Nigeria Govt Loses Billions To False Declaration At Ports

LAGOS APRIL 2ND(NEWSRANGERS)-Despite the establishment of Pre-Arrival Assessment Report (PAAR) and Automated System for Customs Data plus, plus (ASYCUDA++) designed to facilitate trade and block revenue loss at the ports and borders, one of the biggest challenges facing Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) is lack of compliance by some importers and agents, investigation has revealed.

Non-compliance, according to Customs Comptroller-General, Col. Hameed Ali (rtd), has become a major problem as fraudulent Customs officers are collaborating with clearing agents in exploiting   the ASYCUDA++ platforms to defraud the Federal Government.

For instance, few days ago, the Port and Terminal Multiservices Limited (PTML) Command of the Nigeria Customs Service at the Tin-Can Island port raised the alarm about increase in activities of a syndicate, popularly known as “port rats”, who falsify Customs documents and release vehicles without paying approved duties to the government.

Spokesman of the command, Mr. Yakubu Muhammed, said 90 per cent of the valuation papers being presented by freight forwarders are fake.

Investigation by The Nation revealed that PAAR, a cargo clearance platform established by NCS to enhance effective clearance procedure of imported goods within the shortest time at the ports, had been deterring the smooth flow of trade, which, according to stakeholders, it ought to promote.

According to a report by Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on PAAR, the delays in cargo clearance at the Lagos ports had become a major source of concern for the business community.

An importer, Mr Funso Solomon said PAAR had been burdened with capacity challenges, hence the unnecessary delays in cargo clearance.

“The PAAR, which was originally programmed to be issued within six hours, now takes over a week in most cases before it is released.

Without the issuance of PAAR, other cargo clearance procedures cannot progress and that is why some people are looking for ways to defrud the government.

If you calculate the amount the government is losing at the port through the fake documents is over N5 billion every month and that has a huge implication on the economy and infrastructural development,” Solomon said.

The importer expressed displeasure over the slow pace of the government in addressing the problem of faulty scanners at the seaports.

Solomon noted that lack of scanners had compelled men of the Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) to resort to 100 per cent physical examination of cargo at port terminals.

He explained that the situation  could compromise the national security.

He called on the government to expedite action on the provision of scanners at various seaports to end illegal importation of arms.

He said: “There is little that the Customs can do to prevent this when they are not well equipped.

“I am worried that the Federal Government has not shown the kind of swift response and decisiveness that this illegal importation demands. The way to go is to urgently provide scanners at the port.”

He said lack of facilities would hinder the economic direction of the government on the Ease of Doing Business

He explained that cargo clearing process had remained cumbersome and made the port unattractive and without any competitive edge.

Solomon, therefore, suggested that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) should provide the scanners if the Customs and the terminal operators were not willing to do so and institute the necessary charges as the landlord of the port.

Counterfeiting

Muhammed said the command had arrested some persons and that freight forwarders were protesting against Customs officers for not allowing them to clear vehicles with fake documents.

He however said most of the culprits were touts, and that they were not the real freight forwarders or clearing agents.

On the antics of these syndicates, he said: ”Some of the valuation papers they present to us have ridiculous values.For example, if you have a 2017 vehicle, maybe it is supposed to pay N1.3 million, you will find out that some people are paying N500,000. Definitely, the cargo has to be alerted.

“As long as you try to do the right thing, they are always against it and they don’t want to comply. All these protest is because we charged them to follow due procedure.

“We have a lot of fake valuation, instead of them to come to the Customs to get valuation on their vehicles, they would go outside and forge the papers; so, what do you expect? Of course the cargo has to be alerted.

“All what we are telling them is to come forward to Customs and get their valuation, this is reason for all the noise. I can testify to you that 90 per cent of the valuation papers presented to us within this short period are fake.

“What we normally do is that, if we give you valuation, we have a valuation assessment manifest. There is a stamp we use on your papers to show that it is original. We would document the chassis number of the valuation. By the time you send it for verification, they would detected the fake from original.’’

“Once we find out it is fake, we place an alert and refer you to the valuation unit for them to give you the appropriate value.

“Even if the cargo has exited, we would refer you to the Post-Clearance Audit (PCA) unit. If you think you are smart, some people are smarter than you. The agents and freight forwarders are always proving smart.

“Sometimes, the headquarters also send an alert. There is nothing in it. It is just a guide that you should do the right thing and ensures that appropriate duties are paid.

“Why we are having all these noise is because these are vehicles. You would find out that up to five or six freight forwarders are following one vehicle to clear it.

“These guys are so dubious. There was a time we were changing the colours of the valuation papers. If we use green today, we use red the following week without them knowing. This actually minimised their activities at that time, but now it is getting rampant,” he said.

Earlier, the CG said the high rate of falsified documents at the ports, under-invoicing and false declaration, adding that clearing agents were culprits of these illicit acts.

Ali had revealed that less than five per cent of importers processed their clearing documents genuinely. He said: “Out of 100 containers imported, there is hardly 10 with genuine declaration. For any one Indian that is there, 10 Nigerians must support him because we do not love our country.

“You cannot go to their country and do this, but in Nigeria, anybody can come and cheat us.”

Fast-track abuse

Ali said many of the goods cleared through the fast-tracking arrangement were security risks. Ali said more than 36 containerised cargoes were missing through the abuse of the scheme.

Speaking at the 45th Annual General Meeting of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) in Lagos, he said NCS had created a platform to ensure that impediments to businesses were removed.

“I can tell you categorically that less than five per cent of our importers processed their documents genuinely at the ports. We discovered this through our investigations,” Ali said.

The spokesman of the service, Joseph Attah, said NCS had been using its PAAR for speedy clearance of goods. He said the CG recently inaugurated the renovated and re-equipped PAAR ruling centre.

Attah said: “This allows importers with proven integrity to take their cargo straight to their premises where examination will be conducted with a view to collecting duty.

“We have adopted it and have been using it; meaning those importers and their agents make appropriate declaration, documentation and finalise all processes before the arrival of the cargo.”

The image maker said the service would partner with the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, the office that is driving the Ease of Doing Business projects, to ensure that every impediment to businesses in ports was removed.

Recommendations

There is need for Customs to publish the actual amount to be paid by an importer on each vehicle to stem.

Also, the NCS should rid the ports of touts.

thenationonline

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Posted by on Apr 2 2020. Filed under Business, National. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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