Nigerian Senate Queries Customs’ Non-Remittance of Surplus
By Adedapo Adesanya
• NCS Achieves Almost 60% of Targeted Revenue in Five Months
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has reached 59.9 percent of its target revenue of N957 billion for the 2020 fiscal year as it announced raking N573 billion between January and May.
But the Senate Committee on Customs raised questions over non-remittance of operation surplus every year by the service.
This followed the announcement made by the Comptroller-General of Customs (CG), Mr Hameed Ali, at an interactive session on revenue generation with the Senate Committee on Customs on Thursday.
Mr Hameed, represented by Deputy Comptroller-General (DCG), Human Resources, Mr Sanusi Umar, said the customs 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 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.
Mr Ali was, however, taken up by the committee members on non-remittance of surpluses made every year, particularly in 2018 and 2019.
A member of the committee and retired custom officer, Mr Francis Fadahunsi, (PDP – Osun East), queried why the agency did not reflect the surpluses in its reports presented to the committee.
“In 2019 alone, you made surplus of N34 billion, which is not reflected in the 2020 reports before us,” he said.
Another member of the committee, Mr Sulaiman Kwari (APC – Kaduna North), challenged officials of customs to explain what they do with such surpluses.
But the customs representative 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 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 Mr 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 Mr Gyang Istifanus Dung (PDP – Plateau North), called for upward review of the targeted revenue, but Mr Adamu Aliero (APC – Kebbi Central), disagreed.
According to Mr Aliero, the N957 billion targeted in the revised budget is even not realisable as effects of COVID-19 will start reflecting in the agency’s revenue collection from July.
The Chairman of the Committee, Mr Francis Alimikhena, alongside another member Mr Fadahunsi, however, told the Customs officers to sustain the constant high revenues intake the agency recorded within the last five months.
Mr Fadahunsi specifically said that 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 loan everyday just as government cannot continue to be financing 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 way out,” he said.