Customs reintroduces ‘local alert’ as Tin Can Command loses N300m revenue

The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has reintroduced the issuance of ‘local alerts’ on imported consignments by field officers, SHIPS & PORTS DAILY has gathered.

Alerts are usually placed on consignments to draw the attention of operational officers to suspected infractions, mostly under-declaration, on imported items. When alerts are issued, debit note is typically raised against the affected importer to pay additional Customs duty.

The alert, introduced alongside the pre-arrival assessment report (PAAR) platform in December 2013, could be issued from the command (local alert) or from the Customs Headquarters in Abuja. But as a result of incessant complaints of its abuse for monetary gains by Customs operatives, Customs Comptroller General, Dikko Inde Abdulahi had in November last year restricted issuance of alerts on consignments to Customs Headquarters.

Usually authoritative sources informed SHIPS & PORTS DAILY that the reintroduction of the ‘local alert’ is due to the continuous loss of revenue, which would have accrued through the issuance of Debit Note (DN) when correct declarations are not made.

It was however learnt that even when infractions are noticed from declarations made by dishonest importers, the field officers do not receive the headquarters alert on time due to the volume of work system audit officers at the headquarters undertake.

It was gathered that restricting the issuance of alerts to the headquarters did not favour the Service as its second highest revenue earner, the Tin can Island Port command lost close to N300 million over the three months suspension of ‘local alerts’ issuance.

“If APM (Area Project Manager) for instance within his jurisdiction notices certain infractions within his area, instead of him alerting timely the terminal operator, valuation unit or whoever to take action and he is not given the opportunity to do that and he waits for headquarters to watch and give alert and headquarters didn’t see it, that money will be wasted and the consignment will just disappear without paying. So the headquarters felt there was need for the alert to be reverted.

“There are certain things officers at the headquarters may not see and even before they see the consignments may have gone. But those of us on ground will timely block loopholes hence the need for revisiting the issue of bringing back the local alerts.

“That is the reason why the agents would not want the local alert and they will be insisting that alert should come from headquarters because it favours them but when it was given a trial, it was not favourable to the Service because it is an avenue for revenue leakage,” one of the sources said.

Consequently, Area Project Managers (APM) and officers at the valuation unit can now issue alerts at the various commands when infractions are noticed.

When SHIPS & PORTS DAILY contacted the spokesman of the Tin can Island Port, Chris Osunkwo, he said he was not aware of any revenue loss at the command.

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