With the huge revenue the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) showcases from Month to Month and from year to year said to be generated to the Federal Government coffers, investigations have shown that more would have been posted into the Federal Government coffers, if the Service had adequately plugged the areas of leakages.
To so many stakeholders, the Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd)-led NCS has failed in the area of putting a stop to leakages in revenue as he promised shortly after his appointment as the Controller General of the Nigeria Customs Service.
The Customs boss promised that he would ensure leakages and corruption in the service were fought to a standstill.
In fact, from investigation, if revenue was leaking in drops as far as the NCS was concerned in the past, currently, the revenue is gushing with speed. Some said it is even pouring out like a flood.
Some described the situation of revenue leakages in Customs as economic erosion.
The figure which the Customs has declared in the past as revenue, though commendable, but from all indications, they are far from what ought to be.
The leakages could be best analysed as follows:
Losses Through Seizure of Goods
The same Customs that says it want to increase revenue collection, has seizures of vehicles worth over N3 billion rot away in various government warehouses of the Service across the Federation.
The electronic auction platform, which the Service said was to create enabling environment for equal opportunity for all, has failed totally to aid in disposing seized vehicles.
There are lots of vehicles that were seized of which the government hard-earned money was used to procure patrol vehicles and logistics which made it possible for the seizure of those vehicles. Unfortunately, those vehicles are depreciating in various government warehouses.
It is worthy of note that some of these vehicles are high profiled vehicles.
A lot of Nigerians who wish to buy vehicles, cannot access them, the government itself is not using them, they are locked-up in warehouses. Vehicles being what they are, automobiles depreciate. Some of these vehicles have been there for four years, some for three years, because auction of vehicles was stopped before the current government. Even as we speak, every day, additional seized vehicles are being added to the former ones. These are government properties, wasting away; they are not adding any value being abandoned in the warehouses. They are parked somewhere while somebody will be beating his chest every day saying he had made seizures of vehicles which are parked and wasting away.
A stakeholder in the maritime sub-sector of the Nation’s economy who does not want his name in print said: “If the Nigeria Customs Service does not have the capacity to auction the seized goods, why not ask the owners of the vehicles to pay duty to the government and take their vehicles, rather than allow the complete Duty Paid Value (DPV), the worth of the vehicle, the value of duty to waste away. Government is paying workers to make these seizures. Government is fueling the vehicles they use for patrol. So, for the government, it is a lost situation, nothing is coming in,” he said.
Seized Bags Of Rice
Apart from vehicles amongst seizure, one may talk about perishables such as rice.
Investigation revealed that the Service do not have adequate facilities to preserve rice and as a result, seized rice rot away in government warehouse across the country.
Investigations revealed that some of the warehouses where seized rice are stored had been taken over by water occasioned by heavy downpour, resulting to the rot, smelling and wasting of the product.
Some of this rice has gone beyond consumption and redemption and need to be thrown away.
Some of these products had gone bad and only left in the warehouses so that auditors would come and see it so that it will not look as if those in charge pilfered them.
A source said if the controller in charge of the affected command throws them away, he would not be able to account for them.
“So there are just there for the sake of the auditors to come and see. As they are spoiling, they are contaminating additional seizures that are coming in. Is there any economic sense in all these? The source queried.
It is however, painful that the same Nigeria government spend a lot of money to buy food for prisoners, they make budget for the feeding of the prisoners. Whereas these bags of rice and other perishable seized food items are being allowed to waste away.
It is estimated that over N50 billion worth of seized goods are wasting away in the various warehouses in the country.
This is one major area of revenue leakage, which the Nigeria Customs Service has failed to manage.
Stakeholders believe that if the Service could not manage such seizures, they can as well declare in the internet that they are auctioning a bag of rice for N5,000, to see if Nigerians will not come and evacuate them, rather than allow them to waste.
It is worthy to note that the state governments that are ravaged by Boko Haram insurgents such as Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, investigations have revealed that their government used to pay N5million to the military for the logistics and transport to bring these goods such as rice and clothes seized by the Customs to the Internally Displaced Persons’ camp.
It was gathered that at one point, the Governors of those states said that rather than pay N5million to the military to bring in rice, which is purportedly given free, they said they prefer to use the N5million to buy food or rice, which is healthier and better.
So, this is the situation with the seized rice in Customs warehouse. Most of the rice being sent to the camps of the internally displaced are not longer being collected. So they are wasting away there.
That is the dilemma the country finds itself, the state governors say they are not ready to pay N5million, the Army said they are not ready to transport without payment, so we have a lot of rice in Lagos, in Osun, in Oyo, in Ondo and in the Northern State, wasting away.
These are part of various areas of revenue leakages in Customs.
Recalled that the CG of Customs actually put some measures in place to checkmate revenue leakages but part of this corruption- checking was through mass transfer of officers and men. Making the auction sales online, so that it will not be restricted to a few beneficiaries, these steps received wide commendation from the stakeholders at the initial stage.
But how far did the online sales succeed; did they adequately enlighten people towards the online purchase?
Making it internet base however, is above the average lay man.
Another measure put in place to check the leakages is the ASSYCUDA system, though most of the people trained on this are so slow to adapt to the system.