By Stephen Ubanna
Worried at the rate at which importers rush to Peoples Republic of China to import goods into the country and the problems that are encountered by Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, officers at the seaports and land the land border stations with such imports over cases of under-declaration and Concealment may have forced, Hameed Ali , a retired Colonel and Comptroller General to take bull by the the bull by the horn to checkmate the importers activities decisively .
His insistence that officers must have an idea of the transactions going on between importers and their Chinese suppliers before the Consignment finally gets to Nigeria ports for clearing and delivery to the Importer’s warehouse was said to have encouraged the Customs Comptroller General, to approve the China trip for Aminu Dahiru, an Assistant Comptroller General in -charge of NCS, Zone A, Lagos, Comptrollers Muhammed Uba Garba, Baba Abdullahi Musa, of Seme and Tin-can Island respectively including Adama Ptiskum, Comptroller, Customs Information Communication Technology, ICT.The premier port, Apapa and Tincan Island ports, alone handles over 70 percent of the imported cargoes into the country while Seme is is the busiest international border route in the West African sub-region and African, in general.
The Magazine learnt that the team headed by Dahiru, the Assistant Comptroller General, had left the country about two weeks ago and had been traversing the ports and border areas in China to see things for themselves and be in a better position to deal with importers and ensure trade facilitation in the country. The the Dahiru led team were said to have been taken to Shenzhi Customs , where over 8,000 Contairised cargoes, going into different countries in the world, including Nigeria and other West Afirican countries were processed daily and given clearance to be loaded into ocean going vessels awaiting to carry them at the port. The trip, acccording to a Customs source, was an eye opener to the senior Customs on the trip.
The Shenzhi Customs operational base, according to a Nigerian based importer in China is about 52 km from Hongkong, another Asian country, which was formerly part of China. it is not surprising why Nigerian importers rush to the two Asian countries with ease to place ordesr for supplies of goods to them without putting into consideration the country’s fiscal policy measures.
It would be recalled that the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, had banned the importation of 41 items into the country, including tooth paste, on the orders of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015. The ban made the items ineligible for foreign exchange allocation . This is because of the speed at which importers who were given approval to buy foreign exchange at he official exchange rate abuse the privilege to place order for unnecessary goods which found their way to Apapa, Tincan-Island ports and Onne ports, in particular, thus wasting the country’s scarce foreign exchange earnings. The situation was so bad that most of the Containers that were said to have been shipped from China and India, in particular , were found to contain different items as against what was declared in the importer’s Bill of Lading.
There is no gain saying the fact that China is the biggest destination for importers all over the world, including European and United States importers. Indeed, different types of cargoes ranging from personal effects to industrial machinery are said to be manufactured in the Asian industrial giant because of cheap Labour and which were sold cheaply to Customers.
Take for instance, furniture, Children toys, fashion items, Electronic gadgets, fancy ceiling pendants, Household Utensils, Building materials, Security and Tracking gadgets and Laptops/Pads/Phones. ”These may have made the country a den of goods for importers”, a Customs officer remarked. It was not surprising why Ali, the Customs Comptroller General , has decided to keep a close tap on the goods imported in into the country from China to ensure that they comply with the government fiscal policy measures by sending his officers to he country.
Many believe that that the Nigeria Customs officers on the trip could tap enough knowledge from the vast repository of products that are available in the country to the benefit of the nation. Financial analysts averred that since the Chinese Renminia, RMB, popular Yen, had been included by the World Bank/International Monetary Fund, IMF, among the basket of reserve Currencies that have Special Drawing Rights, SDR, the country has continued to see it as a reflection of the importance of its Currency in the world trading and global financial market. The fallout was the expanding of its trade and the substantial increase in the international use and trading of the RMB, as the country is increasingly entering into Currency Swap arrangement with other countries in the world, including Nigeria.
Given Ali’s desire to checkmate the activities of Nigerians importing goods from china by sending his officers to the country, Maritime analysts expect him to still send other senior officers to India, another Asia Country, that had been identified going by Customs records where Pharmaceuticals Companies connive with their Nigeria Customers to ship Tramadol and other dangerous drugs, Concealed with other items into the country. They believe that Nigeria Customs officers interaction with their supposed Indian Counterparts, should they be allowed to go there, as was the case in Shenzhi Customs in China, it would go a long to curb the excesses of importers with their Clearing agents and their Customs Collaborators in Nigeria.
While Tincan Island port, had remained a haven over the years for importers who Contravene the government fiscal policy measures and still take delivery of their goods with the active Connivance of Customs personnel, a senior Customs officer who spoke to the Magazine disclosed that the rot in the port would be minimised considerably as Abdullahi Musa, the Command Comptroller, who was on the recent trip to China, would not hesitate to put into practice what he had learnt from his counterparts in Shenzhi Customs, China, to put the officers on their toes, particular, the Command Enforcement and Customs Intelligence Unit, CIU, officers to do the right thing and plug all the loopholes and tricks employed by importers to shortchange the government.
For importers who also think they could import their goods which Contravene the government fiscal policy measures through Cotonou port and any other port in the West African sub-region and still smuggle them into the country , through approved and unapproved routes, had to watch it as the Chine Shenzhi , ChinaCustoms officials appear to have exposed their tricks to their Nigerian Counterparts.
A close source at the NCS Zone A office, Lagos, informed the Magazine that given the experience acquired by the officers on the China trip, they were enthusiastic to return to Nigeria to implement what they have learned from their Chinese counterparts to tighten up security at the seaports and land border stations and which is expected to go a long way to improve the revenue collection of the Service. The return of the Customs team to China may have put fears on importers who place order for made in China goods as Customs personnel now scrutinise to the last pin, all imports from the country. The same attention were said to have been extended to imports from India and Turkey, an European nation. The Customs officials at the ports and land border stations have to take special interest on imports from, China, India and Turkey, because of the 2019 general election to forestall the shipment of dangerous drugs such as Tramadol or arms and ammunitions into the country.