By Stehen Ubanna
For years, Delta /Edo Command, which has a mandate of monitoring and Coordination of all the ports and jetties around the Warri Area and carrying out other statutory functions of the Nigeria Customs service , NCS, has been a shadow of itself. Officers were said to have been coming to the office only to show their face on a weekly basis to qualify to earn the monthly salary due to lack of job to do.
The situation of the Command may have been worse as Delta and Koko ports, a round the Warri, Area which could have kept the officers busy if it was attracting cargoes for examination and release was dead despite efforts by past and present Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports , NPA, to encourage shipping Companies to patronize the Delta port, particular.
The inactivity at the Delta ports, which was said to rubbed -off on the Delta/ Edo Area Command may have informed why past Area Comptrollers of the Command may not have bothered to discipline the officers over their attitude to work, let alone give a facelift to the offices which largely remained unmaintained. More worrisome was the fact that the officers never take seriously the usual monthly parade as obtained in other Customs Formations across the country. This appears to have become history.
Compt. Babatunde Olomu, the Command current Area Controller, who was a Headquarters staff, may have known that he has a big task at hand when he was deployed to the Command by Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, on October,20, 2022.
The Customs Compt, may have known that he cannot afford to fail as he was said to have put the necessary structures in place to set the ball rolling. He did not stop there.The Customs boss was said to have given the officers a sense of belonging in the new Administration of the Command by introducing some awards , such as the Best officer of the month award and Best quarter Guard of the month Award as a way to motivate the officers as they struggle to win the awards on a monthly by putting in their best in the discharge of their duties.
Indeed, the Command which was not known to be remitting monthly revenue to the Federation Account can do so , as when do started making appreciable impact as it could so at least once in four months or six months, according to an insider.
. Ali, the Customs Comptroller General could excuse the Command because it its sources of generating revenue for the government may not be as much as that of Apapa, Tincan Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, KLT, phases I&II, PortHarcourt Area I &Port Harcourt Area II, Command, Onne, which have functional seaports, as ocean going vessels frequently discharge cargoes on a daily basis or Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Command, Ikeja.
Given that the Command do not have other sources of generating revenue for the government ,except from two excise Factories that has increased to three since Compt assumed duties in the Command may have informed why the Customs Comptroller has to go back to the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, document, to fully understand what the Law says about oil exports.
An insider informed The Value News that the Excise Factories are doing well and are paying their monthly Excise duties as at when do without waiting for the Command to send them reminder letters to pay or chase them around with threats of sealing their plants over non- payment.
In 2022, the Command was said to have generated and remitted into the Federation Account N5,680.756,692.25. It was said to have issued 33 Debit Notes, DN, was said to have to resulted s an additional revenue collection of N839,507,095.00.
Note that the Command had a revenue target of N84,240,000,000.00 but the Command generated and remitted into the Federation Account N46, 688,660.50, which many had described as encouraging giving its limited sources of revenue. The Comman revenue may have increased because of the Command’s participation in fiscalisation and efic which aliation of lifting of oil and exportation at the Forcados and Exravos Oil terminals.
Armed by the relevant laws, the Delta/Edo , Customs boss, was said to have reached out to the Authorities of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation , NNPC, now baptized Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, NNPCL, with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill, PIB, by the National Assembly, which had been signed into Law by President Muhammadu Buhari,in August 2021 on the need for the Command officers to be involved in the examination of oil cargoes for export at the Forcados Export terminal and Excravos oil terminals .
He may have been forced to do so because of the many discrepancies that was said to have beendiscovered in crude oil lifting causing the Nigerian government losing billions of naira annually due to the non-participation of Customs personnel in the fisalisation and non-fiscalisation process.
He may have further been encouraged to insist that officers be allowed to be involved in the fiscalisation and defiscalisation process of oil lifting and exportation because of the delays in forwarding the NXP and CCI, forms to the Command for necessary action.
This may have informed why the Delta/ Edo Customs Area Controller has summoned a meeting with officials of the Multi-national Oil Companies, Pre-shipment Inspection Agencies, PIAs,, and NNPCL, officials, on November 29, 2022 .
The feedback from the first meeting, may encouraged Ali, the Customs Comptroller General to throw his weight behind Compt. Olomu to summon another meeting with all the oil companies which was said to have been held on January 31, 2023.
The meeting, which was said to have been attended by officials of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC and other major oil Companies operating in Delta state, including the Nigeria Oil Company, NIOC, officials , may have been an eye opener to the Customs Authorities as all the discrepancies that were discovered by the Delta/ Edo Command Area Controller in the lifting of Crude oil and exportation at the Forcados and Excravos terminals and other vital issues were said to have been discussed .
Compt.Olomu , who could not hide his feelings was said to have made clear to the NNPCL and the major oil producing and exploration Companies that the extant Laws has mandated Customs officers’’ to participate in the fiscalisation and defisalisation process’’.
tHE Oil Companies had seen the demand of the Delta /Edo CCommand helmsman for the officers participation in the fiscalisation and defiscalisation process as asking for too much. They were said to have argued that Compt. Olomu, have no reason to force the officers on them to participate in oil cargo fiscalisation and defiscalisation at the Forcados and Excravos terminals,because they have done it since many years before now and will not be allowed to do so.
Indeed, the Delta/Edo Customs boss, who was determined to achieve results could not take it. He was said to havereminded the industry operators at the meeting that their action was contrary to the Customs statutory functions.
He was said to have cited section 32(b)of the extant guidelines on quality and value inspections, Customs and Excise Notice , NO5, section 6, Export guidelines for oil, gas and non –oil , section 19, that has aid to have made it possible for Customs officers to participate in the fiscalisation and defiscalisation process.
Energy experts believe that if they had remined hesitant in allowing Customs personnel in participating in the Fisal defiscalisation process of oil lifting and exportation at the Forcados and Excrvos terminals in Warri, Compt. Olomu, who has the backing of the Comptroller General, was ready to apply the full weight of the Law on the major oil Companies that could have adversely affected their operations and oil export and subsequent lose of revenue .
It was not surprising why they quickly promised that they will abide by ‘’the rules and regulations binding crude oil lifting and exports’’. This should gladden the heart of Delta /Edo Command Area Controller and the Customs Comptroller General, for discovering another source of revenue generation for the Command , which had only epended on three excise factories.