Customs, CSC, and the Customs spokesperson had said that the decision to deal with the defaulting dealer banks this time around ‘’follows a thorough audit and due process , aligning with the NCS, commitment to upholding transparency, accountability and efficiency in revenue collection’’.
The Customs spokesperson had said that the primary objective of the Comptroller General’s action ‘’is to ensure the accurate and timely remittance of Customs duties and other essential funds for national development’’.