Nigeria Customs Service has blacklisted major rice importers that allegedly owed the Federal Government about N20 billion, in unpaid Customs duty; an euphemism for their immediate delisting from companies competent to enjoy complete clearing services at the nation’s Customs ports and land borders.
The Service would also initiate criminal proceedings against them, for their unwillingness to offset the said amount, even after the expiration of two ultimatums, resulting in the advertised publications of their names in the newspapers.
Subsequently, the alleged debtor-companies in addition to facing criminal prosecution may also no longer enjoy the Nigerian Customs Pre-Arrival Assessment Report computerized platform, while their goods currently in the port could be detained and warehoused; when any of them with cargo at the land border stations may not be allowed the approval to bring them in.
The Customs image maker said “It is true. Management has decided to enforce the Customs law. It is not about sanctions yet; it is just about asking them to pay what they owned the Federal Government”, he indicated.
“We recognize that it might take some time to file charges; and so to enable them get the full impact of the decision, we have also decided to block them on the PAAR platform.”
By taking them to court, the Customs has legitimately rail-roaded them into the legal cul-de-sac, where the Court may now take over the task of trying them for duty evasions and if found guilty, apportion appropriate sanctions.
He emphasized that the Service would adopt every legitimate measure to ensure that every kobo due the Federal Government was paid.
“We have the law that empowers us to prosecute anyone or company that contravenes the Customs act. This is clearly an offense against the Custom law and that is why management is taking this decisive measure”, he explained further.
It was further learn that while anyone who goes ahead to effect immediate payment could have all its former privileges restored, the blocked free passages would remain blocked until all monies owed is completely paid; as the Service may no longer be interested in providing new concessions, especially with the abuse of the present one.
He highlighted that the affected companies, as far as the Service was concerned, already secured themselves concessions to import; noting that the act of importing in excess of what they obtained approval for, was already an overstretch of the privileges; hence none of them should think of coming to request for another round of concessions again.
It would be recalled that the NCS had last week warned, that it would collect every kobo due the Federal Government, as Customs duty, from the rice excess imports.
The Service image-maker, Wale Adeniyi stressed that the position of the Customs, in respect of duty collection had not changed, adding that failure to pay the duty; would result in sanctioning the importers.
“We are committed to a total recovery of the duty payable on excess importation of rice. We have the Government backing on this. The President (Dr. Goodluck Jonathan) has given us the mandate to recover fully, the duty on excess importation on rice; and management has no reason whatsoever, to shirk its responsibility in this regard.
“It is revenue that is due, from any excess importation; and we have President Jonathan’s backing to make this recovery. So, despite their foot dragging, they cannot escape paying it”, Wale Adeniyi emphasized.
“Some of these importers still import. They are corporate bodies. So they have indemnities which we can tap into. We have our cards; and we can very much play it effectively.
“Some of them still have high volumes of imports which they have not started discharging. We may not allow them to discharge. And even the ones that have discharged; we may not allow them to leave the port, until they meet their obligations”, the image maker had indicated further.
In the mean time, the Nigeria Customs Service, NCS says it trained over 4,454 personnel on capacity building in 2014 to enhance service delivery.
The conference with the theme “Strategic Communication for Effective Reputation and Change Management” was targeted towards educating the younger generation of officers to deliver effectively; and for which reason, the exercise is expected not only to run on annual basis, but also accommodate stakeholders, academia, the media and everyone relevant to the Service developmental chain, in a desire to give partnership a new meaning.
“In capacity building, a total of 4,140 officers were trained in different aspects of customs operations in Nigeria and a total of 314 officers were trained outside the country.
“The service has put in immense investment in capacity building in the last five years.
“This workshop records over 70 per cent participants of customs public relations officers with the rank of one and two star officers.
“This means that the service is building for the future and is also trying to build sustainability in the operations of customs public relations and image management”, Abdullahi said.