By Elizabeth Chukwuma
Hopes of the Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Compptroller General, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, achieving the N2 trillion revenue target set for the service, by President Muhammadu Buhari, this year, appears dim.
This is because of the report from the high profile revenue generating Lagos Premier port of Apapa, Tin-can Island and Port Harcourt Area II, Onne, which had not been too encouraging.
This is because of the adverse effect of the Wuhan Town in Hebei province of China emerged Coronavirus in the Asian country of China had disrupted movement of cargo vessels from China, India and other parts of the world including the North American country of the United States to Nigeria. The drop in revelue , may not be unconnected to the drop in the volume of imports of cargoes from the Asian country of China.
Note that China alone, accounts for about 35% of the seaborne dry bulk imports, 30% of Container exports, 23 % of crude imports and 18% of gas imports. Indeed, the movement of cargo vessels across the different trade routes in the world sailing to Nigeria may have been made worse after HongKong, Singapore, Philipines and Taiwan amongst others imposed limitations on Crew changes due to the outbreak of the Wuhan Town in Hebei Province of China Coronavirus last December.
It was not surprising why some cargo vessels were forced to deviate to other destinations to facilitate the repatriation of the Crews because of the Staff who are currently trapped in the Chinese ports. It also affected the vessels sailing to the African Continent , particular, Nigeria.
The argument in Maritime circles had been that for cargo vessels to resume operation, shipping Companies and port operators must provide workers with the latest information regarding to the COVID 19, follow best practice as regards to the health and safety protocols and supply of Personal Protective equipment as well as set clear guidelines for workers managing suspected COVID 19 cases.
There is no gain saying the fact that the pandemic had thrown global cargo shipping into confusion , thus setting the scene for prolonged delays in delivery of goods to designated ports across the globe. This may informed why there is low volume of cargo imports at the Nigerian ports, particular ,the south east ports of Port Harcourt Area I and II, Rivers state, Calabar port, Cross River state and Delta port, Warri, Delta state.
Indeed, this is coming at a time when shipping Companies are already feeling the strain of weaker demand and higher operating costs after the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, an agency of the United Nations, UN, issued new regulations on low sulfur fuel.
There are indications that about 350,000 Containers havd been dropped from the global trade since the outbreak of the pandemic forcing the Chinese government to impose travel restrictions to the country last December. Take for instance , a Container ship which could lift before the outbreak of the disease 20,00 Containers at a go to Italy, Spain France and other parts of Europe could only carry 2,000 Containerised cargoes now. The situation is not different from what is happening in the African Continent, particular Nigeria.
Many believe that Cargo vessels are currently coming to discharge Containers and bulk cargoes at Lagos and south east ports because of the measures put in place by the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, under the close watch of Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, to curb the spread of the disease into the country through the ports.
Maritime analysts believe that these had given the Customs personnel at the various terminals at Apapa, Tin Can Island Port, Port Harcourt Area I and II, Calabar and Delta ports including the Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, phases I and II, the opportunity to do their work. This may have informed why the Customs Area Comptrollers, at the revenue generating ports and Terminals, could beat their chest of generating good revenue for the government at this trying and difficult times.
The deployment of Mahmood Ibrahim, a Deputy Comptroller, who was formerly in-charge of the Tin can Island Command Compliance Unit to Port Harcourt Area II, has given a boost to the Command revenue generation drive.
A Port Harcourt based agent who spoke to the Value News disclosed that Aliyu Galadima Saidu, the Area Comptroller, may have known the stuff he is made off that he has actually been making good use of talent to improve the Command revenue and anti-smuggling operations in the last two months.
He had brought to bear his experience in forcing importers with their agents to be compliant in their import declarations and documentations to the new Command. The gains of Port Harcourt Area II Command is the loss of Tin can Island Command.
The fraudulent agents who had been doing dirty jobs over the years at the port with the active connivance of their Customs Collaborators and other security personnel including NPA, officials, had been successfully caged as they could no longer penetrate the ranks of the officers at the exit gate to pass with their under- valued container load of cargoes . Those who were said to have tried in the recent time would never forget their experience in a hurry.
Indeed, Ibrahim, with the support of Saidu, the Area Comptroller had succeeded in tightening up security at the port exit gate that it has become impregnable. He was said to have also helped in blocking areas of revenue leakage at the port to maximize the revenue generation from the low volume of cargo traffic at the port.
Given an insight about the revenue generation of the Command between January and March, 31st, 2020, Saidu, the Area Controller disclosed that the Command generated about N23 billion . The Command was said to have also made a seizure of seven Containers load of Contraband .
The seized Containers , the Comptroller had said, had been loaded with 225 bales of used clothing, 35 sacks of used shoes, 86 bales of used hand bags and other items such as foreign detergent, lightings, the Asian country of Thailand parboiled rice, perfume, body spray and other items with a Duty Paid value of about N215 million.4 million.A tough talking Saidu had said that the seized goods were imported into the country in Contravention of the Customs and Excise Management Act and Extant import prohibition list.
In addition, the Command , according to the Comptroller recorded 1,053,531 metric tones , MT, of exportable goods with Free on Board, FOB , value of $87,136,233.66 and total Nigeria Export Supervision Scheme, NESS, value of about N132.4 million. The NESS fee, a source at the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, said is the statutory payment that are made to the government by exporters on legitimate export goods from the country to other parts of the world.
Appealing to importers and exporters with their agents to do the right thing by making correct declarations, to avoid running into trouble with his field officers, the Comptroller declared that ‘’Compliance is very vital for trade facilitation’’. The Port Harcourt Area II Comptroller was said to have warned importers who indulge in Concealment, under-payment of their imports or smuggle Containerised cargoes under any guise at the port to desist from it as the Command will not hesitate to seize the Consignment.
This may have sent a signal to the fraudulent importers and agents using the port to take delivery of their cargoes that it is no longer going to be business as usual. Already he has made clear to those that cares to listen that importer with their agents who violate the government fiscal policy would have their cargoes seized and the suspects arrested in order to face the full weight of the law as a deterrence to others.
An appreciative Port Harcourt Area II, Comptroller had thanked his terminal and exit gate officers for ‘shunning every attempt to be compromised and insisting that the right thing must be done’’.
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