The Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Col. Hammeed Ali (Rtd), has visited 13 excisable factories in Lagos as part of efforts to ensure that duty accruable to government is paid promptly, especially by defaulting establishments.
Represented by the Zonal Coordinator Zone A, ACG Charles Edike, the CGC said the weeklong tour was necessary considering the low container traffic in the ports and the sharp fall in import duty.
He said that given the economic downturn, the Service had to re-strategize and innovate on ways of boosting government revenue by focusing on other sources permissible by the law.
He expressed optimism that the effort would shore up revenue from customs service to government, considering the lull at the seaports, the major revenue source.
His words: “This initiative to visit the excise factories is to encourage the excisable factories and at the same time ensure that every kobo owed government is paid.
“With import volume down due to the general business outlook, we decided to intensify efforts in this regard to get the revenue from factories producing alcoholic beverages.
“The customs has been collecting revenue from the identified excise factories, but doing this is to make them live up to date with paying their duty.”
Various factories however complained of scarcity and skyrocketed price of ethanol, a major raw material used for the production of their products.
They complained that the scarcity of the material had caused them to produce epileptically, and sometimes on orders only.
Some of the factories also complained of scarcity of packaging materials like bottles, resulting from complaints by such producers who consider the high production cost.
At one of the factories located in Iyana-Oworo, the ACG directed Mrs Aremu to formally write to the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) about the filthy environment where the factory produces its drinks.
“I have instructed that the CAC of the area writes NAFDAC so they can come and inspect this premises, because the environment is not healthy for production of what people consume,” Edike said.
At Guinness Nigeria, Mr Sesan Sobowale, the Corporate Relations Director, who received the team from Nigeria Customs Service pleaded for pace in the approvals of applications sent to the Service.
He said situations where organisations had to wait for as long as one year before receiving approvals is disadvantageous as often times their investments are premised on market indices.
He also called on the Service to quash the conflict on what the actual value for excise duty is by adopting a more specific and transparent structure which among other things will factor in changes in the market price of materials used for production.
Sobowale also pleaded with the management of the Service to assist them in recovering funds which they had overpaid as duty since 2014.
He said frantic attempts to recover the funds have hitherto remained futile.
In his response, the Zonal Coordinator explained that even though the excess in payment was made, the Service could not refund without approvals of the Ministry of Finance, the Accountant General of the Federation as well as the Auditor General.
He however urged them to make a fresh presentation to the Comptroller General of Customs promising that the current management of the Service will do all in its power to assist.
The team which comprised of the Assistant Comptroller General, and the Customs Area Controller in charge of Lagos Industrial Area, Mrs Adeyanju Aremu, visited factories in the Ipaja, Alagbado , Ikorodu, Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, Iyana-Oworo, Ogba, Ikeja and Mushin areas.
In another development, the Zonal Coordinator also addressed heads of Central Intelligence Unit, Valuation, Terminals along with all APMs in commands under Zone A.
He stressed the need for officers to be alert to their jobs, ensuring that every avenue for revenue leakage is blocked at the nation’s seaports and borders.
He charged officers of the CIU to up the ante in intelligence gathering as it is crucial national security and revenue generation.
Edike also called on officers in charge of the valuation units to show precision in their activities and ensure that the right value is placed on every single item.
He noted that the nation is in a dire state where every kobo due it through the payment of duty could not be neglected.
Addressing APMs, he stressed the need for system processing and also charged officers in charge of terminals to painstakingly examine containers in order to ensure that government is not shortchanged through under declaration or the nation put in harm’s way through the concealment of dangerous and prohibited items.
Earlier, in a move to end the lingering feud between border communities and the Service, the CGC had also paid a courtesy visit to Oba Kehinde Gbadewole Olugbade, the Ashade Agunloye the fourth and paramount ruler of Yewa-land, Ilaro, Ogun State.
Represented also by Mr Charles Edike, the Zonal coordinator, Zone A , the CGC said the notion that officers of the Service and other security agencies operating at the border are enemies of host communities is erroneous and should be corrected.
He said it was sad that both parties had lost lives as a result of this misconception on the part of the community.
He said the mission of NCS at the border is first to prevent the influx of contrabands and then to ensure that the requisite duty is paid for all imports.
He handed copies of the list of items prohibited from entering the country to the paramount ruler explaining that while some items are outrightly banned, others could be brought in but not for trade.
On his part, Oba Kehinde Olugbade commended the efforts of the current administration at reaching out to his community stating that the visit was the first of its kind.
He acknowledged the contributions of the Service as the second revenue earner for the nation after oil, and emphasized the need for periodic interactions between the Service and border communities in order to keep them abreast with government policies and to further advance the cause of government.
He said the forum is necessary for disseminating information since a number of indigenes lacked education and had limited access to the media for information put out by NCS.
He further remarked on the need for strategic community relations and canvassed for the recruitment of qualified indigenes of host communities into the Service.
Oba Olugbade lamented the level of neglect and underdevelopment in border communities and called on the Service to engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) that will help alleviate the problems of the area.
He also suggested that government reconsiders the restriction placed on all food items especially rice since that access to food is the next most important struggle for the poor after water.
The paramount ruler stated that with the recent hike in the cost of living in Nigeria, it is it necessary that rice is readily available even if people had to pay duty on it.