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Customs High Command Visits Lagos To Drive Up Revenue

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Confronted by a sharply dwindling revenue profile, the Comptroller General of Customs, Col Hammered Ali (Rtd) last week embarked on structured visitation of 13 excisable factories in Lagos in a bid to motivate the officers and drive up duty accruable to government.

Represented by the Zonal Coordinator Zone A, ACG Charles Edike, the CGC who directed that special focus be placed on  defaulting establishments,  also noted that the weeklong tour was necessary considering the low container traffic in the ports and the sharp fall in import duty, stressing that given the economic downturn, the Service had to re-strategize and innovate on ways of boosting government revenue by focusing on other sources permissible by the law.

“This initiative to visit the excise factories, is to encourage the excisable factories and at the same time ensure that every kobo owed government is paid”, he said, indicating an optimism that the Service would not be found wanting, despite the biting effects of a lack lustre Naira against the Dollar

“With import volume down due to the general business outlook, we decided to intensify efforts in this regard to get the revenue from factories producing alcoholic beverages.

“The customs has been collecting revenue from the identified excise factories, but doing this is to make them live up to date with paying their duty.”

Various factories however complained of scarcity and skyrocketed price of ethanol, a major raw material used for the production of their products.

They complained that the scarcity of the material had caused them to produce epileptically, and sometimes on orders only.

Some of the factories also complained of scarcity of packaging materials like bottles, resulting from complaints by such producers who consider the high production cost.

At one of the factories located in Iyana-Oworo, the ACG directed Mrs Aremu to formally write to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) about the filthy environment where the factory produces its drinks.

“I have instructed that the CAC of the area writes NAFDAC so they can come and inspect this premises, because the environment is not healthy for production of what people consume,” Edike said.

At Guinness Nigeria, Mr Sesan Sobowale, the Corporate Relations Director, who received the team from Nigeria Customs Service pleaded for pace in the approvals of applications sent to the Service.

He said situations where organisations had to wait for as long as one year before receiving approvals is disadvantageous as often times their investments are premised on market indices.

He also called on the Service to quash the conflict on what the actual value for excise duty is by adopting a more specific and transparent structure which among other things will factor in changes in the market price of materials used for production.

Sobowale also pleaded with the management of the Service to assist them in recovering funds which they had overpaid as duty since 2014.

He said frantic attempts to recover the funds have hitherto remained futile.

In his response, the Zonal Coordinator explained that even though the excess in payment was made, the Service could not refund without approvals of the Ministry of Finance, the Accountant General of the Federation as well as the Auditor General.

He however urged them to make a fresh presentation to the Comptroller General of Customs promising that the current management of the Service will do all in its power to assist.

The team which comprised of the Assistant Comptroller General, and the Customs Area Controller in charge of Lagos Industrial Area, Mrs Adeyanju Aremu, visited factories in the Ipaja, Alagbado , Ikorodu, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Iyana-Oworo, Ogba, Ikeja and Mushin areas.

In another development, the Zonal Coordinator also addressed heads of Central Intelligence Unit, Valuation, Terminals along with all APMs in commands under Zone A.

He stressed the need for officers to be alert to their jobs, ensuring that every avenue for revenue leakage is blocked at the nation’s seaports and borders.

He charged officers of the CIU to up the ante in intelligence gathering as it is crucial national security and revenue generation.

Edike also called on officers in charge of the valuation units to show precision in their activities and ensure that the right value is placed on every single item.

He noted that the nation is in a dire state where every kobo due it through the payment of duty could not be neglected.

Addressing APMs, he stressed the need for system processing and also charged officers in charge of terminals to painstakingly examine containers in order to ensure that government is not shortchanged through under declaration or the nation put in harm’s way through the concealment of dangerous and prohibited items.

Earlier, in a move to end the lingering feud between border communities and the Service, the CGC had also paid a courtesy visit to Oba Kehinde Gbadewole Olugbade, the Ashade Agunloye the fourth and paramount ruler of Yewaland, Ilaro, Ogun State.

Represented again by Mr Charles Edike, the Zonal coordinator, Zone A , the CGC said the notion that officers of the Service and other security agencies operating at the border are enemies of host communities is erroneous and should be corrected.

He said it was sad that both parties had lost lives as a result of this misconception on the part of the community.

He said the mission of NCS at the border is first to prevent the influx of contrabands and then to ensure that the requisite duty is paid for all imports.

He handed copies of the list of items prohibited from entering the country to the paramount ruler explaining that while some items are outrightly banned, others could be brought in but not for trade.

On his part, Oba Kehinde Olugbade commended the efforts of the current administration at reaching out to his community stating that the visit was the first of its kind.

He acknowledged the contributions of the Service as the second revenue earner for the nation after oil, and emphasized the need for periodic interactions between the Service and border communities in order to keep them abreast with government policies and to further advance the cause of government.

He said the forum is necessary for disseminating information since a number of indigenes lacked education and had limited access to the media for information put out by NCS.

He further remarked on the need for strategic community relations and canvassed for the recruitment of qualified indigenes of host communities into the Service.

Oba Olugbade lamented the level of neglect and underdevelopment in border communities and called on the Service to engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that will help alleviate the problems of the area.

He also suggested that government reconsiders the restriction placed on all food items especially rice since that access to food is the next most important struggle for the poor after water.

The paramount ruler stated that with the recent hike in the cost of living in Nigeria, it is it necessary that rice is readily available even if people had to pay duty on it.

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WAIVER CESSATION: Igbokwe urges NIMASA to evolve stronger collaboration with Ships owners

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…Stresses the need for timely disbursement of N44.6billion CVFF***

Highly revered Nigerian Maritime Lawyer, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Igbokwe has urged the Nigeria Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA) to partner with ship owners and relevant association in the industry to evolving a more vibrant merchant shipping and cabotage trade regime.

