The Nigerian Senate has asked the Nigeria Customs Service to stop its proposed clampdown on motorists in the country which the agency said have failed to pay customs duties.
The directive followed a motion of national importance moved by Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah at the floor of the Senate in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
The Service recently issued a statement signed on behalf of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, granting an extension till April 12 for all vehicle owners in the country whose customs duty has not been paid to do so.
The Senate, at its plenary on Tuesday, said the policy was undesirable and would only worsen the hardship Nigerians were going through.
Senator Dino Melaye and Senator Philip Aduda also condemned what they describe as “anti-people policy” at a time Nigerians are groaning under a recession.
The Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, added his voice to the debate and wasted no time in confirming the stand of the Senate.
Meanwhile, a lawmaker representing Delta Central at the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, informed his colleagues at the beginning of the plenary that he has left the Labour Party for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Senator Omo-Agege’s defection has increased the number of APC Senators to 66.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it has recovered some vehicles and tricycles in a warehouse allegedly belonging to a former Comptroller-General of Customs, Abdullahi Dikko.
The Head of Operations, Kaduna zonal office of the ant-graft agency, Bappa Ibrahim, disclosed this to journalists on Tuesday in Kaduna State.
He said the vehicles and other items were allegedly recovered from Dikko’s property located at Nnamdi Azikwe by-pass in the state capital.
According to the Mr Ibrahim, this recent recovery will not be the first since the inception of the zonal office a month ago.
He added that the recovery was sequel to an intelligence report received that stolen money and properties suspected to be proceeds of crime were being warehoused at the former Customs boss’ premises.
Mr Ibrahim said upon receipt of the report, a team was put together from the Kaduna Zonal Office of the commission to carry out investigation on the matter.
He listed the items allegedly recovered from Mr Dikko to include a Nissan truck laden with imported rug carpets, a white colour Nissan Urban Bus, 2006 model also loaded with imported rugs, tricycles and motorcycles, as well as two empty fire proof safe.
The latest recovery by the EFCC is coming barely one week after the commission recovered 17 vehicles of different brands hidden inside a warehouse allegedly belonging to the former Comptroller of Customs.
They include black colour BMW 525i series – 2010 model, ash colour Hyundai Velester – 2012 model and a dark blue BMW 325i – 2003 model.
Others are black colour Land Cruiser Prado Jeep – 2014 model, a black colour Mercedes G wagon – 2013 model and a black colour BMW 335i series – 2012 model.
Also recovered were silver colour Porsche Cayene – 2009 model and gold colour Honda Accord – 2013 model.
According to the EFCC, investigation revealed that the warehouse in question actually belongs to Mr Dikko.
Mr Ibrahim has called on the public to assist the anti-graft agency with useful information about corrupt public officials, adding that the EFCC will not relent in the fight against corruption in Nigeria.
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), has come under fire from members of the Senate Committee on Customs for taking some actions without the approval of a Customs board.
The committee invited Colonel Ali to the National Assembly in Abuja to give reasons for certain actions he took in the last few months.
Some of the actions that were criticised by the lawmakers on Thursday include the promoting and dismissal of some officers in the service.
The senators noted that the Customs boss went above his powers in performing the actions without the approval of a Customs board.
They added that they were not satisfied with the explanations given by the Comptroller-General and frowned at his refusal to wear the uniform of the service.
In a separate session, the lawmakers met with former Comptroller-Generals of Customs to discuss ways of improving the revenue collection of the service, as well as the amendment of the Customs Act.
The committee noted that it would call a public hearing on the amendment of the Customs Act.
In the meantime, the lawmakers said they might reverse some of the decisions made by the Customs boss, as they were made without the approval of a Customs board.
However, a Customs board has not been constituted by the Minister of Finance since the last board was dissolved.
The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), has approved the redeployment of eight Assistant Comptrollers-General and 238 Deputy Comptrollers of Customs.
A statement by the service’s spokesman, Joseph Attah, revealed on Tuesday that the posting was in a bid to strengthen operations and reposition within the Customs to meet the challenges of the year 2017.
The service added that the redeployment takes immediate effect.
