Maritime Politics

Customs revenue leakage probe: N140bn recovered from erring Firms, Banks – Senate

Anti-smuggling War: Ali says Customs loses 200 personnel annually
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Written by Maritime First

…Tells banks: release Jonathan’s wife’s cash***

The Senate, yesterday disclosed, that about N140 billion has been returned to the Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, by firms and banks found guilty in its investigations into revenue leakages in the Nigeria Customs Service.

Customs CG, Hameed Ali It said that despite the payments, none of the approved collection banks or selected companies has fully cleared the established liabilities against them.

Presenting the interim report on the investigation into the activities of the Nigerian Customs Service by Joint Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff and Marine Transport, Chairman of the Committee, Senator Hope Uzodinma (PDP, Imo West), said the committee identified that there was undervaluation due to low ex-factory price, reduction in quantity or false description.

According to him, these infractions within the system disproportionately distort the economic profile of the country and placed extensive pressures on the nation’s scarce foreign exchange. Uzodinma added  that the action also negated all CBN’s  initiated foreign exchange management plans.

He said the committee identified several revenue leakage channels to include undervaluation, wrong tariff classification, misuse of procedure codes, abuse of waivers and concessions, and abuse of diplomatic cargo and personal effects privilege to clear consignments actually meant for commercial use.

Other channels, according to him, are falsification of import documentation such as pro-forma invoice, final invoice and bills of laden, non imputation of vehicle identification number in inspection acts in order to undervalue vehicles.

According to him, the committee also identified sale of bulk forms M and pre-arrival assessment report by importers and clearing agents and submission of forged documents for pre arrival assessment reports.

Meanwhile, in view of the fact that the committee would need more time to complete its work, the Senate yesterday granted an eight week extension to the committee which held its first sitting on July 20, 2017. Uzodinma said: “As a result of this exercise, some collection banks have made additional remittances to the Central Bank of Nigeria, to the tune of N128 billion and evidence of payment and receipt have been received by the committee.

“From the selected 60 companies, over N12 billion payments have been made to the government voluntarily by the companies based on their own internal self audit after receiving documented evidence of their culpability from our committee.’’

According to Uzodinma, the committee identified that there was undervaluation due to low ex-factory price, reduction in quantity or false description, adding that other leakages identified by the committee as major sources of revenue losses in the import and export value chain were abuse of waivers and concessions and Import Duty Exemption Certificate (IDEC). He said:  “Abuse of diplomatic cargo and personal effects privilege to clear consignments actually meant for commercial use.

Multiple issuance of Tax Identification Number (TIN) to importers by Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) among others is also another leakage identified by the committee.’’

The interim report was however silent on the names of the banks and companies and details of their refunds to the government. In his remarks, Deputy Senate President, Senator Ike Ekweremadu, who presided over plenary,  said since the report was an interim report, it would be prejudicial if “we go into details in considering it.’’ He thereafter gave the committee 8 weeks to complete work on the report and report back to the senate.

In the meantime, senators yesterday directed two commercial banks to unfreeze some accounts belonging to companies linked to former First Lady Patience Jonathan.

The accounts, domiciled with Zenith Bank, Stanbic IBTC and others, were said to have been frozen on the orders of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The senators, at a hearing by the committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions, declared that the accounts in question were not encumbered by any legal processes and as such be unfrozen without delay.

Chairman of the committee, Senator Samuel Anyanwu, observed that some of the accounts were frozen based on certain administrative lapses.

The lawmakers described the methods used in freezing the accounts as arbitrary, insisting that the EFCC failed to comply with due process in closing the accounts.

Officials of the banks who appeared before the Senate panel however said the court order vacating the freezing of the said accounts had not been received by them.

They however promised to reopen the accounts, based on the information made available by the senators.

The committee members expressed worry that the banks could freeze accounts based on letters received from the EFCC without valid court orders.

Also yesterday, the Federal High Court in Lagos was told how a former Senior Special Assistant to ex-President Gooluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs Dr Waripamo-Owei Dudafa allegedly laundered about N5.1billion for the former president’s wife.

The EFCC arraigned Dudafa and Iwejuo Joseph Nna (alias Taiwo A. Ebenezer and Olugbenga Isaiah) before Justice Mohammed Idris on 23-counts of conspiracy and concealment of crime proceeds.

They are on trial for alleged conspiracy to conceal proceeds of crime amounting to over N1.6billion on June 11, 2013, among others.

Justice Idris adjourned till October 24 for hearing of the application to travel.

Trial will continue on November 14 and 15.

Vanguard with additional report from Nation

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Maritime First