Igbokwe gave the counsel during his paper presentation at the just concluded two-day stakeholders’ meeting on Cabotage waiver restrictions, organized by NIMASA.

“NIMASA and shipowners should develop merchant shipping including cabotage trade. A good start is to partner with the relevant associations in this field, such as the Nigeria Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Oil Trade Group & Maritime Trade Group of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA).

“A cursory look at their vision, mission and objectives, show that they are willing to improve the maritime sector, not just for their members but for stakeholders in the maritime economy and the country”.

Adding that it is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a through briefing and regular consultation with ships owners, in other to have insight on the challenges facing the ship owners.

“It is of utmost importance for NIMASA to have a thorough briefing and regular consultations with shipowners, to receive insight on the challenges they face, and how the Agency can assist in solving them and encouraging them to invest and participate in the maritime sector, for its development. 

“NIMASA should see them as partners in progress because, if they do not invest in buying ships and registering them in Nigeria, there would be no Nigerian-owned ships in its Register and NIMASA would be unable to discharge its main objective.

The Maritime lawyer also urged NIMASA  to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)that currently stands at about N44.6 billion.

“Lest it be forgotten, what is on the lips of almost every shipowner, is the need to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (the CVFF’), which was established by the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act, 2003. It was established to promote the development of indigenous ship acquisition capacity, by providing financial assistance to Nigerian citizens and shipping companies wholly owned by Nigerian operating in the domestic coastal shipping, to purchase and maintain vessels and build shipping capacity. 

“Research shows that this fund has grown to about N44.6billion; and that due to its non-disbursement, financial institutions have repossessed some vessels, resulting in a 43% reduction of the number of operational indigenous shipping companies in Nigeria, in the past few years. 

“Without beating around the bush, to promote indigenous maritime development, prompt action must be taken by NIMASA to commence the disbursement of this Fund to qualified shipowners pursuant to the extant Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (“CVFF”) Regulations.

Mike Igbokwe (SAN)

“Indeed, as part of its statutory functions, NIMASA is to enforce and administer the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003 and develop and implement policies and programmes which will facilitate the growth of local capacity in ownership, manning and construction of ships and other maritime infrastructure. Disbursing the CVFF is one of the ways NIMASA can fulfill this mandate.

“To assist in this task, there must be collaboration between NIMASA, financial institutions, the Minister of Transportation, as contained in the CVFF Regulations that are yet to be implemented”, the legal guru highlighted further. 

He urged the agency to create the right environment for its stakeholders to build on and engender the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders.

“Lastly, which is the main reason why we are all here, cessation of ministerial waivers on some cabotage requirements, which I believe is worth applause in favour of NIMASA. 

“This is because it appears that the readiness to obtain/grant waivers had made some of the vessels and their owners engaged in cabotage trade, to become complacent and indifferent in quickly ensuring that they updated their capacities, so as not to require the waivers. 

“The cessation of waivers is a way of forcing the relevant stakeholders of the maritime sector, to find workable solutions within, for maritime development and fill the gaps in the local capacities in 100% Nigerian crewing, ship ownership, and ship building, that had necessitated the existence of the waivers since about 15 years ago, when the Cabotage Act came into being. 

“However, NIMASA must ensure that the right environment is provided for its stakeholders to build and possess the needed capacities to fill the gaps; and ensure that steps are being taken to solve the challenges being faced by stakeholders. Or better still, that they are solved within the next 5 years of its intention to stop granting waivers”, he further explained. 

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Breaking News: The Funeral Rites of Matriarch C. Ogbeifun is Live

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The Burial Ceremony of Engr. Greg Ogbeifun’s mother is live. Watch on the website: www.maritimefirstnewspaper.com and on Youtube: Maritimefirst Newspaper.

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Wind Farm Vessel Collision Leaves 15 Injured

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…As Valles Steamship Orders 112,000 dwt Tanker from South Korea***

A wind farm supply vessel and a cargo ship collided in the Baltic Sea on Tuesday leaving 15 injured.

The Cyprus-flagged 80-meter general cargo ship Raba collided with Denmark-flagged 31-meter wind farm supply vessel World Bora near Rügen Island, about three nautical miles off the coast of Hamburg. 

Many of those injured were service engineers on the wind farm vessel, and 10 were seriously hurt. 

They were headed to Iberdrola’s 350MW Wikinger wind farm. Nine of the people on board the World Bora were employees of Siemens Gamesa, two were employees of Iberdrola and four were crew.

The cause of the incident is not yet known, and no pollution has been reported.

After the collision, the two ships were able to proceed to Rügen under their own power, and the injured were then taken to hospital. 

Lifeboat crews from the German Maritime Search and Rescue Service tended to them prior to their transport to hospital via ambulance and helicopter.

“Iberdrola wishes to thank the rescue services for their diligence and professionalism,” the company said in a statement.

In the meantime, the Hong Kong-based shipowner Valles Steamship has ordered a new 112,000 dwt crude oil tanker from South Korea’s Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine & Engineering.

Sumitomo is to deliver the Aframax to Valles Steamship by the end of 2020, according to data provided by Asiasis.

The newbuild Aframax will join seven other Aframaxes in Valles Steamship’s fleet. Other ships operated by the company include Panamax bulkers and medium and long range product tankers.

The company’s most-recently delivered unit is the 114,426 dwt Aframax tanker Seagalaxy. The naming and delivery of the tanker took place in February 2019, at Namura Shipbuilding’s yard in Japan.

Maritime Executive with additional report from World Maritime News

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