“Assistant Comptrollers-General affected are: ACG Charles Edike from Zone A to Human Resource Development (HRD); ACG Ahmed Mohammed from HRD to Zone B; ACG Aminu Dangaladima from Zone B to Enforcement; ACG Francis Dosumu from Enforcement to Zone D, ACG Augustine Chidi from Zone D to Excise, Free Trade Zone and Industrial Incentives (Ex,FTZ, & I I); ACG Monday Abueh from Ex,FTZ, & I I to Zone A, ACG Umar Sanusi from HQ to Zone C; (and) ACG Abdulkadir Azerema from Zone C to HQ.
“The redeployment of Deputy Comptrollers of Customs affected the service’s Public Relations Officer, DC Wale Adeniyi, who is now posted to Apapa Customs Area Command, Lagos.
“As all the affected officers report at their new zones and commands, the Comptroller-General reiterated (the) Federal Government’s ban on importation of rice and vehicles through the land borders.
“He charged all officers and men of the service to ensure maximum collection of revenue and strict implementation of fiscal policy of government,” the statement read.
Addressing reporters after vehicles loaded with bags of rice were seized at Idiroko border, the Ogun State Area Comptroller of Customs, Mr Multafu Waindu, paraded 18 vehicles loaded with bags of rice which were being smuggled into Nigeria from the Republic of Benin.
According to him, the vehicles and the grains were impounded around 3:00am at the porous Alari and Ifoyintedo bush paths, in Ipokia Local Government Area of the state where the smuggled bags of rice and the vehicles were abandoned by the smugglers.
Economy In Recession
Meanwhile, Nigerians have lamented the upsurge in the cost of rice from 12,000 Naira to over 20,000 Naira in some parts of the country, a fall out of the economic recession.
Economic analysts have said that more persons could go into smuggling of rice due to the increase in price, with most of them opting for Benin Republic where they could get rice for as low as 12,000 Naira.
The report revealed that Nigeria’s real Gross Domestic Product was expected to increase marginally by 0.6% with Consumer Prices rising by 17.1%, effectively lifting the country out of an officially declared recession.
Attacks On Oil Facilities
The recession was a result of the drop in the price of crude oil and the attacks on the nation’s oil facilities by some militant groups in the Niger Delta region.
Disturbed by the spate of the militants’ activities, the Nigerian Army launched a special team code named “Operation Crocodile Smile”, as the government agreed to dialogue with the militants after a ceasefire agreement from both sides.
Nigeria Customs Service has restated its commitment to restricting the importation of rice.
The Area Comptroller Customs, Oyo/Osun Command, Temitope Ogunkua, made the declaration on Saturday at the command headquarters in Ibadan.
Mr Ogunkua advised traders and importers of rice to perfect their papers for the right channel through the ports.
He insisted that there was no going back on the rice ban, as it had adversely affected Nigeria’s revenue generation.
The Customs officer also lamented that smugglers had explored the loopholes in porous borders to bring in rice without paying duties.
The Oyo State Governor, Abiola Ajimobi, had implored the Comptroller General of Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (Rtd), during a visit to the state, to rethink the ban and give room for alternatives to be provided before shutting out imported rice.
Some of the traders and consumers have also decried the ban on rice importation through the borders, coupled with the fuel scarcity, epileptic power supply and non-payment of salaries.
The comptroller general of the Nigeria Customs Service, Colonel Hammed Ali (Rtd) has said that the resignation exercise by some of its staff may not be unconnected to the restructuring exercise in the service.
Speaking to reporters on Monday after a visit to some Federal Government establishments to foster revenue generation for the Customs, Col. Ali, however, dismissed rumours that more officers of the service were on their way to putting in their resignations.
He emphasised that the Nigeria Customs Service remained committed to ensuring transparency and accountability in its desire to improve revenue generation.
The Comptroller-General of Customs stated that the retirements were part of measures to kick-start the repositioning of the Service for improved performance.
In a statement earlier, the spokesman for the Customs, Wale Adeniyi, said 34 Senior Officers had been retired from Service with immediate effect, as part of on-going re-organisation in Nigeria Customs Service.
He said that the re-organisation of the Service was one of the core mandates of the Comptroller-General of Customs.
