Customs laments revenue loss due to CBN forex restriction policy

The revenue of the largest revenue collecting command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) – the Apapa Area Command – plummeted for the third straight month due to the policy of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) restricting sales of foreign exchange to the importers of 41 select items.

The Command’s Area Controller, Comptroller Charles Edike, told stakeholders in Lagos yesterday that the command collected N23.8 billion in September this year as against the N30.4 billion it collected in the corresponding period of last year, representing about 22% loss of revenue.

Edike also painted a gloomy picture when he declared that the situation would not get better anytime soon.

He attributed the decrease majorly to the low level of importation, which he said was as a result of some government policies, especially the CBN policy.

He said, “Since the CBN policy was rolled out, for the first three months, the remnant that came in were the ones we have been clearing but the remnant is now dwindling, finishing and so that explains why this month may not be as rosy as the previous month was.

“We also know that so many containers are trapped in the port. This month is not too rosy as at now and we all know the reason.

“The trend is not moving as it ought to move and importation is very low and that is the major reason because we only collect duty on things imported but when there is no importation, we cannot collect revenue.”

He also announced that the command would offer reprieve to importers whose goods were trapped at the port as a result of the implementation of the forex restriction policy.

“Before you import, you are supposed to get your proforma invoice with which you will approach your bank and the bank will help you with your Form ‘M’ to customs portal and then customs approves your form M, that is only when you can now import.

“When you import, before your goods arrive here, your papers would have been ready and that makes it pre-arrival. But many people would rather import and when the goods are about getting to our waters; that is when they will now start going to the bank to get Form M and begin to rush.

“Those set of people were the people that by the time the CBN policy (restricting sales of foreign exchange to importers of select imports) came, they were caught off guard and because there is no PAAR, we cannot clear them and they are trapped in the port.

“So that things will not get too bad, we want to grant conditional release to those containers that are trapped,” Edike said.

He added that after the conditional release, the importer would still be require to apply for PAAR to ascertain if the appropriate duty has been paid on the consignment.

“At the end of all this, you will still go for PAAR, and when the PAAR is gotten, then we will know whether you are paying more or less,” Edike said at the meeting he had with representatives of the freight forwarding associations and other stakeholders.

The organised private sector including the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) have all condemned the policy introduced by the apex bank on June 23.

“Significant disruptions, distortions and dislocations have been created in the business environment by the CBN as a consequence of the following policy measures: restrictions on the use of export proceeds, denial of access to foreign exchange market for 41 broad categories of products, including critical inputs needed in manufacturing and service sectors, prohibition of cash lodgements into domiciliary accounts and tight exchange controls and administrative allocation of foreign exchange are typically characterized by lack of transparency, corruption and considerable abuse,” President of LCCI, Remi Bello, said the chamber’s third quarter press conference. 

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