The much-publicised probe of the Nigeria Customs Service by the Senate has commenced in Abuja where the committee on public accounts specifically queried the accounts presented to it by the Comptroller General, Customs Dr Bernard Shaw Nwadialo on the collection of the port development levy and the Comprehensive Import Supervision Scheme (CISS).
Although, the Nigeria Customs Service was queried alongside the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Ministry of Finance over the CISS collections, Customs single-handedly shouldered responsibilities for questions that arose form the port development levy.
Skip to next paragraph The CISS; one per cent of value of imports is payable by importers as component of duty payable. It is paid to the destination inspection agencies for their services. On the other hand, the port development levy of seven per cent is also payable by importers on all their consignments. Both levies are collected by the Customs
The Senators started being suspicious when discrepancies appeared in the figures tendered by the Customs and the Finance ministry as revenue from the CISS. The ministry of finance had told the Senators that N114.5bn had accrued to CISS fund between 2003 and 2008 and was paid into the pool account domiciled at the CBN.
Since the return to destination inspection scheme, the agents namely: Global Scan has received N6.45bn; SGS, N5.081bn; Contecna, N24.93bn; and Wolfenton, N21.373 bn.
But the apex bank had put the balance of the CISS account in its custody at N21.6bn as at April 2009.
But the Customs boss had a difficult time convincing the Senator Ahmad Lawan-led committee about the where about of N10Billion out of the N86 billion which the Service collected as port development levy between 2003 and 2008.
Admitting that the Nigeria Customs Service collected N13 billion in 2003; N14.7 billion in 2004; N14.9 in 2005; N13 billion in 2006; N14.7 billion in 2007 and N18.4 billion in 2008, the Customs boss however confirmed that the missing N10 billion was with the commercial banks, even as he exonerated the customs from the custody of the money.
“The money is not with the Customs but with the commercial banks which are doing business with the monies. The sad thing is that the Central Bank that is supposed to penalise the erring banks has refused to take any action till date”, he disclosed to the chagrin of the Senators.
“Certainly, this money is not with Customs because we do not collect the money, but we believe that it can be traced between the collecting banks and the various branches of the CBN,” he said, even as he admitted that some of the funds might have gone with those collecting banks that were distressed and had not been acquired.
Last week’s grilling comes ahead of a similar exercise which the House of Representatives is contemplating and for which it has already invited some former Comptrollers General of Customs.