Customs Shops For Revenue From Free Zone

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  • As 20 companies shut operations, sacking 3000 dock workers

Faced with the stark reality of a pathetic revenue profile, the Comptroller General of Customs CGC, Hameed Ali has beamed his search lights, on the Free Trade Zones, singling out the Lekki’s for maximum mop up.

Specifically, the Service is leveraging on ongoing efforts in automation of operational process, to inquire from the Lekki Free Trade Zone (LFTZ) , what it could assist them with, in order to take the best advantage of investments prospects at the Zone.

Charles Edike

Charles Edike

“This visit is in continuation of our efforts towards ensuring that everything necessary is in place so that no revenue is lost from within this free trade zone”,the Zonal Coordinator, Harvey Road, Lagos Boss, Charles Edike who represented Col. Ali (rtd), told the LFTZ audience.

“We also want to block all loopholes that could cause loss of revenue. This is a big and different sea port from what we have at Apapa/Tin can. So,  Customs must be fully integrated in its entire operations as far as imports and Exports are concerned so as to ensure that all revenue is collected”, Ali posited,

“We are here to find out from you what challenges you have, how Customs could assist in resolving them, identify gaps and operational leakages through which government revenue could be lost; and we also want to ensure that when you take off fully, your operations/services will be smooth and hitch free. This will translate into more trade, more revenue and a bigger, stronger economic base for the national economy.”, he further informed the management and staff of Tolaram Group, a private investor/developer of the Port at Lekki,.

“What I see here requires that everything needs to be done to ensure fast operations. We must be prepared and ready. Time is money. We cannot afford to waste time here. The kind of operations/services that will be offered here will be different from what obtains at Apapa or Tin Can Ports. Customs must be fully integrated into your operations so that the maximum revenue from Imports, Exports of finished products/raw materials that will be exported from this port is realized”.

“This is a deep sea port in a Free Trade Zone with lots of incentives for investors who will establish their factories or industries within the Free Trade Zone. We as Customs must establish our presence from this stage of development and let everyone operating from here know what Custom stands for.

“Revenue to government on Imported items and Exports must be paid in full. Ignorance is not an excuse but we also believe in sensitizing stakeholders”, he stressed further, noting the need for a functional Customs Processing Centre, CPC, Import/ Exports sheds and Customs Examination bay to be established at site of the Port at Lekki.

In the meantime, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, yesterday, said    no fewer than 20 shipping companies, had shut operations in Nigeria due to unfavourable government’ policies, leading to the retrenchment of over 3000 workers in the last one year.

At a briefing, President-General of the    union, Mr. Anthony Emmanuel    Nted, among other things, lamented that the jobs of over 2000 workers were also on the line and called on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene to save the sector from imminent collapse.

Nted who declined to name the affected shipping companies, said they were verifiable in the ports, however warned that many more shipping companies were on the verge of  folding up and were only doing skeletal services at the moment.

Continuing, he said:” Today, we lament the action of the management of Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, in also planning to sack a section of the Dockworkers, especially the Tally Clerks and Onboard Security men in spite of their importance and relevance in the Port operations, as it affects the reoccurring scourge of tonnage under declaration and its negative impact on the nation’s economy.

“The leakage of revenue through under declaration of tonnage should be seriously tackled. In this regard, we reiterate that Tally Clerks and Onboard Security men should be allowed to continue the critical job of uncovering and discouraging under tonnage which is often done with the unholy collaboration of NPA, shipping companies, agents and terminal operators. The Tally Clerks and onboard security men are capable of preventing these economic crimes as they were doing through their independent and physical tallying process.

“Over 2000 workers(Tally clerks and onboard security men) are involved. Their reinstatement will go a long way in reducing the number of unemployed Nigerians, and also reducing the misery of their families.” The union demanded among others that “All access roads to the ports as a matter of urgency, should be expanded and rehabilitated to handle cargo traffic in the ports.

The traditional rail operations in our seaports should be restored to reduce the pressure on our highways and daily fatal accidents and deaths from containers. Waterways should be developed for delivery of laden containers and heavy equipment through our coastal waters into the hinterland.

The tank-farms which are now dangerously located close to the ports, residential areas and along the expressways  and access roads close to the ports should be relocated far away from the seaports to stave-off the perennial gridlocks on the roads. “The volume of vehicles imported into Nigeria through Nigerian ports has collapsed to an all-time low, with consequent loss of thousands of jobs in the maritime sector.

The new duty regime for vehicles introduced since 2004 and application of the new rate of exchange rate for duty calculations have made the importation of cars and trucks into Nigeria far too expensive. In the last two years, the number of vehicles arriving Nigeria has shrunk by almost two thirds, while the volume of cars smuggled through the Cotonou Border has continued to rise unabated. It is therefore necessary that the Federal Government reviews its stance on the Automative policy so as not to inflict any more suffering on the workers who are already having a hard time with price increases every day.

“The Federal Government should look at making the importation of cars and trucks more competitive to enable the economy to grow. A significant reduction in the duties applicable on cars and trucks will go a long way in alleviating the challenges of our people and spur economic activities. “Government should as a matter of urgency adopt policies towards resuscitating the export of agricultural produces and mineral resources that were hitherto the main stay of the Nigerian economy before the discovery of oil. This will no doubt create jobs in our seaports and increase revenue for the government.”

Additional report from Vanguard