By Stephen Ubanna
For years , Nigeria has been losing billions of naira on non oil exports, particular, Agricultural products through Apart seaport. the situation was so bad between last year and now that Hameed Ali, a Colonel and Comptroller General, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS was forced o beam his search light at the ports, which mostly handle the non oil exports: Apapa, Tincan Island and Onne. This may have yielded results with the numerous investigation teams that had been sent to the ports at different times.
The latest of the investigation team that was said to have been sent to the port was the one on Apapa investigating the alleged export of 45 Container load of Agricultural products to China, Europe and the United States through the port. The exported items were said to have contravened the country’s fiscal policy.
Insiders told the Magazine that there was no basis for the deal to have leaked because it was professionally handled as the export documents were perfect and could not be faulted by any agency of government at the port including officials of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC. The source disclosed that the deal may have leaked because of the fifth columnist at the port forcing Ali, the Comptroller General to step in to bring the culprits to book. The Magazine learnt that the investigation had been a close guarded secret. The investigation team were said to have operated outside the Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A,FOU, which may have kept them in the dark.
The on- going investigation of the alleged non oil exports through Apapa port may have affected Tin can can Island port as many exporters had gone underground for fear of being caught in the act. When the Magazine visited the port last week, an officer confirmed that there was no much job to do as the exporters were not coming forward with their export documents for processing because of the on-going investigation at Apapa port. The ususal crowd of exporters with their agents were missing. the situation was the case at Apapa port.
It would be recalled that prior to Muhammed Uba Garba, the ex-while Comptroller of Federal Operations Unit, FOU, Zone A, to Seme Command in the recent shake up in the Service, he had beamed his search light at the ports because of the repeated seizures of wood export allegedly through Apapa port.
The Magazine gathered that Riks lura, a Chief Superintendent of Customs and Head of the Command Operations and Lagos Roving team and his boys never gave importers and exporters with their agents who shortchange the government a breathing space. The was said to have intercepted Containers load of wood for export to China which exposed the rot at the port the Customs Authorities to beam its searchlight at the port.
It was learnt that Abdullahi Kerewa, a Deputy Comptroller and National Coordinator, Customs Strike boss may have made the case of the importers and exporters worse at the seaports with occasional intervention at the port to order a re-examination of suspected cargoes.
The Magazine findings shows that many agents at different times had received alerts at different times to suspend work and appear at the Force office with their documents for processing. Many believe that the Strike Force may have been the biggest headache of the non oil exports at the port for now because it is guided by the report of the Ruling Center to strike and report back to the Headquarters for further action.
Bashir Mohammed, a former Comptroller at Onne Command , who succeeded Jibril Musa, the former Comptroller of Apapa Command redeployed to the Customs Headquarters in the wake of the recent Customs wake up , may be faced with the problem of the exports using the Apapa port as they would never do the right thing because of insiders support.
Muhammed Aliyu , Comptroller of FOU, Zone A, may have had at the back of his mind the abuse of the country’s export policy by exporters because of the government diversification of its revenue sources through non oil exports that he may have continued from where, Muhammed, his predecessor stopped in his efforts to monitor the movement of c import and export cargoes at the seaports.
hHe may have sent a warning signals to the Customs officials at the seaport to sit up and do the right thing or be prepared to face the consequences if linked to any bad job detained at the Command.
Ukachukwu Joe, a Lagos based business man who described Aliyu as a very aggressive officer said importers and exports who may have been cutting corners in the past to shortchange the government should be ready for him as there would be no hiding place for them.
But despite, Ali, the Comptroller General’s measures to checkmate the activities of fraudulent importers and exporters with their fraudulent agents at the seaports, the Nigeria Bureau of Stastics says the country’s export rose by 20.02 percent between January and March 2018 as against 2017 figures.
Going by the agency’s report, the export value of the exported cargoes was N4.69 trillion. The Bureau reported that the non oil cargoes were exported mostly to Netherland,India,Spain,China, England and the United States.
Given an insider information of the situation at Tin can Island port, Abdullahi Musa, the Comptroller,that the non oil exports handled by the Command was a total of 38,517 metric tons with a Free On Board, FOB, value of N22,435 billion. The Agricultural produce exported through the port, according to Musa were cashew nuts, rubber, hibiscus flower, cocoa butter, sesame seeds, processed wood, frozen shrimps and processed leather.
The good news was that the government encouragement to manufacturers to make their products more compeetitive may have also facilitated the export of empty bottles, biscuit, cigarette, polyethylene, billets, soap, hair cream and tissue paper. The value of the processed 7,000 metric tons locally manufactured goods exported was put at about N8 billion.
Investigation by the Magazine shows that the manufactured products were exported mostly to Liberia, Coted’ Ivoire, and other countries in the West African Sub-region. There are indications that Nigeria manufactured products may soon take over the regional market and the Central African sub-region market because of the high demand it. A Nigerian visitor to Cotonou, Capital of Niger Republic confirmed that Biscuits and billets and other items manufactured by Nigeria based Companies were sold in all nooks and crannies of the country.