The Senator Hope Uzodinma led Senate Committee on Customs, Excise and Tariff, on Monday raised serious issues bordering on the missing statistics on the over 280 vessels that berthed at terminals across the country between 2010 and 2016 and mandated the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to furnish it with the needed figure as soon as possible.
However, random checks at the agency’s website on vessels statistics showed details of the needed figures unless there are other specific data the Committee is wishing to access other than what is on the website.
Otherwise, statistics on the NPA’s website showed shipping position up till September 2016.
But according to the Chairman of the Committee who spoke at the public hearing it organised on smuggling of goods into the country, “We want the NPA to come and explain what happened to 282 vessels that disappeared from terminals”.
“We have names of the releasing officers. This shows that there is no security at the terminal,” he said.
While chiding the federal agency for not attending the hearing, visibly infuriated Uzodinma said
“Permit me in this respect to drop the hint that primary information at our disposal will suggest that in spite of the CISS, leakages still abound in the import-export chain”.
“A major area of concern here has to do with mis-invoicing by international traders, abuse of free trade zone policies and temporary import permit.
“Mis-invoicing is a form of trade-based money laundering that includes the over- and understatement of import and export values on official forms and records. A few examples will suffice for illustration.
“Specifically, such practice will include taking advantage of unutilised Form M to perpetrate fraud in collaboration with operating banks.
“We have evidence to suggest that unutilised Form M is used by operators for capital flight and money laundering, all of which facilitate smuggling.
“There are also questions to be answered on the criteria used in the determination, abandonment, cancellation of PAARS and SGDS unutilised PAARS.
“The SGD is crucial in the import export chain, as it is the document that indicates payments to be made of shipment.
“As it stands, it does appear that the documentation process has been compromised and the authorised dealer banks may be culpable.
“Indeed there are accusing fingers in many directions, including unpaid and cancelled SGDS, cancelled PAARS, bills of laden with multiple PAAR, etc.
All these appear to be channels through which official instruments of international trade have been abused to aid smuggling.
Uzodinma averred that “Even in the area of remittances, the operating banks might not have come out very clean of legitimate revenue.”