The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), on Tuesday, told members of the House of Representatives that smuggling is unabated because government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) patronize smugglers by purchasing vehicles smuggled into the country.
The Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, ACG Saidu Galadima, in charge of modernization declared this during an interface with members of the House Committee on Finance.
According to him, “Unfortunately today the big men in Nigeria, I didn’t say National Assembly members, all their escort vehicles such as Hilux trucks are smuggled vehicles. MDAs patronize smuggled Hilux vehicles. That is why if you go to our system, the number of Hilux imports has dropped but you find hundreds of them in town mostly used as escorts”.
The customs official called for an amendment to the public procurement Act to mandate government agencies to request evidence of the excise duty paid on imported vehicles before their purchase.
“If you amend the next Finance Act, also amend the Procurement Act that before a vehicle is taken over, you verify the customs duty, it would go a long way. NCS buys Hilux vehicles, but they do not take delivery until when the papers verify that duty is paid.
“Any officer involved in allowing such cars is being penalized. As I am talking to you now many officers are before the board meeting for discipline,” he disclosed.
The committee chairman, Hon. James Abiodun Faleke, from Lagos, urged customs to try improving internal mechanisms to check the loopholes.
“Try to improve the checks on this. We in government need to encourage the executive. Someone asked me why our borders were the way they are. In other countries, they are built with a wall but our own is just an iron used to block the road. The executive arm of government has to do something about the borders, so they can be tight enough.
“That is why we are doing this SEMA to repeal it. Customs are short of men. We went out and all the complaints when we went to the command are that they are short of men. Customs is supposed to be 30,000 men, but they are 15,000. They cannot recruit the remaining 50 percent unless they have money. Customs is underfunded. They are taking seven percent of duty on items. This cannot help Customs to recruit. This is one of the things we are doing. Customs needs to take this four percent FOB collection. Once they get this done Customs would be okay and most of these complaints would not be there. But as it is now they are incapacitated,” Faleke said.
He added that “When the Act comes we are going to sit down on it and look at it and see how we can help them. We are working on the Act,” he assured the customs representatives.
“We are appealing on behalf of Nigerians who brought in their vehicles without paying duties that they should give, now that we need more revenue, three months grace for everybody to come and pay duty including those ministries that are using back up Hilux without duty payment and whoever, we are appealing that three months grace should be given and whoever does not pay within this period should go to jail.
“We are begging on behalf of Nigerians that there are millions of them and they are willing because they want to use these vehicles within Nigeria and I believe if they do this it is possible you even get N1 trillion more in revenue,” Faleke appealed.