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Uzodinmma’s Committee bumps on more leakages, widens Customs’s N30t probe

The end of the ongoing probe over alleged N30 trillion revenue leakages in the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) may not come so soon following fresh intelligence on infractions in Customs revenue and import regime.

Rising from a smart “Point of Order’’ raised by the Chairman, Committee on Customs Excise and Tariff, Chief Hope Uzodinma, at plenary, Senate further mandated the Committee on Marine Transport to collaborate with the Committee on Customs, to deepen the probe and fund recovery efforts in line with oversight function of lawmakers.

Uzodinma, stired the hornet by first relying on Order 42 and Order 52, to observe that his committee made more startling discoveries beyond the N30 trillion currently being investigated.

This spurred him to ask for more hands in the investigation as it discovered that beyond foreign exchange fraud, trillions of naira were lost to shady deals by some Asian companies.

According to him, “The recent one, which is mind-blowing is that shipping companies will load full cargoes worth billions of naira, come into the country and go to bonded terminals, offload and the Nigerian government will not collect one kobo.

“All they do is informal negotiation with the terminal operators, the regulators and then they will offload. This is an international crime. We have identified over 228 vessels with their registration numbers, the terminals where they offloaded and we are going through Customs database tracking every shipment and vessel that came and offloaded.

“There is another fraud we discovered, which is, all the Asian companies moving all their goods to Cotonou in Benin Republic and these goods are meant for Nigerian market. From our investigation, the companies change their documents by midnight as if the shipment is either done from Cote d’Ivoire  or Cotonou and they move into Nigeria,’’ he said.

“This was with a view to identifying the leakages and irregularities in the import and export circle as well as causes of the reducing revenue profile of the service, and come up with recommendations.

“We have gone into this assignment and honestly speaking, we have identified between 2006 and 2017, over N30 trillion worth of foreign exchange in form of approved Form M and there is no evidence that the goods came into the country.

“The commercial banks apply for this foreign exchange and the Central Bank of Nigeria allocates it to them and these monies are transferred to foreign banks and there is no evidence to show that the goods came into the country. So they have been round-tripping with the limited foreign exchange we have in Nigeria,’’ he said.

Continuing, the Senator representing Orlu federal Constituency of Imo State averred that the fraudulent activities were carried out through various infractions, including incorrect classification, undervaluation, under-declaration and incorrect origin.

Uzodinmma argued that the money bolted away vide organized infractions was more than what the country was getting from crude oil.