Customs raked in N573bn in 5 months despite COVID-19

Customs law outdated, says Comptroller-General

Hameed Ali, Comptroller-General, Nigeria Customs Service.

 

The Nigerian Customs Service (NCS) on Thursday said it had generated N573 billion between January and May from total targeted revenue of N957 billion for the 2020 fiscal year.

The Comptroller-General of Customs, Hameed Ali, made the disclosure at an interactive session on revenue generation with the Senate Committee on Customs.

The Ccmmittee, however, raised questions over non-remittance of operation surplus every year by the service.

Hameed, represented by Deputy Comptroller-General (DCG), Human Resources, Sanusi Umar, said NCS was able to realise more than half of the targeted revenue for the year due to blockage of identified leakages.

“As a result of blocking of identified areas of leakages and free flow of traffic for importers during the COVID-19 lockdown our revenue generation increased rapidly to about N6 billion to N7 billion per day, making us to rake in N573 billion within five months which is more than half of the N957 billion targeted revenues for us in 2020.

“The target given to the service in terms of revenue was N1.6 trillion but due to the COVID-19 pandemic the target was reviewed to N957 billion,” he said.

Ali was, however, taken up by the committee members on non-remittance of surpluses made every year, particularly in 2018 and 2019.

Specifically, a member of the committee and retired Custom officer, Francis Ade Fadaunsi, (PDP-Osun East), asked why the agency did not reflect the surpluses in its reports presented to the committee.

“In 2019 alone, you made a surplus of N34 billion, which is not reflected in the 2020 reports before us,” he said.

Another member of the Committee, Sulaiman Kwari (APC-Kaduna North), challenged officials of Customs to explain what they do with such surpluses.

Ali, in his response, told the Committee that the NCS was not a treasury-sponsored agency that was expected to make returns to the treasury on any amount not spent.

“Customs is now a performance-based agency. We are not a treasury-sponsored agency, which normally makes a return to the treasury of any amount not spent.

“Where we have any shortfall, we don’t have anybody backing us and we cannot borrow from the bank,” he said.

Members of the Committee led by Francis Alimikhena (APC-Edo North), however, disagreed on whether to revert the targeted revenue for Customs in 2020 to N1.6 trillion as earlier passed in December or retain it at N957 billion proposed in the revised budget.  

Also, while Gyang Istifanus Dung (PDP-Plateau North), called for upward review of the targeted revenue, Adamu Aliero (APC Kebbi Central), disagreed.

Aliero said the N957 billion target contained in the revised budget is even not realisable as effects of COVID-19 will start reflecting in the agency’s revenue collection from July.

Alimikhena and Fadaunsi, however, told the Customs officers to sustain the tempo of high revenues recorded within the last five months.

Fadaunsi specifically said the target was a lazy way of collecting revenues.

“Customs can do more than it has done within the last five months in terms of revenue collections if other ports like Port Harcourt and Calabar are focused like Lagos.

“We cannot continue to approve loans everyday just as the government cannot continue to finance the budget with borrowings every year.

“Enough revenues must be generated by relevant agencies like Customs, the very reason this committee invited its top management staff for brainstorming on the way out,” he said.