N1.4 trillion revenue loss: Customs makes u-turn, supports FG on waivers

Apparently smarting from executive bashings on the controversial N1.4 trillion revenue loss arising from import duty waivers for three years, the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has made a sudden u-turn, expressing support to government in its waiver policy.

In a rare bold move, the Customs management had recently reeled out figures indicating that in the last three years, Nigeria lost a staggering N1.4 trillion on import duty waivers, as against N171 billion earlier claimed by the Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

An on-line report by Premium Times which gave the Customs account had further indicated that the staggering losses accruing to hundreds of billions of naira were due to reckless granting of import/export incentives on unapproved goods from rice to fish to kola nuts, with no significant bearing on the economy.

According to sources, the Minister was said to have been rattled by the “open confrontation” and thereby summoned the Controller General of Customs, Alhaji Dikko Inde Abdullahia with a stern order to counter the publication, for peace to reign.

In a press release issued Thursday by spokesman of the Nigeria Customs Service, Deputy Controller Wale Adeniyi, the service said the apparent contradiction was not implied, since it had no reason to controvert government’s policy as relates to the granting of import duty waivers.

The rebuttal also read in part: “Our attention has been drawn to publications in some sections of the media suggesting contradictions between representations made to the National Assembly by the Coordinating Minister of Economy and Honorable Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Nigeria Customs Service.
“In view of the misunderstanding arising from the misrepresentation of facts, we wish to make some clarifications as follows: that the document credited to the Nigeria Customs Service was presented to the National Assembly in November 2013 upon invitation of the latter to explain shortfalls in projected revenue collection. Contrary to the impression created by the publications, no Official of the Customs had made any pronouncement or issued any document to any media house on the same issue.

“We align ourselves with the industrial policy of the Federal Government being implemented by the CME which places preference on sectoral approach to granting of concessions and judicious use of waivers.
“While we appreciate the concerns about the revenue loss raised in the publications, we agree wholeheartedly with the position of the CME that the incentives do not represent absolute loss to the economy, because the economy ultimately gains more from the incentives granted through job creation and other benefits.

“We therefore understand the incentives as deliberate policies of Government put in place to stimulate growth in key sectors of the economy like Manufacturing, Agriculture and Power. In real terms therefore whatever loss that maybe recorded represents a transfer of revenue from one sector of the economy to another.
“We hereby deny making any accusation of corruption in the implementation of the waivers. We are aware of the CME’s serious effort at sanitizing the system, in line with her well-known
reputation, to ensure implementation meets with the highest standard of international best practice.
“Finally, as an Agency of Government, we are not in a position to contradict policies aimed at economic transformation. As we assure the CME of our unalloyed loyalty; we call on Nigerians to disregard any wrong impression by these publications” the statement said.

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