Those affected in the exercise are five Deputy Comptrollers-General of Customs (DCGs) who have earlier given notification to the Comptroller-General for voluntary disengagement. They are John Atte, Ibrahim Mera, Musa Tahir, Austin Nwosu and Akinade Adewuyi.
Three others, of the rank of Assistant Comptroller-General were also affected in the re-organisation exercise. They are Madu Mohammed, Secretary to the Nigeria Customs Board, Victor Gbemudu, Zonal Coordinator Zone ‘A’ and Bello Liman, Assistant Comptroller-General, (Headquarters).
The rest are of the rank of Comptrollers serving in Customs Headquarters, Zonal Offices and various Area Commands.
Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service, Col Hameed Ali (Rtd) has given the assurance that the policy on rice importation is not inimical to the nation’s economy.
The Customs boss, who spoke with reporters after a closed door meeting with the Senate Adhoc Commitee on Import Waivers, said that the decision would help generate more revenue for government and reduce smuggling of the product.
He added that the Service would continually implement policies that would protect the interest of Nigerians.
The decision to summon Ali was taken after a motion on the dangers posed by the removal of rice from the import restriction list and re-introduction of import duty payment on land borders was presented.
His action was also viewed by the Senate to be above his level, since the order restricting rice importation through land borders was a presidential one issued in 2011.
Senator Muhammed Aliero, who presented the motion on the floor, said that the Senate was concerned that the decision by the Comptroller-General of Customs to liberalize the importation of rice to the extent of lifting the ban on land importation of rice would worsen rice smuggling into the country.
Blocking Revenue Leakages
Meanwhile, in a recent chat with Customs officials during his maiden visit to Lagos State, Mr Alli had stated that repositioning, restructuring and generation of more revenue for the government were paramount to him.
He warned importers and officials of the Nigeria Customs Service against corrupt practices in the maritime sector.
While stressing the need to block revenue leakages for the nation to generate more revenue from the maritime sector, he warned that the days of corruption were over and that anyone caught would be dealt with accordingly.
He tasked officers and men of the Seme Area Command in Lagos to carry out their duties according to the dictates of the law that established the service.
Textile workers in the country have called on President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government to declare total war against smugglers.
The workers also called on the President to also the revival of collapsed textile factories across the country.
General Secretary of the National Union of Textile, Garment & Tailoring Workers of Nigeria, Issa Aremu, made the appeal at a one day conference organised by the Association of Textile Technologists of Nigeria held at the Kaduna Polytechnic.
He specifically tasked the Comptroller General of Customs, Col. Hameed Ali, to justify his appointment by declaring a total war against smuggling of contraband products.
Aremu argued that failure to revive the collapsed industries, especially the textile factories in the country, would impact negatively on the economy.
He added that the revival of the domestic textile industry would result in a significant fall in the number of unemployed in the country.
Mr Aremu said the collapse of textile factories across the country over the years had led to loss of jobs and revenue.
The textile workers also advised President Buhari to ensure the speedy completion of all existing road projects across the country before flagging off new ones.
Guest Speaker at the conference, Professor Kassali Bello, urged the Government to aid the revival of the textile industry by introducing new initiatives to improve the domestic content and manpower development to increase the appeal of finished goods and make them more acceptable in the highly competitive international market.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Senate committee investigating rice waivers, Senator Adamu Aliero, has demanded that Stallion Group and Olam International pay 44 billion Naira as import duties on rice importation owed the Nigerian Government.
The two foreign companies, who are involved in rice importation into Nigeria, appeared before the Senate committee which is investigating the flagrant abuse of the rice waiver policy in the nation.
While demanding payment of the money, Senator Aliero, said Nigeria would not fold its hands and watch the huge debt swept under the carpet.
Speaking in his defence, the Executive Director of Stallion Group, Harpreet Singh, claimed that its mission in Nigeria was to ensure that the country was self-sufficient in rice production, and equally ensure that Nigeria is saved from scarcity of the product.
Senator Aliero said that the Senate was concerned that the decision by the Comptroller-General of Customs to liberalise the importation of rice to the extent of lifting the ban on land importation of rice would worsen rice smuggling into Nigeria.