… As Senate passes N238.15bn budget for Customs***
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Zone A, has seized 147 sacks of pangolin scales weighing 9,504.1kg worth N10.26 billion.
The Comptroller-General of Customs, retired Col. Hameed Ali, highlighted this at a media briefing in Lagos on Tuesday, saying that Nigeria, as a signatory to CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species), categorises this species under absolute prohibition; therefore, its importation or trade is illegal globally.
Pangolins or scaly anteaters are mammals of the order Pholidota. Pangolin scales, like rhino horn, have no proven medicinal value, yet they are used in traditional Chinese medicine to help with ailments ranging from lactation difficulties to arthritis.
The scales are typically dried and ground up into powder, which may be turned into a pill.
“It is my pleasure to brief you again on the recent gains of Nigeria Customs Service anti-smuggling operations.
“On Jan. 19, the roving team of the NCS, Federal Operations Unit, while on credible intelligence, uncovered an abandoned warehouse at Isheri Estate, Lagos, where 2x20ft containers were stacked.
“The containers were immediately evacuated to the premises of FOU Zone A, Ikeja, where physical examination revealed 147 sacks weighing 9,504.1kg of pangolin scales worth N10,264,428,000.00,” he said.
Ali said that the pangolin would be handed over to the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency.
He said that the service also seized a total number of 3,067 bags of smuggled foreign parboiled rice (50kg), 3,722 of 25 litres and 1,040 of 4.73 litres of foreign vegetable oil and 14 units of exotic vehicles.
The comptroller-general listed other items seized as: 575 pieces of used tyres, 703 cartons of foreign poultry products, 543 jerry cans of petroleum products and 416 bales of used clothing, among others.
He said that the items had a Duty Paid Value (DPV) of N303,244,066.00, making a cumulative duty paid value of N10,567,672,066 within the month under review, Jan. 7 to Feb. 3.
The NCS boss said that the seizures underscore the determination of the service to enforce all laws relating to importation and exportation of goods, thereby contributing to the economy, security and wellbeing of every Nigerian.
He commended the Ag. Comptroller, FOU ‘A’, DC Usman Yahaya, and other members of the unit for a job well done, ”considering the fact that he took over barely a month ago.’’
Ali appealed to all well meaning Nigerians to support the service with information that could assist in discharging its statutory responsibilities in the interest of the nation.
“The borders are closed but not sealed and our men cannot be everywhere. These criminals go through creeks and various means to bring these items into the country.
“If they succeed in crossing the border and into Lagos, we will still go after them, and we are not relenting in our duty to stop smuggling into the country,” he said.
In the meantime, the Senate on Tuesday at plenary passed the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) 2020 budget of N238.15 billion amidst dissenting views by some senators.
The passing of the budget followed the presentation of a report on the budget by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff and consideration of the report.
Some of the senators at plenary had raised concerns that budget report presented by the Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff was not detailed.
The senators, had noted that the report presented by the Committee Chairman, Sen. Francis Alimikhena (APC -Edo) was not tidy, noting that some of the figures were not adding up.
They also noted that the NCS like others Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) have for the past six years not submitted their audited reports.
The senators who kicked against the report, noted that Customs cannot be getting seven per cent from revenue collected, two percent from all Value Added Tax (VAT), allocation from federation account and other revenues and still be receiving allocation from the Federation Account.
In his contribution on the report, Sen. James Manager (PDP-Delta) said : “This report is too scanty for us to look at.”
The Committee should have taken a proper look at the report before submitting it to us.”
“We need to look at the federation account properly.”
Sen.Gabriel Suswam said that before the Customs budget could be passed, proper explanation should be made, so that the senate would understand why some figures are not adding up.
Also read: Customs intercepts $8,065,612 at MMIA, Lagos
Sen.Solomon Olamilekan(APC-Lagos) had earlier observed that the seven per cent allocated to Customs from revenue generated was enough to defray its expenditure.
He,however, said NCS was still drawing funds from the federation account despite the allocation of 7 per cent.
Sen. Matthew Urhoghide(PDP-Edo) said, : “The fact that Customs is collecting seven per cent does not mean that its budget should not be audited.”
Sen. Ibn Na’allah,(APC -Kebbi)said: “This Senate has a duty to bring all agencies into conformity with the vision of federal government.
” We must bring our institutions to conform with what will make the country proud.
“We can’t pass this kind of budget.”
But Sen.Adamu Alerio (APC -Kebbi ) in his contribution however urged the Senate to passe the budget given the steering performance of NCS in revenue generation in 2019 and improved welfare of its personnel.
Earlier, Sen. Alimikhena while presenting the committee’s report explained that the proposal was based on Federal Government’s Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).
He said a total expenditure of N238.15 billion was been proposed for the 2020 .
Highlights of the budget proposal, according to him includes, the establishment of the E-Customs Project through massive deployment of information communication technology to eliminate personal interface in customs operations.
“The implementation of the Nigeria Customs Service Salary Structure for 15,892 officers and men of the Service; the recruitment of three thousand two hundred (3,200) officers and men and their training among others.
In his remarks after the passage of the budget, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said:
“We expect MDAs to present their audited accounts before the end of the year especially towards the end of December or at least the first quarter of the year.
“If any agency refuses or fails without any congent reason, we have reason to take a drastic action when it comes to appropriation because not to account for what you have been given in the previous year, that is to say you are not prepared to take a new budget.
“So I’m advising the MDAs, especially those that are not up to date with their audited accounts to do so.
“We could decide as a National Assembly to take measures against agencies of government that are not up to date with their audited accounts.”