The Senate has launched a fresh investigation into the Nigeria Customs Service over the alleged revenue leakage under the border security agency between 2006 and 2016 to the tune of about N4tn.
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, Hope Uzodinma, made this known in an interview with journalists in Abuja on Friday.
Uzodinma stated that the committee would stop at nothing to recover the money, which, he said, was lost due to various infractions by the men of the service.
The lawmaker said a preliminary investigation by the lawmakers had shown that the over N4tn revenue leakage discovered was due to the non-implementation of the Form ‘M’ (Foreign Exchange forms) by the customs from 2006 to 2016.
Hameed Ali was appointed as Comptroller-General of NCS in August 2015.
Uzodinma said a public hearing would be held as part of the investigation.
The lawmaker also attributed the loss of revenue to wrong classification of cargoes under the Harmonised System Codes, non-screening of cargoes coming into Nigeria and lack of adequate Information and Communication Technology infrastructure for revenue collection.
Uzodinma added that the cancellation of pre-arrival assessment reports and abandonment of goods declaration had also contributed to the revenue loss.
He said, “The Senate Committee on Customs has condemned the inability of the Technical Committee on the Implementation of Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme to ensure that provisions of the Import Control Management Act are followed to the letter.
“The committee frowns on the quantum of revenue losses and it will stop at nothing in ensuring that those involved in this ugly act return all recoverable monies with them.
“The committee also frowns on the level of collusion and corruption within the Customs Service.
“At the end of our current investigation, all these will become a thing of the past and customs revenue will be enhanced while non-oil revenue will be improved upon.
“What we are investigating is not money spent. It is the leakages. For instance, I am supposed to pay XYZ amount of duty, I will abandon the documentation, go and get fake documents, collude with customs (officers), pay maybe a fraction of it (duty) and carry my goods. With that, the true import circle is not closed.
“Another instance is that assessment is abandoned or I (may) fill the Form ‘M’, for example, with a pro forma invoice, apply for foreign exchange in Central Bank of Nigeria, XYZ amount of money is allocated to me, money moves in (is released) but no goods shipped. I will then go get fake documents, collude with customs (officers) and then retire the allocation.”
Uzodinma decried that the alleged round tripping and false declarations had over years led to increase in the exchange rate. He stressed that in most cases, the amount of money spent was not commensurate with the number of goods being imported.
According to the lawmaker, the committee had started questioning the companies and banks indicted in the case.
“We will not mention the companies involved because we are also very careful of the integrity and public perception of some of these companies, being that some of them are in the stock market. We will be diplomatic in carrying out this investigation.
“This is to the extent that little or no damage will be done to the integrity and image of such companies, provided that government revenues in their hands will be recovered,’’ Uzodinma said.
When asked if the probe would not eventually be abandoned like in some previous cases in the Senate, Uzodinma explained that the lawmakers were, sometimes, faced with constitutional limitations.
He, however, stated that the current investigation would be concluded “because it has to do with the economy and revenue loss”.