By Stehen Ubaana
Until January 25, 2018, no person had expected the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS, Apapa Command to pay N30 billion into the Federation Account at the end month. This is because of the low volume of cargoes being handled at the port during the month. The low volume of cargo was not unexpected because of the mixed reaction of traders to the government 2018 fiscal policy.
More worrisome was the delay in honoring importers letters of Credit by their oversea customers which led to late arrival vessels with cargoes to the port. the situation was so bad that most of the cargoes that were supposed to arrive the port in the month of January were delayed to the month of February.
The revenue drive of the Command was said to have been hit hard by the government fiscal policy of 2017 which remained unchanged. This is because the average duty rate which used to be 12.54 was said to have been slashed to 11.1 percent.
The Magazine was informed that some goods had their duties considerably lowered while there was total removal of duty rates for agricultural projects, ostensibly to encourage local rice production. This is evident going by the total removal of duty rates on prefabricated Agricultural Green House from 20 percent to 0percent, Agricultural machinery from 5 percent to 0percent , Automobile Industry Project, SKD vehicles from 35-5 percent, . Also, Concession of one SKD to a fully built unit, cleared without payment of 35 percent levy.
The non issuance of Letters of Credit, LC, to importers of rice by the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and the Ministry of Finance since June last year was said to have had a more telling effect on the monthly revenue generation of the Command. Rice, a high revenue yielding item was approved to come into the country through Apapa port but appears to have been tactically banned by the government. The government may have taken the policy decision to encourage local rice production and create employment in the nation’s agricultural sector.
In spite of the low cargo volume handled at the port in the month of January, 2018 and the lowering and total removal of duty rate for Agricultural as well as the partial ban on the importation of rice into the country through the port, Jibrin Musa , Comptroller of Apapa Command and his principal officers involved in revenue generation have not allowed it to way them down.
With the backing of the Comptroller, Gaya Yahaya, the Command Deputy Comptroller in-charge of revenue was said to have blocked all areas of revenue leakages with the full deployment of the Service Information Communication Technology, ICT. The fallout was that the revenue collection of the Command which initially looked unimpressive at the beginning of the month of January this year picked up tremendously at the tail end of the month.
An elated Musa disclosed that the Command generated about N31.02 billion, which was paid into the Federation Account in the end of the month of January. It would be recalled that at the same period last year , the Command generated only about N26 billion. But the Command has a monthly target of N35.5 billion while the year’s revenue target was pegged by the Hameed Ali, a retired Colonel and Comptroller General, NCS, led Management at n426 billion. The Customs boss is optimistic that the Command would overshoot the monthly target in subsequent months that would propel it ” within the confines of the law to meet and even surpass the 2018 annual revenue target”.
His optimism was based on the over N31 billion that was generated by the Command in the month of January despite the lull in cargo imports. ” I am glad to inform you that the Command had taken off on a good note and hit the ground running” by collecting over N31 billion in the month of January.
he disclosed that the Command had put in place a lot of measures to sustain the tempo of the high revenue profile of the Command. One of such measures, the Comptroller said was robbing of minds with the industry stakeholders who operate within the lager value chain . Another measure put in place by the Command that was revealed by the Customs boss was the need for stakeholders to remind themselves of the need to be compliant to all extant laws relating to imports and clearing of goods at the port.
Appealing to importers with their agents to embrace the new Customs Integrated Computer facility, NCIS, version 92, described as being ” faster, more efficient , all-encompassing, which provided opportunity for seamless cargo clearance at the port”.
given the seriousness of the Comptroller to ensure that agents get acquainted with the new Customs ICT, Musa, the Apapa Customs boss was said to have assured stake holders that the ” NCIS II training which had been flagged off at Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, phase 1,KLT, Tin-can Island Command and other Commands across the country will soon take off at the Command. This is because the software for the new Customs ICT is about to be deployed to the Command by the Headquarters.
The delay in deploying the software to the Command is unexpected. ” the idea is that by the time the software become fully operational in the Command, we would have blocked all areas of revenue leakages and increase Compliance level that would improve the monthly revenue collection of the Command”, Musa said. Customs operatives are also being carried along to fit into the new ICT. The Command , under Musa, was said to have embarked on aggressive updating of Staff on Customs literature on tariff and the Customs and Excise Management Act, CEMA, to avoid making wrong Classifications and misapplication of the HOS Harmonized duty Code.
It would be recalled that NCIS II had ran into a hitch at KLT Phase 1 because of lack of proper training for both the officers and stake holders. It is this same mistake that Musa, the Apapa Comptroller has avoided.