By Richards Adeniyi
Apparently shocked at the serial abuses of its internal mechanism to facilitate trade and hasten clearance of imported consignments, the Comptroller-General of Customs, Nigeria Customs Service, Col. Hammed Ali (rtd) has banned raising of Debit Note (DN) on cargoes that are under declared.
The Customs boss also ordered service’s personnel to subject all imports to 100 per cent examination, alleging that the fast track process has been abused by some multinationals.
The Customs CG gave the directive recently in Lagos during a working visit to APM Terminals in Apapa port, where 16 containers laden with tyres were seized by the Apapa Command of the Customs Service
According to him, about 10 of the containers had already exited the terminal, while 16 others were intercepted by officers and men of the Command in the process of clearance.
The “fast TRACK’ platform which enabled big importers to take possession of their cargoes and pay duty later, was created by the Customs to facilitate trade.
Confirming the serial abuses, the CG of Customs disclosed that the 40foot containers that were seized were declared as containing bond papers and machinery for local production by the owners, but on examination, customs officers uncovered that products were new tyres branded as “Double King.”
He said it was regrettable that the company that imported the tyres enjoyed the privilege of fast track.
As a result of this dishonest practice, the CG announced that henceforth, all importation will be subject to physical examination. The fast track window, called Blue Lane in Customs circles allows importers to carry their cargoes from the ports to their warehouses where customs processes such as examination and payment of duties are carried out instead of doing so in the ports.
The system allows the importers to save port storage charges. Port concessionaires charge an average of N4, 000 per day for containers and most other cargoes.
A customs source told National Daily that “a little above 40,000 containers and other cargoes are cleared under the fast track window.” This amounts to over N160 million savings in storage charges per day and N1.12 billion for the average seven days cargo dwell time in the ports. The figure rises to over N13.44 billion savings by importers who enjoy the fast track clearance system per annum.
Speaking to newsmen at the Apapa port on recently, Ali said 16 containers of new tyres were fraudulently declared as paper boards and machine parts by companies and institutions offered the fast track window.
He said the containers which were supposed to exit the port without examination, according to Ali, were stopped upon discovery through intelligence that the importer made a wrong declaration deliberately to evade payment of complete duty for the importation.
According to the Customs boss, the discovery yielded a total of N116.28 million to the Customs revenue, noting that the trend had affected the integrity of the beneficiaries and would cause the Customs to consider effecting 100 per cent physical examination at the seaport.