EndSARS Protest: Customs count loses, denies 26 illegal tollgates
STORIES BY FUNMI ALUKO
Two leading area commands of the Nigeria Customs Service says it collectively lost no less than N18billion to the to the three days curfew imposed by the Lagos State Government occasioned by the #ENDSARS protest which partially crippled port activities before the imposition of curfew in the state and parts of the country.
This is even the service denied allegations of 26 tollgates allegedly for outlandish and oppressive revenue generation, extortion and illegal exit points by customs clearing agents who participated in the protest, and called for the scrapping of Federal Operations Units, Strike Force and Customs Area Controllers (CAC) Monitoring Units; and harmonization of the 20 customs desks in the port.
While the Tin Can lsland Command Public Relations Officer, Uche Ejesieme acknowledged that the protest and curfew made it impossible for agents to document their entries and take delivery of cleared consignments, he put the command’s revenue loss for the period at about N8bilion; in lieu of estimated daily collection of between N1.5 billion to N2 billion.
He said, “We did not work at all for four days. We have a daily projection of N1.5 to N2 billion just to ensure that we try to meet up the official monthly target but because there was no work during that period our expected revenue did not come for the period that the Lagos State government announced that there would be curfew.”
His Apapa Area Command counterpart, Usman Abubakar said the command lost an average of N10billion in view of its daily target of N3billion. According to him, “The command lost between N9 to N10 billion during the period the curfew lasted from Tuesday to Friday because we make an average collection of N2billion to 3billion in a day.”
Despite the hitch, Usman expressed optimism that the command would meet its revenue target for the year; noting that importers and their agents have resumed fully while cargo clearance documentation is in full swing.
Clearing agents have alleged that customs mount a total of 26 checks points or units for every container cleared from the port. The listed the customs units to include Form M desk, PAAR, Unblocking, Abandoned, Examination/report, Dc Report, Releasing and DC Stamping.
The others include Gate, Valuation, CPC, APM, DC Admin, DC Compliance, CAC monitoring, CIU, Enforcement, Customs Police, OC Gate, Gate Officers and PCA. These customs desks are in addition to four more checks mounted by FOU, Strike Force, Head Quarters Squad and Customs Police; after port clearance on the road to importers warehouse.
A flyer on the issue circulating free in the public domain, slammed customs management for the development, accusing customs operatives within the port system as helplessly wired to extort to satisfy those that deployed them to the field.
Part of the flyer reads: “The truth is that we can have all these units but they should be asking for different things. Like concealment and wrong declaration and forgery, but if you declared what you have and it’s confused to be same as entered one should be allowed to go but no you can’t go.
“Your value must be wrong and you will be taken to customs warehouse where you have to pay for examination, pay for truck demurrages and container demurrages and risk other damages as a result of re examination, there is no end to this longest process in the world”, even as the author called for the scrapping of FOU, Strike Force and Customs Area Controllers (CACs) Monitoring Units.
“By the time you go through all this and you still have other government agencies like SON, NAFDAC, QUARANTINE NDLEA, SSS, POLICE BOMB SQAD and TERMINAL OPERATORS, with the demurrages what you will have is very high and unaffordable goods.”
Reacting, one of the area command image makers noted that whereas on the head quarters can respond to clearing agents demands for the scrapping of the FOUs, SF CACs monitoring units as well as the regime of alerts, some of the demands that genuine and within the purview of area commands will be addressed by the respective area controller.
“The Controller had directed that the protesters should put their request in writing and he is determined to ensure that areas where we need to make adjustment, necessary adjustment be made. But our major emphasis for now is trade facilitation and any compliant trader is always given expeditious clearance in the value chain.
“Some of the demands which we feel are legitimate would be looked into. The ones that are beyond us such as FOU and Strike Force have been communicated to the headquarters for further action as we have been sending incident reports to give them updates on the development,” he said.
Seme Customs documents seizures
Deny abandoning duty post amid protest
The Seme Area Command of the Nigeria Customs Service said it recorded a number of seizures within the ENDSARS protest, even as the command denied reports that its operatives abandoned their duty posts for fear of been attacked, purportedly leading to a field day for smugglers, who allegedly engaged in unfettered smuggling of goods into the country.
A statement by the command said seizures made within the protest period include 396 by 50kg bags of foreign parboiled rice, seven units of vehicles, 152 by 25 Jerry cans of Premium Motor Spirit and 6 by 25litres of vegetable oil.
The statement signed by the Command Public Relations Officer, Hussaini Abdullahi further notes that the Command will continue to enforce Federal Government fiscal policies, provide professional and quality service that will enhance development of the Country at large.
…PTML rakes in N138bn
The Port & Terminal Multi-purpose Limited, PTML, Command of the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, made a total of N138, 034,958,113 in revenue collection, January to September 2020.
A statement by the Command Public Relations Officer, Mohammed Yakubu, said the figure is 19 percent over and above the sum of N115, 910,867,674 collected within the same period of 2019, with a surplus of N22, 124,090,439.
He attributed the increase in revenue collection to the volume of cargo and strategies put in place by the Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Festus Okun, to block possible areas of revenue leakages, and to collect maximum freight receipts due from all imports.
The statement also said the highest monthly collection was made in August, which accounted for a whooping sum of N18, 147,171,910. The command image maker quoted the customs area boss to have urged the port users, importers and clearing agents to remain compliant and to stick with the customs extant rules.
“He also commended customs officers under his watch for their diligence and commitment in ensuring seamless trade facilitation and promoting ease of doing business in line with government directives”, the statement added.
The monthly breakdown of the revenue collections showed steady increases in the 2020 revenue collection above 2019 figures, except for the month of July in which N14,860,863,304 was collected, over and above N14,661,692,533.36 collected in July 2020; representing 1.3 percent differential.