Custom CG Debunks Allegations of Corruption at Onne Port

Coming on the heels of the recent face off between the Nigeria Customs Service and customs clearing agents at Onne port in Rivers State, the Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahi has debunked all allegations of high handedness leveled against the customs officers by clearing agents, saying that it is largely as a result of corruption on the part of the agents.

Coming on the heels of the recent face off between the Nigeria Customs Service and customs clearing agents at Onne port in Rivers State, the Comptroller General of Customs, Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahi has debunked all allegations of high handedness leveled against the customs officers by clearing agents, saying that it is largely as a result of corruption on the part of the agents.
A security report on the incident that was sent to the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) by the Customs  stated that trouble actually started after the Service adopted a new revenue protection measure which led to Government revenue remarkably shooting up in Onne, but for which freight forwarders have threatened to embark on strike and disrupt cargo facilitation.
The “change in strategy” by the Customs, which resulted in massive blocking of government’s revenue loopholes, has resulted in revenue boost by over N10.6 billion, within only six months.
The letter, signed by the Customs Comptroller General, Dikko Inde Abdullahi debunking agents’ claim of high handedness, also presented graphic details of dramatic change in revenue, consequent upon the change of strategy, resulting in government making a monthly average of N5.8 billion this year, as against its corresponding period of last year, during which Government could only rake in an average of only N4.6 billion, monthly.

“The Onne situation is rooted in the outcome of an internal investigation aimed at blocking identified revenue leakages. The exercise anchored by Customs Duty Investigation Team (CDIT) was conducted in major ports late last year. Unlike similar previous exercises (however), the assignment was based on a system Audit of Declarations made by importers/ agents in the ports. The recovery of about N12 billion revenue, led to the establishment of a System Audit Unit at the Headquarters, with increased capacity for closer monitoring of the clearance process, and interventions for Headquarters where necessary. Occasionally, ad-hoc teams were deployed at some ports to ensure compliance”
“The measures had immediate impact on revenue, as the service recorded an increase in monthly average revenue from N48 billion to N60 billion in the first half of the year” the letter whose content has been confirmed by the Customs image-maker, Mr. Adewale Adeniyi stated further.
“The situation in Onne Port is particularly more graphic as the revenue performance changed dramatically with the change of strategy. From a monthly average of N4.6 billion in the first half of year 2010, it rose to N5.8 billion in the corresponding period in 2011. Total revenue collected in the first half of year 2010 amounted to N24,362,888,596.93; while for the same period in 2011, revenue collected soared to N34,996,238,568.50 representing an increase of N10,633,349,971.57” observed the Customs Service, stressing that from the analysis, it would not be unlikely that the agitated so- called stakeholders in Onne port belonged to an “old order” merely resisting a legitimate change.
Providing a breakdown, Alhaji Dikko Abdullahi noted that whereas the Service in January 2010 made N3, 214, 180, 593.86, the figure gave way to N6, 164, 990, 101.74, posting an increase of N2, 950, 809, 507.88; the February 2010 figure of N3, 620, 677, 986.27 soared to N4, 882, 589, 558.45 posting a difference of N1, 261, 911, 572.18; the March 2010 figure of N4, 434, 740, 567.99 soared to N6, 077, 424, 302.25, posting a difference of N1, 642, 683, 734.26.
The April 2010 figure of N4,238,309,832.38 climbed in same month of 2011 to N5, 215,137,039.74 posting a difference of N976, 827,207.36; while May 2010 figure of N3,048,542,564.24 climbed to N5,332,399,083.32 in April 2011 posting a difference of N2,283,896,519.08; just as the June 2010 revenue figure of N5,806,477,052.19 jumped to N7,323,698,483.00 in June 2011 posting a difference of N1,517,221,430.81; and culminating into a total difference of N10, 633,349,971.57.
“At any opportunity, the Customs Agent has called for a change of strategy, ostensibly to “facilitate trade”. However, compliance statistics in Onne shows that the crisis in Onne can be understood from the perspective of the Customs Command’s refusal to facilitate illegitimate trade.
“In the first half of 2010, infraction on the clearance process led to the seizure of 25 containers with a Duty Paid Value of N232, 549,042. In the same period in 2011, Customs refusal to facilitate illegitimate trade led to increase in the number of seizure to 43, with a Duty Paid Value of N628, 368,295.
The Comptroller General noted that while the “change in Revenue Strategy” and its attendant increase in revenue was not limited to Onne Ports, but similarly reflected positively resulted in significant increases in the Lagos Port of Apapa, Tin-Can Island, Kirikiri lighter, PTML and Lily pond, shooting up the Service monthly average collection from the Lagos axis accordingly, there had not been petitions or threats of strike action from them, even though they accounted for over 805 of boost in the trade volume.
“With the full automation of our system through ASYCUDA++(Automated Systems of Customs Data management, physical interference between officers and Customs agents have been reduced to the barest minimum. Incidences of arbitrary assessment, high- handedness and corruption are clear violation of our procedures.