by Onyedi Ojiabor
The Senate yesterday mandated its Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff to carry out a holistic investigation into the activities of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) with a view to identifying the reasons for its declining revenue, leakages and irregularities in its operations.
The recommendations of the committee, the Senate said, should aim to reinvigorate the revenue profile of the Nigeria NCS.
The resolution followed a motion on the “urgent need to examine the operations of the Nigeria Customs Service revenue drive” sponsored by Senator Isaac Mohammed Alfa (Kogi East) and 12 others.
Sen Alfa, in his lead debate, noted that the NCS was established to among other things, collect and account for revenue from customs duties, excise duties, other fees and excise laws; administer any aspect of trade and fiscal policy that the government of the federation may mandate it to administer; promote trade facilitation; as well as to protect Nigeria against smuggling, fraud and all other violations of customs and excise laws and laws of Nigeria subject to Customs jurisdiction.
He prayed the Senate to note with serious concern that the revenue projections and targets of the NCS are currently not being met, despite multiple strategies and policy initiatives to improve revenue collection.
The lawmaker lamented that NCS recorded a revenue shortfall of N230 billion by the last quarter of last year, adding that in the first quarter of this year, the Tin can Island and Apapa Command recorded a revenue shortfall of N2.7 and N2 billion respectively compared with the corresponding period last year.
He said he was aware that the revenue shortfall was as a result of unwholesome fraudulent trade malpractices, under declaration, abuse of fiscal policies concealment, over and under invoicing, false declaration of value and wrong classification.
He said the probe became imperative because: “Aware of the Federal Government’s resolve to diversify the economy and enthrone multiple revenue sources in order to augment the dwindling oil revenue;
“Determined to utilise legislative action to create an enabling environment that sees the NCS thrive and in effect dramatically increase the revenue accruable to the country and realistically become a major driver in the funding of the nation’s budget;
“Further aware that the NCS is currently operating a regime that through a directive from the Federal Ministry of Finance, bars the NCS from collecting excise revenue as enunciated in the Mandatory Excise List and Community List in clear contravention of ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) tariff harmonisation directive.”
The motion was promptly seconded by Sen Shehu Sani who prayed the Senate to work to give more life to the NCS.
Sen Sani said Nigerians should appreciate the fact the era of oil was over hence there was need to reposition the NCS.
Deputy Senate President, Sen Ike Ekweremadu agreed with the submission of Alfa and Sani. Ekweremadu noted that the time has come to block all revenue leakages to shore up the economy of the country.
Senate President, Bukola Saraki said the motion was timely especially at a time of dwindling economic fortunes of the country.
The Senate, he said, will work to reposition the NCS in the interest of the country